Official Husker Locker Blog
2012 Jan 04
NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: "We'll Be Just Fine" - A Season In Review
“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.
Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
Follow Husker Locker on Twitter: @huskerlocker
Like us on Facebook: Official Husker Locker Page
Permanent Link to this Blog Post