Patience. Process. Hope. That is what head coach Bo Pelini was preaching in his post game interview after his Nebraska Cornhuskers gave up 22 consecutive points to lose 45-31 to the Georgia Bulldogs.
Husker fans knew that the fourth quarter performance by the team would define their off-season. So where do we stand?
18 of 33. 427 yards. 5 touchdowns. That’s what happened to the number one secondary in the country (by technicality). Outside of two deep bombs, on really great passes from Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, he 16 of 31 for 265 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions, one of which was returned 24 yards for a score by Will Compton. If I were Bo Pelini and company, I would take that.
But alas, a 75 yard and an 87 yard touchdown doomed the Huskers. Andrew Green could not swat a pass away, allowing Tavarres King to strike early for Georgia. Late in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs put the game away when defensive coordinator John Papuchis, with input from Pelini, dialed up a cover zero blitz and were promptly burned on a bubble screen.
So the passing game was torched. How about the running game?
Chase Rome, Thad Randle, and Cameron Meredith did a good job up front clogging lanes, but players on all three levels missed tackles at opportune times. Georgia rushed 38 times for 162 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per rush, a respectable but not great number for the defense.
How did the offense hold up?
Three costly turnovers once again plagued the Huskers, who needed to finish on the other side of the turnover battle (-1) to have a chance at winning the game.
Taylor Martinez finished 16 of 27 for 204 yards and two touchdowns, but two interceptions stalled Husker drives. A third turnover, a fumble by sophomore Ameer Abdullah (who had a costly fumble in this game last year) swung any momentum the Huskers had back to the Bulldogs.
Superman had his best game of the year, rushing 24 times for 140 yards and a score, plus four receptions for 39 yards and another score. Rex Burkhead tried to single-handedly will this Husker team to a victory, but only if they had 21 other players like him on the field.
So where does Nebraska go from here?
To the recruiting trail. When Husker teams of the late 80’s and early 90’s were getting smacked around in the bowl games, they lacked talent.
The Huskers can grind it out with anyone in the country, but the Huskers lack athleticism. It was evident during the game when Georgia was closing in on the final knockout punch. They made the plays; the Huskers did not.
Pelini preached that the Huskers are there. It is not about X’s and O’s, but about their talent.
Nebraska has almost nine months before they open up against the Wyoming Cowboys on August 31st.
In that time, how does this recruiting class shape up for the Huskers?
Lavon Hooks and Beau Sandland both committed elsewhere at the last second. Nebraska has a chance to make a lot of noise late in this recruiting class, but will they?
Husker fans have a better than anticipated taste in their mouth after losing to Georgia. Come February, that taste could grow sour or be a lot better.