Well… it was no secret why in May we scheduled a game with Fordham for the 2021 season. In a season where it was pivotal to get off to a quick start before heading to Norman, Oklahoma, we needed all of the tune-ups we could get. An easy choice would be a member of the Patriot league that is at the FCS level and only able to give 60 or so scholarships opposed to the 85 at the FBS level.
Fordham had their danger, a conference player of the year at QB, and a conference player of the year at LB. But Nebraska was still 42 point favorites. And for good reason. What I wanted to see was an increased focus by our team and just drive right down the field to get up comfortably by halftime, and have our second string in for the second half.
But things just didn’t work that way, it was tied 7-7 in the second quarter, and again we relied on our defense to force turnovers to help keep us in the game and eventually get us to where we should have been with a multi-score lead. Like most of you, I just wanted to establish an identity offensively and let our superior defense hold them down. I had been telling people that where you really see differences between FCS and FBS is across the lines. Which was probably the most frustrating part of what we saw.
I have us down for the most part… we can’t get a push on inside zone where our OL is going downhill and north/south (either that or we don’t like doing it against an even front). So then we go to outside zone and our linemen can’t move well enough for that so it gets swallowed up. We then revert to throwing and while I think Martinez is good, our best pass play is the QB scramble from it… and that worries me.
The identity that I really saw was basically the staple of what Frost does and people get frustrated with… if run isn’t there it’s TE screen. Take a look:
Martinez is reading the OLB over Austin Allen, if he comes down on the fake he pulls it and throws to #11 to the SHORTSIDE of the field! Sorry… big fan of that. I want to shout out Betts here, as it doesn’t appear blocking is why he can’t get on the field. But we actually run this play two times in a row.
Quick question for anyone reading this… why do we struggle to have guys be consistent so they don’t get on the field against Illinois, but they are consistent enough to play against Fordham? If on the field is where we are trying to get the consistency, at least let them do it in games that matter? I mean, I get it kind of… just weird that in big games it matters but against teams we know we will beat we play everyone. For the record, i’m well aware that the first game you have all sorts of discipline issues you are serving punishment for from spring and summer. I just think guys like Betts, Manning, Alante Brown…. they showed their worth Saturday.
Here’s another thing that I really liked, but shows the predicament. Remember when I showed the video of the Hickman wham block and where defenders don’t have to respect his blocking and only worry about him going out for a pass? What happens when you put a TE in that can pancake someone?
Shout out to Chancellor Brewington, the transfer from Northern Arizona. You see… now that they know they have to take on that kind of block they have to prepare for it. And that leads to this:
I am a Hickman fan, but he just isn’t putting fear in any defender as a blocker. So that’s the issue. I’m glad our staff found someone here, and this can only help our redzone offense.
But one of the things that worried me against Fordham was the fact we couldn’t get a push, so we relied on Martinez to add that extra ball carrier in the box and make plays. Again, some of our best yardage gains are called pass plays that he scrambles. Or take our first touchdown for example… Fordham has this called perfectly, we just have a four star QB going against an FCS player:
That was fourth down, with 4 minutes left in the first quarter, in a tie ball game. Do we think Wisconsin or Iowa’s inside linebackers will miss the tackle like Fordhams guy did? If we are playing one of those teams, i’m real scared we get stuffed there. When you can’t push the line against Fordham, what’s going to happen against those teams? Heck, Buffalo may even give a scare. Illinois only took out Martinez, and we saw what happened.
We need to find some way to move the line of scrimmage and establish an identity. I thought we would be able to do it against Fordham, but it really didn’t happen until the second stringers came in during the 2nd half. From there, we decided it was run the ball time and we did a great job with our fresh 2nd string OL against their worn out defense. While i’m concerned that we couldn’t do this right away in the first half, it was nice to see us just line up and do it (even though I got real worried my overs bet wouldn’t hit).
Logan Smothers also looked decent. He made some nice decisions and had a good day against Fordham. But what I would caution people on is two things. First, the worn down Fordham defense is probably worse than our scout team that has four stars on it. Second, I am hearing exactly about Smothers what I heard about McCaffrey after the Northwestern game last year. How excited people are about him, how great he looked, and that was with McCaffrey against Northwestern, not an FCS school. I’ll give one example since I think this was PI anyway and i’m not bashing a player:
So there, he needs to fire the ball between the defender and the sitting LB, but he double clutches. Then he floats it and gives the defender time to get there. Smothers needs to get a bit more arm strength otherwise people will do to him what they did to McCaffrey, take away his running ability and make him throw. It’s basically what he’s been missing since he got here. I hope we get to see him against Buffalo because we are up a little bit, but also know we need to be buckled up for a tough contest.
I asked the question to some of the people I watched the game with, but I was curious if we are closer to first quarter Nebraska against teams with 85 scholarships and equal talent, or are we closer to the second half Nebraska we saw that moved people around and did what they wanted? All of us sitting at home expected second half Nebraska from us this season. It is still very early, and we are 14 point favorites to Buffalo. Some of the things we struggled with against Fordham can be catastrophic against a team like the Bulls. But luckily they lost their head coach and a ton of players transferred to Kansas with him. We should win this game. But Illinois lost their coach, and had a ton of transfers, and we should have won that game too. Will be nice to see how we execute on Saturday.
Had a ton of people asking me about this… and i’ll say on this forum what I said to a lot of them. It’s real easy to shut these things down if you really want to. It’s not difficult at all. How long have we been hearing “she left him” or other things. Just freaking go out to eat with her so people can see and all of a sudden stresses you are having to deal with and shut down aren’t an issue. Control what you can control. I get your first three years weren’t great, but call up Fireworks and have them get a private table so no one can bother you, let everyone see you walk in with her and having dinner with her, then leave. The stuff went on way too long and it definitely took its toll.
A nice athletic department staged photo-op for everyone to know everything’s ok. Someone should have done this sooner for him. “Hey man… just go be seen public somewhere.” The problem is, they are very low key and hate the spotlight. But it reminded me a bit of when Pelini went into bunker mentality mode. It created “us against them” and it’s just not good for either side. You deal with the things that are being said that could be squashed if you just gave a little glimpse that everything was alright. I’ve said this before, Nebraska can be the best job in the world, or the worst, depending how you handle outside influences. But I promise you that you want to be where people care. When you leave things up to their own interpretation, well… you get situations like what manifested itself for Frost.
I have been telling people when they ask about rumors with him that if you’ve heard 10, cut them in half because 50% probably aren’t true. Then the remaining 50% are probably embellished somewhere, but to what extent we don’t know. For example, one of them I heard was that Frost was at Firethorn pool and hit on a boosters wife and got punched in the face. I mean… no one saw that? At Firethorn pool? Come on. I’ll give another one where this may make a bit more sense. The “they got kicked out of their country club.” Is it plausible that after a big win or even trying to drink after a loss that they got a little loud as we see at every bar ever? The manager of the club protecting them says “hey, maybe time to take this party home” and it turns into “kicked out of the club and a drinking problem”?
Long story short, I think this could have been avoided but there’s also a reason it wasn’t done until now. Either way, be nice to have that distraction gone for another week or so.
I’m heading to the USC game this weekend so I may be extremely sporadic in my blog. So I apologize. I’ll probably try to get a Buffalo preview up while flying out there, but who knows if I can actually get that done.