Four-Down Territory: Ohio State Week


Sep 29, 2012; Lincoln, NE, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Bo Pelini during the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Memorial Stadium. Nebraska won 30-27. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE

Well Husker fans, Nebraska gingerly placed victory in the jaws of defeat and promptly snatched said victory back from those jaws, defeating Wisconsin 30-27. The Cornhuskers showed some poise in this game. The wheels came off and they kept getting back up and taking it to the Badgers. This week I’m going to answer some questions that no one has asked me.

First Down:  Were those the greatest halftime adjustments of Bo Pelini’s career?

No. As a matter of fact – other than possibly adjusting his foot into his safeties’ collective behind – Pelini didn’t appear to adjust much in the second half. The defense didn’t change much. And remember, Nebraska’s offense still gave Wisconsin a short field to score yet another touchdown in the third quarter.

The difference between the halves were two things. First, that the offense stopped – check that – the offense got lucky and stopped turning the ball over. Taylor Martinez had a couple of fumbles bounce right back to him. Some tipped passes went un-intercepted. Second, the Wisconsin linemen on both sides of the ball were gasping for air by the end of the fourth quarter.

I give the Huskers all the credit for mounting this epic comeback. Their tackling was spot on. They didn’t give up. Everyone contributed, even some players who weren’t up to snuff in previous games. But I have one thought about this going into the Ohio State game.

If Nebraska puts the ball on the ground, lengthens drives with avoidable defensive penalties and throws the ball up for grabs in traffic: OHIO STATE WILL. EAT. NEBRASKA. ALIVE. PERIOD.

Second Down: Should Ameer Abdullah start over Rex Burkhead?

I don’t think so. Abdullah provided a huge spark to the Nebraska offense. But I think he would be a lot more effective once the opposing defense has tired out a bit. Bring him in early in the second quarter for a drive or two. Then sprinkle him in even more in the second half or get him in there with the diamond formation or two-back shotgun.

Burkhead came back in the second half running like a man worried he might lose his starting job. Good. They need to keep that intensity up. Defenses definitely have a lot to think about with these two guys competing for touches. Both can run outside and inside of the tackles. Both can block. Both can catch.

They both bring something different, as well. Can Abdullah throw the ball? Speaking of which, will Burkhead throw the ball this season? Abdullah runs each play like a kick return. Burkhead runs with a center of gravity so low I swear he was parallel to the ground a few plays against Wisconsin. As I have been saying, get them both in. Sometimes at the same time.

Third Down: What defense will Nebraska run against OSU?

Let me start by saying Nebraska looked a lot more comfortable playing its base 4-3 defense. Will Compton was very assertive in his hitting, blitzing and positioning. Alonzo Whaley even returned as a starter and played like it. Whaley might have earned the game ball in the final minutes where he burst into the backfield so quickly on 4th and 1 that Montee Ball didn’t pay attention to the hand-off and fumbled before he was even hit. Kudos to Whaley for a good game.  Sean Fisher… even… tackled a few people. My point is that the Huskers were playing with confidence up front and got into the backfield to disrupt plays. Something they’ve lacked.

Here’s the bad news. From what I’ve seen of Ohio State, the Buckeyes have similar offensive weapons in both number and production as Nebraska. Right down to a pair of workhorse running backs in Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde, and a QB in Braxton Miller who is a dangerous runner but hurts you through the air, too. So I’d expect Bo and Co. to use a variety of defenses as OSU both runs power and spread. Let’s hope all that practice against both has paid off.

Fourth Down: Nebraska hired who as athletic director?

Shawn Eichorst.

Raise red flag, here. From what I had heard from Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman’s press conference, he interviewed a whole two people for this position. Not only that, but he started interviews and made an offer before Tom Osborne announced his retirement. (That’s right Harvey, I can write AND do math!)

Combine that with the following: It’s perceived that he’s leaving Miami’s AD job to “stick it to” the Hurricanes for hiring him just before a huge booster scandal hit. He has been an AD for as much time as Bubba Starling has been playing professional baseball. He is going to be paid nearly $1 million a year. And he is a Barry Alvarez boy. This shows me that the good old boy network is still alive and well. Nebraska deserves better.

Let’s hope he’s competent enough to have us never have to mention him again. Forget his name right now. I mean, Pelini probably isn’t going anywhere. Volleyball is fine. Nebraska just hired a basketball coach and a baseball coach. New facilities are already underway. What does this guy even need to do? Not much he can screw up.

So I warily welcome… what’s his name again? Mr. Eichorst to the Nebraska family.

Perlman, on the other hand, needs to go away. He’s too old, doesn’t tell the truth and has no place in dealing with athletics. But what do you expect from the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee chairman?

Extra Points: I love the crowd noise and the black towels in the student section… Baker Steinkuhler needs to just go full speed all the time; freight trains shouldn’t try to dance around… If freshman fullback Andy Janovich doesn’t have a nickname I suggest “The Pancake Man” and thanks for not cut blocking.

By Steve Siedlik

Sep 29, 2012; Lincoln, NE, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers defenders Baker Steinkuhler (51) celebrates with Will Compton (51) during the game against the Wisconsin Badgers in the second half at Memorial Stadium. Nebraska won 30-27. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE