Purdue and Nebraska have a fun little series going since being paired together in the Big Ten West, and Corn Nation has been a fun blogging companion along the way. here is what their crew had to say about the season opener.
1. We’re roughly 12 weeks from kickoff and the one thing we know is that no one knows anything. What’s the perspective from Nebraska’s standpoint? How open is your state? When do your players return? What are the chances of fans in the stands or even playing on September 5?
Patrick G.: Nebraska never did a Shelter At Home. Though many businesses such as bars and barber shops were shut down for a period of time. It was done by county and they were lumped together in regards to the issues with COVID-19 they were having there at the time. Never a state wide shutdown. Players came back to campus on June 1st. As of now, I would say there will be fans in the stands for the first game. How many will be allowed in the stadium will be known later on.
Nate M: I think the chances of fans in the stands on September 5th is north of 99%. The amount of fans will be interesting to me. Nebraska’s Athletic Director did mention that donations and seniority will determine who gets to go and how many games they get to go to.
Mike: As a season ticket holder, I expect to have tickets to see at least one Nebraska football game.
Jill: I think there will be at least some fans, but it will be hard for the older fans to yell at people ahead of them to ‘sit down’ when they are wearing a mask and social distancing is in effect.
2. Scott Frost has gotten off to a “Frosty” start, so much so that “Scott Frost Day” is a running gag. Is this the year he starts to turn it around?
Jon Johnston: Of course it is! Nebraska is going to begin this warped season kicking ass all over, starting with Purdue. They’ll beat their first three-four opponents into the ground handily and then another pandemic will sweep the world, shutting everything down. Either that or an alien spacecraft will crash into the Statue Of Liberty, shearing it in half, the crash signalling the start of an alien invasion by trillions of tiny bug people who can control our minds.
All this because Nebraska is on the cusp of greatness! DAMN YOU BEINGS WHO RUN THIS SIMULATION WE’RE LIVING IN! DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!
Patrick G: I hope it’s his year to turn it around. Almost all the players there are his and the staff has been there long enough to get their message across to the team in regards to how things are done. Scott Frost Day will hopefully be over on September 5th.
Nate M: It better be the year he turns it around, but that might only be 6 or 7 wins. The schedule is absolutely brutal.
Mike: I’m on the bandwagon that says that April 8th will forever be known as Mike Riley day. But the statute of limitations of blaming Mike Riley are quickly expiring. If there are still holes in the roster, the responsibility is now primarily on Scott Frost.
Jill: Frost is growing into the role of head coach and he has some impressive mentors to help him along the way. I am of the opinion the rebuild will not bear fruit until the offensive and defensive lines are fixed - recruiting, work ethic, and strength/conditioning. I’m not pointing fingers at any current players. There are talented players doing the right thing, but I get the impression there aren’t enough of them and so the depth isn’t at a point where players feel like they have to work for their playing time.
3. Losing JD Spielman seems like a big blow. How does it impact Nebraska’s offense?
Jon: You lose a lot of returning production you could rely on, a dynamic playmaker who could pick up yardage and score, and if there’s something Nebraska desperately needs, it’s much more scoring because I don’t believe this defense is going to become a Top 10 defense any time soon.
Patrick G.: In terms of talent, he is a major loss. However, I am not sure he was fitting in with the current team dynamic. So, it was probably best for both parties to move on. Nebraska has some pretty nice receivers sitting in the wings which should help things out. Most of them are a bit green but should pick things up nicely. Wan’dale Robinson is back and healthy which will make a difference. The backfield is a little bare but there is talent. The big get this year is 6’4” receiver Omar Manning who should make an immediate impact on the field. Scott is pretty excited to have him on board so hopefully that means something.
Nate M: It’s a huge loss. As far as returning wide receivers with a catch there are only three on the team. Wan’Dale Robinson, Kade Warner and Chris Hickman. I think Warner has eight catches and Hickman had only one. However, like Patrick G-Unit said above we wonder if it could possibly be addition by subtraction when it comes to the culture on the team. She shall find out.
Mike: JD ran hot and cold, with some great games and then some games that kind of had to make you wonder.
4. On the plus side, Adrian Martinez is entering year three and is a very dynamic quarterback. How is he rounding into form with the offense?
Jon: Oh man. There is a percentage of Nebraska fans who are convinced Martinez should never see the field again. We have a backup, Luke McCaffrey, who has tons of talents and played just enough last year that some fans are certain the backup is the savior because the backup quarterback is the savior all the time in all things. If so, why hasn’t he come up with a vaccine?
I am hopeful that Martinez rebounds from a rough season, returns to his freshman form and destroys everything in his path. To actually answer your question… the offense is in flux and we need to find playmakers at receiver and running back, so I have no idea how well Martinez will do with them.
Patrick G.: For once Nebraska has a fairly decent offensive line coming back that should give Adrian the confidence he did not seem to have last year. He was also injured for a decent chunk of the season which didn’t help. Those two things alone should help him improve greatly and keep him healthy as the year goes on.
Nate M: It is all about health with Martinez. If he stays healthy and Omar Manning gives him somebody to throw to then Martinez is a potential Heisman candidate. Hopefully Luke McCaffrey has improved enough that we won’t have to depend on a 50% Martinez to try and win a football game. We can instead put in a 100% McCaffrey who is a better football player than his older brother and his father...combined.
Mike: Last year, Martinez really missed having a receiver like Stanley Morgan, Jr. to throw to. Nebraska simply didn’t have a big receiver to throw the ball to last year, and the results spoke for themselves. Add in an assortment of injuries, and you have a bleah season. Add in a guy like Manning and let Wan’Dale spend 90% of his time as a slot receiver this season, and Martinez should look a lot more like a more mature version of the guy who was getting some Heisman mentions.
Jill: Martinez played a lot more banged up last year than most people realized and having a redshirt freshman, converted-from-tight-end who thought Adrian was eight feet tall (that was where the snaps were going) at center didn’t help. Things settled down there toward the end of the season. (The center is a very talented athlete, he just had never snapped a ball at any level of football ever and was thrown into the fire in front of 90,000 people.) Presumably we are returning all starters on the o-line so that should be a positive for Martinez. The coaches have been working hard to find big bodies at receiver to compliment Wan’Dale and at the rate they’ve been taking swings, they are bound to connect and hit on one eventually. Right? RIGHT? We also have a collection of very tall tight ends that were grown in petri dishes to be red zone threats. JUST BECAUSE THEY HAVEN’T DONE DIDDLEY IN THE PASSING GAME YET DOESN’T MEAN THEY CAN’T. THEY WILL GET IT DONE THIS YEAR!!! All of this adds up to Adrian locking up the Heisman this year. Even then, he will still only be the third or fourth best quarterback in Nebraska history. Unless he wins it his senior year too. Then he might move up a bit.
5. One of the things I noticed with last year’s stats is that the offense didn’t really gain much more than the defense gave up. The run defense was also appalling. What can we expect out of a pair of Diaco-influenced defenses?
Jon: HEAVY DRINKING! Prepare now. I assume all y’all been hitting the sauce hard while working at home, given you don’t have to get up and present yourselves sober at work. This will be of benefit!
I have no idea what Bob Diaco was doing at Nebraska. The guy should NOT be allowed to speak to the media without a handler present. Bob will speak to the handler who will then translate to the media. I hope they’ve already started training the handler because understanding that SOB could take months. Maybe years. DO YOU SEE THE STRAIN?
One positive thing. Your defensive players won’t catch Covid-19 from Nebraska as they will be social distancing themselves from offensive players throughout the entire game. Yay Bob Diaco! He saves lives!
Nate M: Diaco is probably not as bad as what we saw in the one season at Nebraska. Though that one season was awful. Like embarrassingly awful.
Mike: I think Diaco came to Lincoln as the Mike Riley era began it’s uncontrolled descent, and I don’t think Diaco realized the mess he walked into until he was well on the job. The defense wasn’t quite that bad until the descent started approaching terminal velocity downward. Things really got weird with Diaco, as he tried to explain that the “strain” his defense was being placed in made it impossible to work … all the while clutching his lavalier microphone instead of clipping it to his shirt.
Jill: If I remember correctly, you can expect to watch the other team’s tight ends wide open and averaging 9 yards a catch ALL THE DAMN GAME (ED Note: So... the last 15 years of Purdue football?). Except when you play Nebraska (see above). Something, something, bad angles, something, almost a sack that turns into a first down for the other team, something, something, WTF?!? Get used to that last part.
6. Was Darrion Daniels’ interception and near touchdown at Purdue last year a beautiful play or the most beautiful play? It happened in front of my seats and even as a Purdue fan I heard angels singing.
Patrick G. Yes! It almost got him the Piesman trophy.
Nate M: We wanted it so bad for him, but even that wasn’t enough as Purdue ruined the dreams of men, women and children everywhere.
Mike: Oh, how I wanted Daniels to flip the ball over to Khalil Davis, ala Tommie Frazier, to get that fat man touchdown.