At one point in the first half of Saturday’s game, still early in this Husker nightmare, the referee announced to the crowd: “There was a malfunction in the paging system.”
What exactly he meant, no one knew. But then, there was a lot that was hard to understand in Nebraska’s 31-10 loss to Texas Tech. This was a day for confused expressions and malfunction after bloody malfunction.
The Huskers looked such a mess on offense that some Memorial Stadium boo birds could be heard after one failed fourth-quarter drive. Not long after that, true freshman Cody Green replaced starter Zac Lee at quarterback for the second time in the game.
Who is Nebraska’s quarterback now? Just another question among many that will be asked this week.
“Absolutely,” Husker coach Bo Pelini said when asked if coaches would be evaluating the quarterback spot. “We’re thinking about a lot of changes, every position.”
The day began with “Suh For Heisman” signs and a sense of great optimism from fans about the program’s place in the conference and the country.
Then Texas Tech scored on the game’s first drive. Then No. 15 Nebraska let a 240-pound man return a fumble back 82 yards without any resistance.
“We didn’t execute from the beginning to the end,” Pelini said. “We didn’t execute on offense. We didn’t come off the ball. We didn’t catch the ball. We didn’t make the right reads at quarterback. We didn’t run the ball effectively, and on defense we didn’t make plays. …
“It’s as simple as that. You can sit there and ask all questions in the world. It comes down to we got beat because we didn’t make plays. We got outplayed. We got outcoached.”
Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson will certainly receive his share of criticism this week. The Huskers had three points after three quarters Saturday. They had no points after three quarters in the game against Missouri.
What does Pelini say?
“Shawn Watson’s a good football coach. He’s stood the test of time for a long time. We don’t point fingers around here. It’s a team loss. Because, I can tell you defensively, we didn’t get it done either. We lost in every phase of the game. Shawn Watson is a good football coach. That hasn’t changed and that won’t change. He’s a helluva coach.”
Pelini said he thought Watson’s play-calling wasn’t bad.
“As a play-caller, you always want some things back and there’s always some things you can change,” Pelini said. “But we didn’t execute. We didn’t play well up front. We didn’t get the ground game going like we thought we could have. When that isn’t happening, it’s pretty hard to call plays when you’re not executing the calls. We missed some wide-open receivers. They played better than us in every phase.”
Pelini: Lots of work to do
Nebraska tried early to establish the run but failed, finishing with 70 yards on 30 carries.
“We tried to stay committed to trying to get that run game going,” Watson said. “We had some good things. It’s just when you’re behind like that, you have to be smart. You can’t sit there and do it all day.”
Yet when it came to passing, Lee seemed tentative. His stat line was OK: 16-of-22 for 128 yards. But Nebraska’s offense struggled enough that Watson brought Green in for the second series of the third quarter.
“I think Zac, there were some things … I just don’t think he was seeing it well, maybe overanalyzed it a little bit,” Watson said.
Watson brought Lee back in, but after Nebraska failed to score early in the fourth quarter on a first-and-goal from the 6-yard line (hurt by personal-foul and a false-start penalties), the coach turned again to the 18-year-old Green.
“Zac understood why I was doing what I was doing,” Watson said.
Green (7-of-16 for 87 yards) did lead the Huskers on a 40-yard touchdown drive to bring the score to 24-10 with 8:40 left. But Green threw an interception on the next drive, and he had a couple other throws that were nearly picked off.
The freshman said he wouldn’t listen to any talk about him being the guy next week.
“Because I know the coaches are the people that are going to make that decision,” he said.
About Lee, Green said: “Everyone has bumps in the road. Today wasn’t Zac’s day, let’s say. He can go out next week against Iowa State and light the world up. That’s the type of player he is, and he’ll bounce back from this.”
About Green, Lee said: “We’re always competing in practice. That’s how it is every day. That’s how it was from Day One.”
People will focus on the quarterback spot, but senior Jacob Hickman said that no one on offense played well.
It was just ugly.
“We’re a very capable football team,” Pelini said. “You just wouldn’t think that watching us today.”
Reach Brian Christopherson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 473-7439.
Nebraska vs. Texas Tech highlights