It’s blogger interview time! This week we get Andy Ketterson from the always fun Corn Nation. Let’s see what Andy has to say about the Cornhuskers:
T-Mill: I liken this year’s Nebraska team to our own 2002 team: which lost all six games by less than a touchdown from opponents as varied as Wake Forest to eventual champ Ohio State. Are you guys just cursed?
Andy: 6 losses, eh? We’ll take it at this point!
The funny thing about all the goofy calls and plays over the last few years - which are, to be honest, taking on a new life this season - is the gut-punch reactions have sort of gone away replaced by, “Oh sure, of course that just happened.” Wag come-hither finger at bartender, chug shot, share eye roll with neighbor, flip the bird at the TV. OK, let’s get it back - clap, clap.
I don’t know if we’re cursed but I definitely find myself trying to do little nice things, tip more, give strange dogs treats - whatever it takes to turn a little karma in our direction. I really, really love this year’s team and their competitiveness and their resiliency and I want them to experience some sort of success when this season is all said and done. I’m willing to resort to witchcraft even if the payoff is only a 3-1 finish which sends us to a December bowl game in Idaho or Shreveport.
T-Mill: How many more years does Adrian Martinez have and what is the reason for his improvement this year?
Andy: He has one more year of eligibility if he wants it and it’s definitely a point of contention with the fan base as to whether he should take it.
Myself, I love the guy to death. He got his bachelors degree in 3 years, so hell, he may have to enter a PHD program to keep playing for all I know. When he lost his starting job last year, he didn’t check out and make plans to enter the portal. He worked his ass off to win it back, while coaching up Luke McCaffrey who replaced him. Movie characters aren’t that cool. (For all the complainers, I’m sort of glad it worked out the way it did unless you prefer Rice’s 2nd or 3rd string QB over a guy who’s been leading the Big 10 in total yards off & on this season)
Anyway - my opinion only - it will probably come down to 1) is there any pro interest (at this point, an extra year could only help) and 2) can he cash in even more on an NIL deal? Personally, I’d love to see him back for one more year. Both backups are freshman, one true and one redshirt, and if nothing else couldn’t be hurt by learning a little about character and class from another year around the guy. (I’m a fan. Sorry if I was subtle.)
T-Mill: What other playmakers make a difference offensively?
Andy: At RB, the guy who emerged from being 4th string early on to grabbing the job by the throat is Rahmir Johnson. After a solid start, he started popping some big plays from the position rushing and receiving which was desperately needed.
At WR, Samari Toure, a projected NFL draft pick and Montana transfer has turned into the most dependable wideout, although Xavier Betts may have most big play potential with his size and speed. Omar Manning is a freak with next-level ability but only mostly manages one or two plays a game that make every wonder why he isn’t out there more.
TE Austin Allen is 6’9” 260 and athletic as hell. He’s Adrian’s go-to guy and barring injury (he seems to get flipped on his head every so often making everyone cringe) he will be playing on Sundays.
T-Mill: This is not as stout of a defense as Purdue has faced in recent weeks. What weaknesses can Purdue exploit?
Andy: They are definitely there but it’s tough to say from week-to-week. Before I pick them apart, I will say they are the first Blackshirt defense since 2009 with Suh who fires me up instead of making me beg for good things.
Early on, they were susceptible to big runs before locking down Kenneth Walker against Michigan St., but they still get popped for a couple 20+ runs a game. They have a very solid pass D, but then they do goofy things like stack the line against the Gophers in the 1st half but give the receivers a huge pad and get picked apart by Tanner Morgan in the first half. They adjusted in the 2nd half and shut them down but what the hell was going on?
But compared to what’s gone on defensively basically since Carl Pelini left, these are quibbles. David Bell should terrify me but last year, taking away an 89 yard TD to Bell which was a blown coverage as opposed to a one-on-one matchup burn, we held him to 9 catches for 43 yards and Rondale to 13 for 78. I think if you offered those numbers for either let alone a combined 22 for 121, and you’d have nothing but takers. Yes, the 89 yarder counts, but that game gave a lot of hope for the future.
Anyway, final answer? Observant offensive coordinators have seemed to find some openings this year against what is definitely a more talented group than in years. I think Purdue will exploit us for a few big plays.
T-Mill: What on earth is going on with the special teams?
Right now, the disasters are pretty much down to the FG’s & XP’s. No one returns kickoffs anymore and why bother? Cam stopped returning punts weeks ago, so that god-pounding horror show is over. Since Daniel Cerni decided to boot a line drive to to Payton Barber in the MSU game for a 62-yard game-changing TD return (remember that? The one where the lesser receiver and our entire team was on the other side of the field where he was supposed to kick it? Well, we do.), he’s been a ghost and William Prystup has been punting the living piss out of the ball. We’ve got a transfer who’s booting every kick out of the end zone.
Which leaves Connor Culp and his maddening yips. The guy has become a disaster on the short stuff. Extra points and 25-35 yards? He’s like a bulimic after a porterhouse and loaded baked potato. 50-55 yards? Boom. Eight straight extra points against Northwestern? We’re good. Every other game? Squib.
We just have to live with it. He was the Big 10’s best kicker last year, so it wasn’t like the coaches failed to fix a problem. Myself, I’m ready to just have Frost to start spinning his index finger like the Dallas Carter head coach in the Friday Night Lights movie on every 4th down. You football movie fans know what I’m talking about.
T-Mill: What do you see happening on Saturday? Is this just a pair of chaos teams colliding?
Andy: It is 100% chaos theory happening. All we need is Jeff Goldblum babbling at us about butterflies flapping their wings in Madagascar which cause a 10-car pile-up in Roanoke two days later - while Laura Dern and Sam Neill make the Pete-Carroll-against-Texas face. Oh, hell yeah, I did just go to Jurassic Park.
But - and a big part of this but is assuming Rahmir is out of the concussion protocol and gives the offense that extra dimension - my guess is that bookies are giving Nebraska those points because they’ve had two weeks to heal up after eight straight weeks without a break and Purdue’s had a couple physical ones recently. This isn’t me being cocky but thinking when a spread seems really weird, the money guys are onto something. Huskers 33 Boilers 24