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2012 Jan 04

NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: "We'll Be Just Fine" - A Season In Review

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By HuskerLocker

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By Erin Sorensen

“We’ll be just fine.”

Haunting words, aren’t they?

Spoken by head coach Bo Pelini as he made his way to the locker room before halftime last Monday, those four words hung heavy in the air.

“We’ll be just fine.”

Huskers across the country wondered, “Will we?” The score was only 16-13 at that time. There was plenty of game left to turn it around. Nebraska had already proven that they could overcome a far greater deficit against Ohio State earlier in the season. This would surely be much easier. “Yes, we’ll be just fine.”

As the third quarter began, a rarity occurred - kicker Brett Maher missed a field goal, a 35-yarder at that. That kick should have been an easy hit, but on the most inconvenient of days, Maher missed.

Then Alfonzo Dennard was ejected. The star cornerback spent the fourth quarter in the locker room, far from where his team needed him. South Carolina stud wide receiver Alshon Jeffery had tested him and Dennard snapped. Fans have always known that he plays with his heart on his sleeve. Jeffery finally got the better of him.

Pelini’s words continued to ring through the minds of many as the game progressed. Would the Huskers be fine? Momentum never seemed to be in favor of Nebraska following Jeffery’s Hail Mary catch. Pelini focused on the previous drive, rather than look forward. ESPN called Nebraska’s head coach “volcanic” as he berated a referee. Unfair? Maybe, but that is who Pelini is – a wildly passionate coach with a surly reputation.

How exactly did Nebraska get here, again?

The Cornhuskers became an official member of the Big Ten this last summer. July 1, 2011 was a celebrated day in Husker Nation. Nebraska was touted as a strong contender for the Big Ten championship and a subsequent trip to Pasadena. Things were coming up roses for Nebraska (a little pun intended).

September rolled by and Nebraska overcame its first challenge – Washington. That win seemed to nullify the embarrassing Holiday Bowl loss eight months prior. The Cornhuskers were going to be just fine.

Then October 1 happened. Nebraska found themselves on the losing end of things, giving up 48 points to the Wisconsin Badgers. It was an unknown at the time, but this was only the beginning of a wild ride. On any given week, the Huskers were or were not leading the Legends Division of the Big Ten. Would Nebraska go to Indianapolis? Of course they would, why would they not? Everything was going to be just fine.

The loss to Northwestern flipped the season. A team filled with so much talent dropped a 28-25 decision to the Wildcats. It was a big win for Northwestern, as Nebraska was ranked No. 9 at the time. Quarterback Taylor Martinez played an outstanding game, only to be overshadowed by the sting of losing the Legends Division crown. Everything that had once been easily in reach was now gone. Yet, Nebraska was still going to be just fine.

Are you sensing a theme?

Somewhere along the line, Nebraska began to settle for the idea that everything would be just fine. Concerns were often painted over by the promise that things would work out. “True” fans were called into question for voicing doubts. It became a toxic, self-destructing situation.

The Cornhusker program has spent the better part of a decade accepting that things will be fine. What if they are not though? Is that really a tragedy? Admitting that the way things are progressing isn’t fine doesn’t show weakness. It also does not call for a coach to be fired or a player to be benched.

No – it calls for improvement. Accepting that things are not going to be fine puts the wheels in motion to fix what’s broken. It’s maturity. Plenty of programs have had to take step backs and reevaluate. Again, that doesn’t require a new coach or an entire new set of players. It just requires a change of thought.

By the time the game clock expired against South Carolina, Pelini’s words sat heavily on the minds and in the stomachs of many, including his own. A somber looking Husker head coach spoke about being the better team and deserving the win. Pelini was right, too. Nebraska has always had the opportunity to be the better team. Nebraska has also always had the opportunity to win. What will it take to make both happen?

It will take finally accepting that no, we are not going to be just fine.

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Tags: bo pelini, alfonzo dennard, taylor martinez

Comments (26)

Profile image for Gob1gred
Gob1gred

I would consider them true fans. Because 9-4 and collapsing in a bowl game is just not good enough for this program. Not saying anyone should be fired. But we are better than a 9-4 program.

– Jan 7, 2012 at 11:17 pm

Profile image for DeepThought
DeepThought

@Gob1gred - lol me trolling....you might want to re-read my posts, or this is a case of if you can't beat them slander them (which I honestly hope isn't the case). There is nothing in my posts using absolutes, its just points out that her last two articles have been fairly negative (admittedly in my perception), and then asks instead for articles about what the Huskers would be doing to fix their woes.

As for "true fans" I'd hardly consider those that trash talk the Huskers if they don't win the Natty Champ every year true fans.. would you?

Glad we can still find some common ground regardless! smile image

– Jan 6, 2012 at 2:29 pm

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Gob1gred

Nah, I wasn't attacking you deep. Although you did say miss Sorensen here is always negative and people who are negative aren't "true fans", then later not to attack people.....if you're gonna troll you shouldn't be so sensitive.

Having said that, I'm with you about tmart. He's a very limited passer, but lack of pass rush, corners now that dennard is gone (although green played ok down the stretch), pass blocking, NO DROPS, depth behind Rex...all things that contributed to losses more than taylor. Taylor only really lost NU the Wisconsin game, but we weren't leaving camp randell with a win that day unless we found a 6th year of eligibility for Suh. So who cares?

– Jan 6, 2012 at 3:21 am

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DeepThought

@HuskerLocker - So we are in agreement, good. smile image

– Jan 5, 2012 at 6:21 pm

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HuskerLocker

Deep,

Bill wasn't in his element as a CEO. I think everyone can agree on that. I've said it before and I'll say it again, if he wanted to come back to aid in recruiting efforts, Nebraska'd be fools to say no.

– Jan 5, 2012 at 5:42 pm

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DeepThought

@Gob1gred - statements like "if you have a friggin brain.." which I referenced in my post. Considering I'm not on the blame T-Magic bandwagon, and can identify the core reason behind the offensive woes as the line and its coaching, I'd consider that having a brain and being able to use it. That and I'm a little confused why asking to see more articles about what the Huskers will do for next year to fix the problems of this year instead of laying blame demanding "only nice things"

Frankly, after the way people called for Martinez's head for something that wasn't mostly his fault I think Bo had every right to call out the fair weather fans.. but what do I know?

@HuskerLocker - I will give the man that, he was a god among recruiters. But IMHO if he can't develop the players he recruits, or coach them, then he's not a coach.. He was an overpaid recruiter that was allowed to coach.

– Jan 5, 2012 at 2:26 pm

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atreystir

If people are fine with not winning the division let alone the conference. Not making a BCS game let alone the conference. Continually losing games we shouldn't. And finishing at 9-4 and calling it a success... then yes, things are certainly fine.

If we want to win Conference Championships, BCS games, BCS Championships, go back to the team that would never lose at home and was never intimidated on the road and by no means lost by two or more touchdowns... then things are not fine. You choose what side you want to be on. If you like mediocrity then things are certainly fine and if you can live with that good for you.

I'm certainly not going to jump off any bridges or call for a coach's head, but some things do need a change. Erin said he's the right coach, which he is. He's got a great mentor in Osborne and should lean on his experience (and treatment of others) in his career. We only criticize when they have potential. If they didn't have potential we wouldn't waste our time wanting them to do better.

– Jan 5, 2012 at 12:02 pm

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HuskerLocker

Deep,

Steve Pederson did Frank one favor: He prevented him from having the losing season that Callahan did. The "non-losing season" streak was just...ugh. Bill wasn't a player development guy, but he knew his recruiting. That's why you saw guys essentially transform under Pelini. He had a system and a fantastic S&C guy in James Dobson.

– Jan 5, 2012 at 1:55 am

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Brian_Towle

Deep...
Gob1gred didn't attack anyone, he was just making a general statement.

– Jan 5, 2012 at 12:52 am

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Gob1gred

Who did I attack?

– Jan 5, 2012 at 12:40 am

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DeepThought

@Gob1gred - keep it civil.. personal attacks aren't necessary, nor do they help your cause in a "who as a brain" argument. Attack the material, not the people.

– Jan 5, 2012 at 12:39 am

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Gob1gred

She's right, if you have a friggin brain, or know anything about football you recognize this. Wtf is this "only nice things about the program" junk? Does Bo only say nice things about fans? It's Erin's job to share an opinion, and god forbid an article isn't cotton candy and rainbows after falling apart in a bowl game.

Loved it Erin. Spot on.

– Jan 4, 2012 at 5:52 pm

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tuxino

Meh. "It is what it is." Tired of his post game comments. tux

– Jan 4, 2012 at 4:13 pm

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DeepThought

@Erin - Thank you for taking everything I said in stride, and beig able to take a step back and read your own article from a perspective outside your own. I can be blunt sometimes, hope its nothing too much smile image

@HuskerLocker - Wasn't expecting a reply from the admin. Dunno if I should frame that or not lol..

That said, at least from the people I knew in Nebraska, there were plenty of Husker Fans from 2004-2007. We all gave Callahan a chance, we waited to see what he could do.. But when you take a team that went 10-3 and then go 5-6 (first losing season in forever, but we waited), 8-4, 9-5, and 5-7 after he took charge, it was pretty obvious what the problem was. Indeed, in Bo's first year, he took one of the previously worst defenses in the nation and made it one of the best with most of the same players.

– Jan 4, 2012 at 3:51 pm

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HuskerLocker

Gassman,

I appreciate the compliment. People can perceive whatever they wish, honestly. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm not out to insult our readers' intelligence by pretending things are how they aren't. I appreciate their points of view. Always have, always will. Others want to blow smoke and sunshine. I refuse to do so.

– Jan 4, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Profile image for erinsorensenLocker Pass member
erinsorensen

Gassman - Thank you for your kind words. I absolutely agree. Constructive criticism doesn't bother me one bit. Plus, like I said in a previous comment, I value the feedback. Husker Nation is full of opinions. We all have them and we should be free to share them. We may not always agree, but that's what makes us great.

We are passionate fans that stand united, even when we don't agree.

– Jan 4, 2012 at 3:21 pm

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Gassman

HL staff, I wouldn't worry too much about how your words are perceived by some. People read what they want to read out of articles, regardless of how much effort you put into being as objective and balanced as possible. My take is to agree, NU is not fine, haven't been for some time. pelini has four seasons left on his contract. I would give the chances of osbone firing him as nil. The excuses used up until now will hold less and less water. it is now or never, and the manner things have been progressing doesn't give one much reason for optimism. won't stop me from supporting NU. a true fan supports unconditionally, but also knows when constructive criticism is needed. IMO the HL staff is amongst the truest of the true fans.

– Jan 4, 2012 at 3:17 pm

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HuskerLocker

"True fans support their team through thick and thin. They also know how to recognize what changes actually need to be made, and when to keep their opinions to themselves." - Few Husker fans between 2004-2007

– Jan 4, 2012 at 3:01 pm

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Brian_Towle

Rather amazing how many people are coming out of the woodwork when something less than flattering is written about someone that is 10-7 in his last 17 football games. No one, me included, has called for Bo's job like some people tend to insinuate. Further more, no one has suggested that someone like Callahan be rehired. The point of the piece (Erin's first one that is not fully positive, btw DeepThought) is that Nebraska is not just fine. Bo is a good coach who has glaring defincies when it comes to gettting himself and his team to the next level.

There is nothing to sugarcoat a ending to this season that mirrored 2010 way too much. A hour from the Michigan game, we had a chance to be playing in the Sugar Bowl. That has become not being ranked in consecutive years for the second time since the Johnson administration.

Nebraska football is not just fine. Nebraska football is not back and here to stay. There is much more to being a successful program than 9 wins a year. A B1G Conference title for one thing would work.

Nebraska football took a step back this year. Something no one can deny.

– Jan 4, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Profile image for erinsorensenLocker Pass member
erinsorensen

DeepThought - I appreciate your feedback. This piece was far from negative, but everyone is allowed to take from it what they will. I support Pelini fuly and believe he has our program's best interests in mind. That is why I pointed out that a coaching change would be ludicrous.

The entire point of this piece? To say that sometimes it's okay when things aren't fine.

– Jan 4, 2012 at 1:10 pm

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DeepThought

I'd have to agree with the last two commenters.. What is with all the pessimism of Husker football? This is the second article I've read by Erin Sorensen that has been purely negative. It's easy to coach from the couch, its another thing to actually coach. Hope this is just a case of end of the season blues and we can turn to analyzing what the Huskers ARE doing for a better season next year.

Also, I love that its the pessimists, the ones who at the slightest thing goes wrong calls for someone's heads, label themselves as true fans. True fans support their team through thick and thin. They also know how to recognize what changes actually need to be made, and when to keep their opinions to themselves. Instead of blaming Bo Pelini and T-Mart for everything that goes wrong, lets look at the real problems. Suggestions include: Replacing Lavonte David and a change in the O-line coaching (yes, the actual reason behind our chokes).

Pair those with what the Huskers ARE doing and that is an article I would look forward to reading smile image

– Jan 4, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Profile image for erinsorensenLocker Pass member
erinsorensen

SF_Ice - Absolutely agree. We do not need a new coach. Bo has brought the program a long way. He'll take it further. That being my whole point that we might not be fine now, but with improvement, we can be.

– Jan 4, 2012 at 1:02 pm

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SF_Ice

I do not think we need a new coach. Bo has made big strides in getting this program on the right track. Most programs do not get better every year, so it is understandable to have a backwards year. I hope the players and coaches learn from this year, and can use it to get better in the offseason. One thing I wish would happen with the offense is letting Martinez run the ball more. They say they don't want him to get hurt, because then he won't be as effective, but if you don't let him play to his strengths, he won't be as effective either. That said, I can't wait to see what Rex does next year...

– Jan 4, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Profile image for erinsorensenLocker Pass member
erinsorensen

PowerTrucker - I encourage you to reread the last half of my piece. I never once whined. In fact, I said a 9-4 season does not call for a coaching change or player being benched. I am in full support of Bo and his program. I am simply saying that sometimes, it's okay to admit that things aren't "fine" so that we, as a program, can move forward and get better.

jfm4huskers - I fully support Bo Pelini, trust me. As I said above, I was just calling to action the idea that our coach does not always need to say, "It'll be fine." He can be honest. He has before when he has said we need improvement.

– Jan 4, 2012 at 12:50 pm

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jfm4huskers

I'm a Husker Fan and I support my coach and team. Negative comments usually come from "negative" people and I do not appreciate the way the media talks about our coach and team. In fact I've decided to discontinue my newspaper because of the articles they have printed with such negative information. Love those Huskers....and the coaching staff no matter what!!!! biggrin image

– Jan 4, 2012 at 12:42 pm

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powertrucker

Get over it the season is over yeah we had our ups and downs. Its over lets move on to next season. Why don't you quit trying to make everything so bad. Yeah we are disappointed in the season end but its over. If you hate the season so bad then leave Husker Nation. Bo knows he needs to make changes but whining about it won't do anyone any good. I have been a Husker Fan forever and will remain that way. And as far as Bo's outburst well he sticks up for his players and is tired of wrong, bad, or missed calls. I support you Bo and the Husker coaching staff

– Jan 4, 2012 at 12:28 pm

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