“Shooting The Wounded”
Advice To Fans, ‘Press Box Coaches’:
Await Results Of Two Final Games

Some perspective, please, among Nebraska Cornhusker football fans and the news media. I share their disappointment over the Huskers’ ineptitude (most of the people I talked to used stronger language) in their 59-24 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison last Saturday.

But let’s keep in mind that the Huskers have two chances for a major redemption in the next two weeks—hosting the Minnesota Gophers in Lincoln this Saturday and traveling to Iowa City to play the Iowa Hawkeyes next week.

Formidable opponents, of course, especially, it would appear, Minnesota, even though the Huskers will have the home field advantage.

But Iowa has a November 1st loss to Northwestern (7-48) on its record before recovering for a 30-14 victory over Illinois last Saturday.

Huskers Have Potential To Finish Strong

The Huskers have the potential, I believe, to beat both the Gophers and the Hawkeyes—or, of course, the possibility of winning one and losing one or losing both.

Two victories would mean a 10-2 season record for the Huskers I’m not predicting it, of course, simply pointing out the possibility, with the thought—or perhaps I should say the hope—that the Huskers have the potential to achieve such a result.

A split would mean a 9-3 season—and certainly a bowl bid.

Two losses would be mean an 8-4 season record, a happy result at dozens of universities but clearly not what Husker fans are, I believe, entitled to expect.

A Look Back Is Instructive

I spoke of a need for perspective. Perhaps a look back at the history of Husker football (which I’ve been following closely for more than 80 years) makes me inclined to suffer less emotionally than some others when the Huskers have a bad day.

Oh, yes, I suffer, but I also look back at some past Husker games and seasons—which perhaps makes me suffer less.

I’m thinking of the day Marian and I sat in the stands in Norman, Oklahoma and watched the Huskers lose 47-0 to the Sooners in 1968.   The next year Nebraska, playing back-to-back years in Norman for reasons I never fully understood, beat the Sooners 44-14.

I also look back at two consecutive 6-4 seasons under the legendary Husker Coach Bob Devaney in 1967 and 1968. Two years later in 1970 under the same Bob Devaney the Huskers won their first national championship.

My historical perspective includes also the rainy-day game in Lincoln which the Huskers lost 7-0 to Colorado in a game in which they didn’t make a first down.

I recall, too, the 1-9 season under Coach Bill Jennings in 1957. (The one victory was an upset of Oklahoma.)

All of which doesn’t make the Huskers look better in their 59-24 loss to Wisconsin last Saturday, but it does show that previous generations of Huskers fans had their loyalty tested by Husker losses even more disappointing than the loss to Wisconsin.

Worse Losses In Past Don’t Ease Present Pain

It doesn’t ease the pain, but it should be remembered that the Huskers have a record of two previous losses at Madison in the past three years, by scores of 48-17 and 70-31. (The 70-31 humiliation was in a game for the Big 10 championship.)

All of which doesn’t do much to ease the sting of the humiliating defeat last Saturday. The reaction of Huskers fans to whom I’ve talked was, perhaps hard to believe, less critical of the Huskers’ performance than the comments of television commentators addressing a nationwide audience (an audience which had probably diminished considerably in numbers by the end of the game).

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Advice To Press Box Coaches:
Don’t Shoot The Wounded Yet

Years ago (I can’t remember when or where I read it) an account of the behavior of newspaper correspondents watching a long-ago battle from the safety of the hills, then coming down and shooting the wounded.

This many-decades-ago criticism of news media performance came to mind as I read “press box coaches’” criticism of the Huskers’ performance at Madison last Saturday.

‘Press Box Coaches’ Go To Work

Both Sam McKewon and Dirk Chatelain of the World-Herald sharply critical of the Huskers’ performance, despite the fact that the Huskers are 8-2 with a chance for redemption the next two Saturdays.

McKewon’s rambling post-Madison comments took up a half page of newsprint and included language like this:

“When you have an average receiving unit in the snow and cold, a quarterback who hasn’t proven he can complete timing routes and roughly a dozen offensive linemen-tight ends at your disposal, you might want to take those two weeks of prep and consider a power toss. Mix in a counter that gives Abdullah two or three lead blockers. Something that acknowledges the conditions, the opponent and the magnitude of a game the entire state has been waiting a month to play…

“Beck’s offense doesn’t really work in November. Pelini’s base defense doesn’t work against Wisconsin. It’s an excellent pass defense. Among the best. Not against Wisconsin’s run game…

“And if you want to measure raw toughness—stuff that goes beyond talent—Wisconsin has more of that. Even after Gordon leaves, Wisconsin will have more, and will be able to remind Nebraska of it on an annual basis, until the Huskers do something about it.”

Incidentally but significantly, as I see it, was the play depicted in a color picture carried in The World-Herald Monday over the start of the McKewon column questioning the performance of Nebraska’s coaches during the Nebraska/Wisconsin game.

As I see it, the dropped pass doesn’t look like the result of questionable coaching.

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 2.40.47 PM

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Next Week’s Column A Day Early

Look for next week’s column appearing on Wednesday in deference to the Thanksgiving holiday.

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