The Q&A is back. Oh how I wish Purdue was 3-5 with five very close losses. that would be a sign of progress. For Nebraska, however, the sky is falling. That';s why we have Brian Towle of SB Nation's Corn Nation stopping by to talk Purdue-Nebraska:
T-Mill: Is it crazy to say Nebraska is a handful of plays from being undefeated or is this just a fatally flawed team?
Brian: That's... a great question? I think this team does have bad luck, but at the same time I do believe you make your own luck. So, that being said, Nebraska's not done themselves a whole lot of favors, especially in the 4th quarter of games that they have lost. Illinois is a terrible thought, and while the team almost got Al Golden fired by themselves with the 4th Q comeback vs. Miami, it was nothing but a big tease due to the overtime fiasco. That's not even bringing up BYU or Wisconsin. I don't think they are fatally flawed, but both the staff and team (through different avenues) have tried to play like the unrespected underdog too much, like they need to be D'antonio disrespected or something.
T-Mill: Since the Cornhuskers have struggled to close out games is there relief inf acing a struggling team like Purdue or concern that it could be a sign of how bad things are?
Brian: I would say yes, but it seems that Tommy Armstrong is not going to go vs the Boilermakers, making Ryker Fyfe the man who gets to be QB for Big Red. OC Danny Langsdorf has gone with a 60/40 pass to run ratio all season, so one has to wonder if he'll try to keep that with Fyfe, or maybe run the ball more. A fair amount of the fanbase, bloggers & media included, think that Nebraska should be running the ball 60-70 percent of the time, hell or high water. Nebraska couldn't run much vs. Northwestern last week, and there's no Rex Burkhead or Ameer Abdullah to make the run blocking seem better than it really is this year. It's the first time in about 7-8 seasons that the Huskers don't have a verified stud at RB, and it's proving to be an issue.
T-Mill: What difference has Mike Reilly made so far? Is there any regret for getting rid of Pelini?
Brian: I don't think many wish that Bo were back in this season, because while Nebraska wouldn't be 3-5 right now, there would be just as many head scratching moments with this team. That being said, there's a wonder about some assistants that Riley has employed, including a bonafide Special Teams coach that hasn't improved much and the Secondary coach that came in to make this Passing D dead f'ing last (up to this week, thanks Indiana!). The thing that Mike Riley has brought is a calm, we realize what we've got to fix and try to fix it demeanor that some like and some don't. I think Riley still has to learn how to run a team & program that isn't a perpetual underdog like he had in Corvallis, and coach the same way. There is a tremendous hope that it'll be better in 1-2 years, when more of his type of kids are in the program and more coaching is done. For now, however, Nebraska needs to keep trying to get better week to week.
T-Mill: What is working both offensively and defensively so far for Nebraska?
Brian: Well, Defensively the run D is pretty good, save last week when the LB's probably had their worst game of the season. Passing D has slowly gotten better than their worst in FBS mode, but it's still the thing that Nebraska fans cringe about when it comes to how they play Defense. I mean, Mitch Leidner had 300 yards and Nebraska won comfortably vs. the Gophers.
Offensively, you could argue that the passing game, even with the bitching and moaning about the need to run the ball, has gotten better. Keith Williams has taken a pretty decent set of Wide Receivers and make them (arguably) the best group in the Conference, and possibly one of the better ones in FBS. There still needs to be consistency from week to week, but overall you can't be upset with this group at all.
T-Mill: Does Nebraska absolutely need this game to make a bowl this year?
Brian: YES. This is one of 2 road B1G games that the Huskers should be favored in this year, with a trip to Rutgers coming in 2 weeks. Between those matches, Nebraska gets Sparty at home, then the Thanksgiving tilt with Iowa, who is undefeated and playing well enough even if you don't think they are as good as their record indicates. People keep talking about how "embarrassing" a 5-7 Nebraska team would be in a bowl game this year. But lets be honest, Nebraska needs the extra practice and game to get better. Taking that game and 15-16 practices away from the Huskers would not help their cause. Shawn Eichorst (Nebraska AD) and Riley see this as a rebuild and that would only help, no matter where the game would be or against whom.
T-Mill: A prediction?
Brian: Nebraska needs a big game on the ground, because Fyfe is not going to kill it through the air. He'll be asked for the intermediate passing game, and we'll see how good he is at that. Defensively, Nebraska is getting healthier, but still has some playmakers out. I think Nebraska wins the game 34-23 and gets ready for the home tilt in primetime vs. Michigan State next weekend.
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