Nebraska vs. Rutgers, 10.25.14

Tim Beck will likely serve as Nebraska's offensive coordinator for one more game, NU's Holiday Bowl matchup against USC.

Things I know, and things I think I know:

Coaches, no matter the sport, are notorious for outthinking themselves. For throwing too much information at their players.

Tim Beck readily admits (once again) that that's essentially what he did in preparing Nebraska's offense for Saturday's game against Purdue.

Yes, we've heard this before. He did the same thing in the days before the Oct. 4 loss at Michigan State. Beck is in his fourth season as the Huskers' offensive coordinator. He should be beyond repeating a tactical error that seems basic even to a layman.

Beck endures his share of criticism. Some of it is unfair, some not. He can be remarkably introspective and self-critical. He said he prepared too many contingencies for Saturday's game, mindful that Purdue came off a bye week and had confused Nebraska with wrinkles in last season's contest.

He said Nebraska's offense "played confused" in its 35-14 win.

"That's where I put the responsibility on me," he said. "That's why I'm mad at myself. I should've caught that earlier and said, 'Too much.'"

What is the alternative?

"You make adjustments during the game," he said. "You go in saying, 'Here's what we're going to do,' and if they do something else, we'll just change up.'"

The issue is maddening for a couple of reasons. For one, Beck earlier in the season described the identity he wants for his offense — to play fast and physical and not be overly complex. To take what the defense gives you, he said then. Remember him saying "reduce the clutter?" I last recall him saying it in late September. Did he forget?

Maybe it's incumbent on the head coach to remind Beck of his overall philosophy. Perhaps Beck needed to be reminded last week that Nebraska's offense was averaging 514.8 yards per game — the most at NU since 1995 — and Purdue's defense was allowing 429.3 yards. Why let an inferior foe dictate your plan?

You could theorize that Ameer Abdullah's first-quarter injury complicated Beck's play-calling approach, but quarterback Tommy Armstrong said Abdullah's absence didn't alter the game plan.

Purdue did show some new wrinkles.

However, "When we executed, we did good," Beck said. "We hit De'Mornay (Pierson-El) and Westy (Jordan Westerkamp). We went right down the field at times. … Then all of a sudden, we run a wrong route and throw an interception."

Then, another wrong route produced another pick.

Confidence waned.

Nebraska managed only 297 yards on the day, including a paltry 111 in the second half.

Beck, during his postgame session with reporters, at least three times kicked himself for making the game plan overly complex. It's difficult to imagine it happening again.

* Put yourself in Bo Pelini's shoes this week. Nebraska (8-1, 4-1 Big Ten) has a bye Saturday before playing a stretch of games that will define its season. In terms of injuries, the Huskers are in decent shape, all things considered (Pelini likely will update Ameer Abdullah's situation Tuesday during the Big Ten coaches' teleconference).

Should Pelini push his team hard this week, or let off the gas a bit? My sense is he should let off the gas some.

Nebraska, of course, wants badly to jump out of the four-loss-season rut and capture a Big Ten championship. But sometimes you can want something too much. You can press too hard. Armstrong seemed to be in that mode Saturday.

Pelini has a team with conference-title talent. He has to figure out how to maximize that talent, and fast. This much is certain: He'll be earning his paycheck this week, even with a bye.

* On Saturday, we mentioned Pelini being among 20 head coaches under consideration for the Paul Bear Bryant Coach of the Year Award.

The obvious choice at this point is Mississippi State's Dan Mullen. He's on the award's 20-man watch list. The fact David Cutcliffe of Duke isn't on the list greatly compromises its credibility.

The Blue Devils (7-1) likely will be favored in each of their final four regular-season games. Their only loss is to … drum roll, please .… Miami.

* Regarding Mullen, Dan Wolken of USA Today writes, "... nobody in America has done a better job of identifying and developing players who were off the radar of recruiting services." Interesting. Sounds like something to check out during the bye week.

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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