Saturday’s painful showing against Ohio State, once again, proved the Nebraska Cornhuskers to be a team of consistent inconsistency. The Huskers sit at 4-2 (1-1 in conference play) with up-and-down performances throughout the season thus far, and the manhandling by the Buckeyes was definitely one of the downs.
Once again, the Huskers looked good throughout the first quarter. Defense was holding the Ohio State rushing attack to minimal gains, and after a rough start, Taylor Martinez and the offense quickly fought back to take the lead. But no sooner did Nebraska take a 10-point lead than OSU would eventually return the favor with four touchdowns in the second quarter. The Huskers would begin the second half with a touchdown, bringing the score to 31-35, but that would be the last time the margin would be relatively small.
After taking it to the Wisconsin offense last week, the Blackshirt defense, once again, struggled against the Buckeyes. Quarterback Braxton Miller lit up the defense on the ground. Countless holes were opened for him, allowing for an astounding 137 yards rushing in the first half alone (186 rush yards total), which is the most rush yards by an OSU player in a single half.
And once again, despite an impressive offensive showing overall, the turnovers killed the Huskers as Martinez threw three picks and lost a fumble in the fourth quarter. The offense has consistently scored enough points to win games, even in the two losses so far this season (30 against UCLA, 38 against Ohio State). Yet it has been the turnovers that create the cause for concern. The Husker offense has fumbled the ball 17 times and lost 10 of those fumbles.
The past two weeks have rung a very familiar bell for Husker fans, only with an eerie twist in the results. The 2011 conference opener found the Huskers beaten and bruised by the Wisconsin Badgers, but the Big Red was able to move past the defeat with a second-half 21-point comeback against Ohio State, the largest in school history. The 2012 season featured another record-breaking comeback win for the Huskers, only this time the victims were the Badgers. The season also included another beating of the Huskers but that would come at the hands of Buckeyes. The past two seasons leave many fans wondering if this consistent juxtaposition will be a yearly tradition.
And who can ignore the dependability of the 9-win seasons for the past four years, each featuring a mid-season slump or an end-of-season deficit? In 2008, head coach Bo Pelini came to Lincoln like a knight on his white horse coming to save the oppressed village from its evil king and his jester. After a 5-7 season in 2007, 9-4 with a bowl-game victory seemed like a dream and anything but possible, but that’s where the Huskers found themselves less than a year after the Pederson/Callahan disaster. But four years and four 9-4 seasons later, Nebraska fans are anxious.
Is it time to call up Tom Osborne for a coaching change? Probably not. Remember, Dr. Tom wasn’t always the savior of the Big Red. He was mercilessly criticized for 20 years for never being able to “win the big one.” Now, am I saying we should give Pelini two decades to get it together? By no means. But while consistent 9-win seasons may not always settle well with Husker fans, I encourage you to go back five years and remember the chaos and turmoil the program was involved in and how bad it truly was. Now take a deep breath, and remember that the season is far from over. Trust in your Huskers, once again.