It only took until Week No. 2 but the Nebraska football team’s season is already at a crossroad after its 36-30 road loss to UCLA on Saturday.
It was not only a defeat that could give the Bruins a much needed boost in a town where USC has reigned supreme the last dozen or so years but a loss that raised questions on Nebraska’s end.
Granted, beating an improved but, still to this point, middle of the road Pac 12 team would not have suddenly made Nebraska elite but losing the game begged the question of the Huskers being no closer to a program in select company than when head coach Bo Pelini arrived in Lincoln in December 2007 after Bill Callahan was fired. In fact, the loss only sounded alarm bells of being further away from elite status.
The Huskers still have their public goals of winning a Big Ten title alive and as shaky as most of the conference looks it can still happen. Seriously, don’t laugh. However, if the Husker defense couldn’t slow down Jordan Franklin and Brett Hundley what makes you think they will slow down Wisconsin running back Montee Ball and Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller?
The good news is that for all of Pelini’s shortcomings as a head coach, and more seem to be surfacing as time progresses, Nebraska has bounced back well after losses under Pelini. The Huskers are 10-4 under Pelini after a defeat. Nebraska hosts Arkansas State and Idaho State the next two weeks. The Huskers enter the Arkansas State game as a 24-point favorite but considering their performance against UCLA it’s hard to envision a scenario of the Huskers winning that decisively.
We have heard rumors of personnel changes such as getting younger and faster players like David Santos and Zaire Anderson on the field. After all, Will Compton can only do so much. There is even a possibility of going from a 4-3 to a 3-4 with the departure of defensive tackle Chase Rome.
Pelini told reporters after practice Wednesday that Rome’s “personal goals and personal perception of where he should be on this football team doesn't match the team goals.”
Rome's departure comes after the Cornhuskers' defensive line played poorly in a loss at UCLA on Saturday. Defensive coaches said early in the week that personnel changes were being considered at several positions. Rome, who is a sophomore from Columbia, Mo., had four tackles in the first two games.
The next two weeks on the surface are winnable before entering the Big 10 opener at home against Wisconsin. Arkansas State, which competes in the Sun Belt, is 1-1 with a 57-34 loss at No. 5 Oregon and a 33-28 win over Memphis. Arkansas State, however, has a potent offense led by quarterback Ryan Aplin. It should also be pointed out that all 34 of Arkansas State’s points against Oregon came after the Ducks fashioned a 29-0 lead after one quarter. Idaho State, which competes in the Big Sky Conference has lost to Air Force (49-21) and defeated Black Hills State (38-3).
Husker fans and media alike, including this corner, have had doubts surface. While there is not much Nebraska will do over the next two weeks to regenerate belief, the Huskers can ill-afford to stub their toe, win or lose, the next two weeks.