Someone upstairs must have not liked the Buffs this year. And that someone capped off the season with a knock out blow today. We were in euphoria. 1:51 seconds left, 4th and 25. Pelini and the Huskers, who took a horrible sack to get in that position, was thought to have only one decision: he had to go for it. Nope, on trots #90 K Alex Henery. A little sophomore whose career long was 48 yards. The Buffs, of course, because we never practice special teams and it shows, failed to blitz or rush the middle to block what would have to be a low line drive kick for "just reached puberty" kicker Alex Henery. Have to give the kid credit for jerking that over the cross bar, give Pelini credit for making that call after attempting to throw the ball after his team was pounding the Buffs on the ground and of course, the Buffs for having George Hypolite, who could hardly get in his stance in the second half because he was so tired, to try and block the kick with his credit card high vertical. It was the second worst possible way to end the season in my mind. First would have been a blowout. It stings. All Buffs fans today leave their bar, their armchair, their friends' house with their head down. Where do we go from here? It was a straight shot to the gut that most Buffs fans won't recover from for a long time. We will talk about this game for a while and that little #90 will haunt our memory. It shouldn't have been that way. The Buffs, regardless of how bad the play calling, the defensive line, the offensive inconsistency and the special teams was, were in a position we all would have taken in a heartbeat. A little sophomore kicker would have to make a 57 yard field goal to win the game. Where do I sign? I would take it right now without hesitation because no way that guy makes it again. Just a bad way to go out.
Here are some initial positives and negatives of today's game:
- The Buffs scored 31 points, away from home. The Buffs haven't scored 31 points since week two of the season and to do it on the road, no less, was a positive.
- The Buffs made some plays today. They had big touchdowns, exciting touchdowns, a big sack by Mahnke, a fumble recovery in the Huskers red zone, etc. CU hasn't had this many plays in a game all year. The Buffs had a chance to win at the end of the game. Honestly, not many of us, if any at all, thought that would happen.
- I thought RB Demetrius Sumler played well. He made some good blocks in pass protection. He averaged 7.2 yards a rush. The problem for the Buffs is that they either scored so fast or could not sustain drives, which ultimately wore down their defense and most importantly, their defensive line. The Buffs had almost 20 minutes less TOP and Nebraska had 29 more plays including running the ball 51 times.
- The tight ends got involved and made some good plays. Four catches for over 100 yards is something that we haven't seen this year.
- Cody Hawkins. Surprised? I know he threw a few interceptions but they were something that happens when you play a small quarterback. I thought, for the plays that were called for Cody, he had some great throws. Is he the answer at quarterback? Absolutely not. But he did have 249 yards today and made some big throws to move the chains or make a big play. He is just too limited athletically and that is where the Buffs get tipped passes for interceptions, bad sacks and a limited playbook.
- Freshman safety Patrick Mahnke. I thought he played superb for a freshman. He made a couple of big plays, wasn't afraid to put his nose in there and definitely made more of an impact that anyone would have predicted.
- WR/KR Josh Smith. Their is a love/hate relationship that goes on with him but today, he played well. He had a few nice grabs and averaged close to 30 yards a kickoff return. We all would have liked a better return after the 57 yard field goal but whether it is coaching or blocking, Josh had no where to go. Our readers who commented during the game realized that Josh Smith is much better on the edge and of course, the coaches don't recognize it.
- Finally, I know it was a loss and it was a bad one. Coaching, poor line play on both sides of the ball or whatever you are mad about but again, the Buffs were up one, 1:51 left and Nebraska needed a miracle and they got it. the 2008 season wasn't our year and it will leave a horribly bad taste in our mouths but the Buffs were literally 2 yards and a hit cross bar away from sneaking out of Nebraska with a huge upset and a bowl game. I am not a consolation guy but Nebraska got an early Christmas present. Hopefully they lose 92 - 0 in their little Gator Bowl that they are all excited about.
Enough with the positives, on to the negatives:
- The Buffs still only had 291 yards on offense and the main reason was the inability to sustain drives like Nebraska did. Nebraska's running back Roy Helu was a "5 yards per carry" machine. The Buffs don't have that type of consistency. They have a 68 yard touchdown plan or they have a run on first, incomplete on second and find themselves with third and very long all the time.
- There needs to be an immediate fix to the special teams! A big change. Between the 35 yard punts, short kickoffs, no imagination to get Josh Smith a wall on a return and turnovers, its time. Then throw in the 81 points over the year that the special teams has cost the Buffs and the large number of missed field goals, the results have been unsatisfactory. Hawkins needs to make the tough decision right now.
- The play calling if anything was, once again, confusing. Yes, I know all of you who think I am negative, "the Buffs are injured," but running quarterback draws with Cody Hawkins and having zero outside running game?Helfrich needs to be better. I can't believe the ABC announcer said he liked the QB draw play call late in the game. The play calling late in the game was not of a coach that was trying to win the game but probably of a coach who called a play and closed his eyes until the play was over. Nebraska runs the offense we are trying run. Did you see how many times they rolled out Ganz and got the ball out of his hands quick to the tight end? The Nebraska offense wasn't explosive, it was consistent and they had a game plan. Yes, the pass call late in the fourth quarter by Nebraska that ended up being a sack by Mahnke was absolutely horrible but other than that, they pounded the running game and flat out wore the Buffs down.
- I can't tell right now if I should be mad at this right now but the defense wore down. I don't blame the defensive line players necessarily but it highlights a glaring weakness that doesn't look like it will be getting better next year: The Buffs have no depth on the defensive line. Is there nobody that we can substitute and get the interior guys a break? The defensive line was unbelievably ineffective in the second half. The Buffs offense didn't help the defense by any stretch but my #1 concern going into next year is the defensive line. Mark it down. Regardless of whether you want to play a 3 - 4, tell me the three guys who will be able to do anything better than what we have now minus Hypolite, Lucas and Nicholas. BIG TROUBLE SPOT!
- 42 yards rushing for the Buffs. I know "the injuries." Have I reached my quota for that as an excuse yet?
- CU was still up 14 - 0 and lost that lead rather quickly. Good teams finish.
- The officials missed the interference on Darrell Scott down the sideline that was a horrible miss call that would have put us in business. Next play, interception. Thanks for the replay pro-Husker ABC telecast.
I know, frustrating loss Buffs' fans. Here is to brighter days in the future! More to come on this loss later. We have about 5 + months to discuss this one.