Nebraska’s annual Red-White Spring Game, 4.12.14

Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck (left) talks with head coach Bo Pelini during Nebraska’s annual Red-White Spring Game last April at Memorial Stadium.

FRESNO, Calif. — Tim Beck can have his job.

Have his $700,000 annual salary.

Same goes for any high-profile offensive coordinator, as far as I'm concerned.

Beck can have those wonderful moments when, three days after a game, a pack of remarkably intelligent, football-savvy journalists saunter up to him and, after watching multiple replays, second-guess his work, including why his star running back had only three touches in the fourth quarter.

Just media doing its job. Thank heavens for media.

Come to think of it, three touches for Nebraska All-Big Ten running back Ameer Abdullah in the final period. … Yeah, that's a little ridiculous, considering Abdullah is the team's best player.

Beck, the Huskers' fourth-year coordinator, is paid handsomely to figure out, even during the pressure of a game, how to best use his foremost weapons. He's done so with mixed results at NU.

Saturday night, Beck will have some pressure on him, a tad more than usual, as I sense hounds ready to pounce. Plus, right after last week's game — a 31-24 win against McNeese State — Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini essentially called out Beck, saying the plan on offense "wasn't good enough."

Pelini said at the time, "We're going to take a good, long, hard look at this film."

They did, indeed, Beck said. And what was the result of that session?

"I really don't want to disclose too much of that," he said.

Makes sense. In doing so, he might disclose Nebraska's intentions against Fresno State (0-2).

Safe to say Nebraska (2-0) will try to make far fewer mental mistakes. The Huskers made a surprising amount of them in the second half last week after rolling up 784 yards in a 55-7 season-opening triumph against Florida Atlantic.

If you're a Nebraska fan, you should hope the Huskers flourish offensively against a Fresno State defense that's allowed averages of 55.5 points and 613.5 yards against USC and Utah, respectively.

Let's say Fresno State loads the box with eight defenders, as McNeese State often did. Nebraska should still be able to impose its will on the ground. Running the ball comes down to a can-do mentality. A roll-up-your-sleeves commitment. It sometimes requires patience.

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There I go trying to be Tom Landry again.

Beck noted he inserted a fullback twice last week to help block for running plays, to no avail.

"We were looking for some answers, obviously," Beck said.

No matter what happens late Saturday in the heat of the San Joaquin Valley, Beck's offense is multiple, right? So, there should be multiple ways to get the ball to Abdullah — who, for the sake of this discussion, is averaging 26.2 yards on four receptions.

Abdullah shouldn't be hard for Tommy Armstrong to find underneath and in the flat.

As for Abdullah getting only three touches (including a kickoff return) in the fourth quarter, Beck noted Nebraska ran only 12 plays in the period. Point taken. Armstrong four times targeted junior wide receiver Taariq Allen (nine career receptions). Terrell Newby had a carry. Imani Cross had a carry. So did Ameer — one.

In 12 plays, in crunch time, he should have had the ball in his hands a minimum of four times.

Beck couldn't explain why that wasn't the case, but acknowledged, "If anything looks cloudy, you want to try to get the ball to that guy."

If teams are keying on Abdullah, as McNeese State did, Armstrong should continue to inflict damage passing and running, although receiver injuries are a concern, as is Tommy's decision-making. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Armstrong, however, generally has looked excellent rushing the ball, with 18 carries for 193 yards (10.7 per rush, compared with 3.0 last season).

Beck could be more inventive with the running game. Maybe he's been holding back some plays. Maybe he was holding back plays last week, as the game tightened, because his linemen seemed confused.

Credit McNeese State. Its twists and stunts and blitzes created havoc in the trenches. Nebraska linemen perhaps panicked amid the confusion.

Beck said the line was "thinking too much and playing a little bit more reactionary."

Ah, confusion. I know confusion when I see it and hear it. I heard a bit of it in Beck's voice this week as he tried to explain his team's second-half breakdowns against McNeese State.

If Nebraska experiences confusion in the Valley, you'll hear about it. The hounds will let you know.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.​


Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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