Well, fuck. Another opportunity lost. I'd love to sit here and say that we"re making progress and there's no shame in a ten point loss at Nebraska. But that just isn't the case. And now, as many mistakes as were made against OU and Tech, this one and the one in Tampa are what will haunt us. I really believe that we've been the better team in 8 of our 10 games, yet we've found a way to lose two others, which is disappointing. And unfortunately, the only way to make up for that is to win a couple when we aren't the better team. We'll have our opportunities, but I don't feel great about our chances.
The outcome was: demoralizing. Despite our struggles, this was the best team we’d taken to Lincoln in a very long time. And yet the streak lives. And it didn’t have to. Sure, Nebraska dominated both sides of the line, but more than anything, Kansas just made mistakes in big spots. And now they sit at 6-4 with games against Texas and Methzouri remaining. Nebraska, meanwhile, is the same, but with KSU and Colorado remaining – likely leading them to 8-4 and the Sun Bowl.
The offensive MVP was: Todd Reesing. Dezmon certainly merits a ton of consideration here (6 for 176), but I’m just not ready to give the MVP to someone that only directly affected six plays and one score. And while yesterday certainly wasn’t Todd’s best (15/30 for 304), he still accounted for four scores, only made one bad mistake, and kept the team in it until the end. If that first TD pass to Kerry didn’t define both his career and character, I don’t know what does. Hopefully he’s not hurt (even if he is, he’ll be playing I’m sure), because we’re going to need some crazy efforts to win either of the next two.
The defensive MVP was: James Holt. And it wasn’t close. Without watching the tape, I think it was his missed assignment that allowed Suh to score that TD and he may have lost track of a couple trailers. But mistakes or not, he was the only one making plays. The INT was great, he got some pressure, forced another fumble and just always found himself around the ball. I hate to say it because of the effort he gives us on every play, but Holt has replaced Stuckey as the defensive MVP on defense this year.
The offensive LVP was: the line. They were bad against USF. They were bad again against Tech (and to a lesser extent, Oklahoma). But they were awful yesterday. Nebraska’s d-line is decent, sure, but they don’t generate a ton of pressure and they’re plenty capable of being run on. Yet yesterday they had five sacks and we couldn’t run inside. I’ll tip my cap to them for coming to play, but we have to get a better effort out of our line not only to win, but also to protect our QB. Please tell me Orakpo and Miller aren’t playing next week. Better yet, let’s not let them make the trip.
The defensive LVP was: the line. The pass rush has been non-existent against most legitimate opponents. And of course, yesterday was more of the same. But even more disappointing than that was how easily our ends kept getting sealed inside to let them run off tackle. Just atrocious. On the inside, I thought Greene and Blakesly looked solid to an extent, but they just didn’t have the energy to keep it up without Johnson, Jr. in there as well. He’s is sorely missed.
The special teams: seem to have become a problem again. The return game was pretty much worthless. And yet the kickoff team somehow found a way to be worse. Example: Jake scores to make the score 31-28 with about 10 minutes left. Basically, we’re in great position if we can either force a stop or contain them to a FG keeping it a one score game. So what does Branstetter do, but kick a low line drive about 20 yards, setting up an easy return to about the 50 yard line. I know the wind was a factor, but Kunalic wasn’t having much trouble, yet Branstetter looked like a high school kicker. At best.
The Nebraska fans: took a step down in my book. For one thing, I was pretty disappointed to see the gaping hole in the student section and other empties throughout. I guess you can call it a sell-out since those were sold, but whatever. And more than that, I think the whole “classiest fans around” went out with the dynasty. As a whole they certainly weren’t awful – or anything close to it – but we were surrounded by 50-60 year old men and women screaming for, Todd to be hurt, for Pelini to go deep four straight times when they took over in the last minute, and plenty of others. Now trust me, I have no problem at all with this type of stuff. I just think it’s funny that they play an entire video before the game talking about themselves as the best and classiest fans in the nation yet continue to act like everyone else. Of course, after the game and the win, it went back to not being able to take a step without being asked if you had a good time and what you thought of Lincoln.
Injury watch: Patterson went down and that proved to be a huge loss. I’m officially on board with this move. (For the record, I would love an explanation of why Mangino thinks Anthony Davis is a better option than Chris Harris at corner.) The loss of Johnson, Jr. continues to hurt the inside push, both because he was the best anyway and because of the hit the depth there takes without another body to rotate in. And I still have to wonder about Kerry’s and Dexton’s full health, because neither have looked entirely like themselves lately. Same with Mike and Joe, but we knew that already. It truly is amazing how much it limits their movement though.
The Briscoe drop: on the first play of our last possession will haunt my dreams for a while. I can’t even explain the wide open field he was looking at. If he catches that cleanly, he’s scoring with just over two minutes to go and we’re lining up for an onside with only a 3 point deficit. He played great and we wouldn’t have been there without him, but that one hurt pretty badly. If you thought they looked tentative on the first onside, can you imagine their mindset if they had given up 14 points in 20 seconds and were clinging to a FG lead…
Texas fear factor is: 10 out of 10. For one thing, they might be the best team in the country. And seeing as how it took a miraculous last second TD to beat them on the road after playing 3 straight top 10 games prior to that one, I don’t feel all that confident. I don’t have a clue how we're going to stop Colt and Shipley. Or anyone else for that matter (Malcolm Williams will create a match-up problem or two). And on the other side, if Todd’s not hurt already, I fear he may be next week. The protection has been bad all year, but somehow seemed to regress yesterday. And now they have to face Texas’ d-line. Not good. Stranger things have happened, but long story short, the staff better get pretty creative in these next few days.
Going into next week I feel: pretty shitty. We really missed a chance yesterday. A chance to end the streak. A chance to guarantee we play for the north. And another chance to take a step as a program. The loss prevented all three. And while neither of these games are unwinnable, neither look too damn good on paper either. So we’ll have two more chances to do what we missed out on yesterday (streak aside), but it’s no secret that the degree of difficulty changes just a bit in doing so.