Much has been said and written how Saturday’s game between No. 19 Nebraska at No. 14 Virginia Tech represents a moment of truth for both clubs.
Well, since this is a Nebraska blog, we will focus on the significance from the Huskers standpoint. The same two teams met last season in Lincoln, Neb. with the Hokies prevailing 35-30.
You’ve heard the horror stories of the Huskers road struggles in recent seasons.
Since the infamous Black Friday 62-36 loss at Colorado in 2001, the Huskers are 16-25 away from Memorial Stadium (neutral site games included) and 13-21 in non-neutral site games.
That stretch has included its share of decisive losses (two defeats by 40 or more points, six by 30 or more, 11 by 20 or more, and 16 by 10 or more). Very few of the 13 wins have come against quality foes. The Huskers scored come-from-behind wins at Texas A&M in 2002 (38-31) and 2006 (28-27).
Make no mistake, beating VaTech in its backyard would be vital and another sign that the Huskers are headed in the direction of being among the elite in college football.
Again, much has been said and written about things Nebraska needs to do in order to win this Saturday. While all of these things hold some kernel of truth for the Cornhuskers (no pun intended), there are two things this team needs to do in order to win this game, and other games as we go forward.
Just to set the scene, I work as a sports reporter for two small-town weeklies in Napa Valley, CA. One of the schools I covered had a coach named Ian MacMillan, who coached by the motto of “Love and Trust.”
When I think of this week’s Nebraska game, I think of Ian’s motto.
For this Nebraska team to gain that much coveted win against a solid Hokie team, first, the team needs to listen to and trust these coaches. I'm a bit biased, but I think Nebraska has assembled one of the better coaching staffs in the country. While I spent a good seven years wondering from week to week if Nebraska had a team that could "do it," I no longer do with Bo Pelini as the head coach. I have absolute faith in the coaching staff that they will come up with a game plan on both sides of the ball that is extremely capable of winning the game.
I also have complete faith, that if they meet adversity, these coaches are extremely capable of making necessary adjustments in order to win the game. This was something we rarely saw under both Frank Solich and Bill Callahan. I have complete faith in this coaching staff and I believe the players do as well. That is half the battle.
Secondly, and what would be the second part of that battle, is the players simply need to execute what the coaches tell them to do. How many times, no matter who the opponent, or what the game plan, you hear coaches say it was a matter of execution? I have complete faith, that given the nature of our staff and their ability to teach and communicate, that our players will come out Saturday and execute with precision, the plan that they have been given.
I honestly don't care what that plan is, as long as it is executed. Granted, the opponent has a game plan to execute as well but if our team has belief in its coaches, and takes the plan given to them and executes it, there's no doubt in my mind they can beat any team in the country on a given day.
Yes, Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va., is a tough environment. We can talk all we want about what the Nebraska offense, defense and special teams needs to do. The bottom line is, if the Huskers execute the plan, they will win the damn game.
I think some fans are still having Callahan era hangovers, and there is a tendency everything. I understand this and I was that way last year. However, I've come to the conclusion that Nebraska has a staff worthy of our faith and trust that they will deliver. This does not mean the Huskers will not lose games. It just means, that from week to week, given the talent and coaching staff, I think they are capable of winning every game they play.
I believe that Nebraska’s defense will be good enough, and execute well enough, to hold Virginia Tech to 17 points or thereabouts. Let us not forget, that the Huskers played very basic defensive packages in the first two weeks. I assure you that there will be more stunts and hidden agenda going on this weekend.