Fixing Fundamentals

Huskers fail to execute against Texas Maybe Nebraska was simply too keyed up. Or maybe not. “I don’t think emotion was a problem,” Niles Paul says. The Cornhusker wide receiver was trying to explain a 20-13 loss to Texas. “I’ve been saying it all year; it’s going to come down to us making big plays on the perimeter,” he says. “And we didn’t do it today. We didn’t show up.” Failure to make plays on the perimeter was a factor. Three dropped passes, for example, including one from Zac Lee to Paul on third-down-and-four from the Texas 11-yard line with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter. Had Paul held on, it would have been a touchdown. Instead, Nebraska settled for a field goal to make the score 20-6. Paul’s drop was sandwiched between two others — equally frustrating to Husker fans expecting payback in what could be the last time Nebraska and Texas play in the immediate future. On the first play of the second quarter, Rex Burkhead dropped what would have been a 30-yard touchdown pass from Taylor Martinez. And midway through the fourth quarter, Brandon Kinnie dropped what would have been a 38-yard touchdown pass from Lee. “We just didn’t show up today,” says Paul, who held on to six passes for 66 yards, and 17 passes for the season, second on the team to Kinnie’s 18. “We’re a prideful group. We’re not used to that, and it happened.” The Huskers’ ninth loss in 10 games against Texas since the creation of the Big 12 in 1996 couldn’t be laid entirely on the shoulders of those who dropped the passes, however. Consider: - Nebraska fumbled five times, a problem of continuity even though only one was lost. - The Huskers were penalized 10 times for 94 yards, a problem of discipline and focus. - And Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who went into the game with a net of 14 rushing yards, finished with 71 yards rushing on 11 carries, a problem of defensive adjustment. “Some of the things that have been hurting us hurt us today, worse,” Husker Coach Bo Pelini says. “And you’ve gotta get ’em fixed. Football comes down to execution. It comes down to fundamentals. It comes down to technique. It comes down to playing the right way. We didn’t play the right way today, and we didn’t get it done. I give credit to Texas. But we didn’t take care of ourselves. We didn’t play with good fundamentals. We didn’t play up to our capability. So that’s what happens to you.” Beforehand, Nebraska seemed capable of contending nationally. The Cornhuskers were ranked fourth and fifth in the major polls. Now they’re 13th and 14th. Nebraska’s struggles were reflected by its pulling Martinez with 6:14 remaining in the third quarter and replacing him with Lee, who hadn’t played since the fourth quarter of the season-opener against Western Kentucky. Martinez struggled against the athletic Texas defense. The coaches “wanted to find a spark, wanted to settle Taylor down,” Pelini says of the decision to change quarterbacks. “It wasn’t Taylor, trust me. It wasn’t just Taylor … ” The switch didn’t have implications beyond the Texas game, according to Pelini. “I mean, Taylor’s our starting quarterback right now,” he says. “But, you know … nothing’s really changed.” Well, the perception of Nebraska’s next two opponents has changed. Oklahoma State and Missouri are undefeated and ranked higher than the Huskers in the first BCS standings. The next two Saturdays, Nebraska plays at Oklahoma State then plays host to Missouri. “I told our football team we still have everything out in front of us we want to do,” says Pelini. “Our first goal is to win the Big 12. It’s still out there for us to do. But we’re not going to do that unless we look in the mirror like men and take responsibility for what happened out on that field today and get better because of it. We’ll let the fans, everybody else, feel sorry for themselves and feel sorry for what happened. But you’ve got to take an experience like this and make you stronger.” Paul took responsibility for what happened. The dropped passes were the difference. “I definitely think so,” Paul says. “I can’t take anything away from anybody else, but I think if we make those catches, we win that game. “I don’t think it’s a mental thing at all. It’s something we work on all week. And it’s something we should do.”

posted at 09:43 pm
on Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

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