All season, former Husker and NFL linebacker Jay Foreman will be breaking down games for HuskersIllustrated.com on Monday mornings. This week, Foreman tackles Nebraska's loss to Michigan State. Try HuskersIllustrated.com FREE for the rest of the year
This game is a lot like life sometimes. A lot of hype accompanied with some disappointments.
Obviously this loss was a very hard one to watch and probably harder to play in. Looking back, I can say the losses I was involved with when I lost to inferior teams or players lasted longer because you feel like you let yourself and your teammates down. All week everyone thought MSU would stomp the Huskers and it wouldn't be close. Looking at the end score you could think so, but that wasn't the case.
Nebraska out-gained the Spartans 392-361 and averaged more per carry on the ground. And if you compared both defenses I could argue the Blackshirts played better. The Blackshirts had more sacks and tackles for loss, two stats that show who controlled the game. Five turnovers is the easy way to look at the loss, but where Nebraska lost the game was on third down.
Michigan State was 11-for-21 on third down versus Nebraska being 5-for-12 and throw in the fake on special teams. Overcoming adversity is a huge part of every football game and usually will define who wins and loses. The Husker defense answered the bell almost every time when put in bad situations in the first quarter.
After a loss like this every fan, player or alumni is trying to find who or what to place blame on. To be honest, I can't pinpoint one or even two places to assign the blame. I guess you could say it's just one of those days, but I don't think that's a good excuse when you know what is at stake. Injuries? Maybe, but the offense moved the ball against the vaunted MSU defense. Coaching? Not really because they can't control what players do out there on the field. I think this season, and in particular Nebraska's losses just show we are missing that small ingredient that leads to bigger things. That ingredient will allow a team to pull out a victory or step on an opponents throat when need be. Call it whatever you want, Nebraska just doesn't have it right now.
The only suggestion would be for Nebraska to take a little from MSU's approach from that game. What I mean is that when you play a team like MSU, you know they are going to try and get you off your game to even the match up. How could Nebraska have done that? By simply exposing their weakness: speed. Spread them out and gash them. Even that approach is hard to execute when there are five turnovers.
I think the defensive coaches made an adjustment and went to the "under" front and improved their run defense that killed Michigan State early on.
Zaire Anderson played well. The more he plays, the better he gets. I think another offseason and rehab and he'll be even better for his senior season in 2014.
– Saw more Maliek Collins in at defensive tackle. He looked solid at times. Could this mean more playing time the last few games?
– How will the coaches decide between playing starters and getting young guys reps? This is when you might see more freshmen play that haven't the last few weeks.
– Who is Tommy Armstrong? The interception wasn't all his fault, but I'm worried about the costly fumbles.
– Can Josh Banderas play the BUCK LB spot? I think so and maybe we'll see that coming up.
– Nebraska's third down plays and execution need to improve.
– Biggest and smallest play in the game was when Nebraska failed to make an easy tackle in its own red zone before half to keep the runner in bounds. Why? It gave Michigan State more time and the Spartans ended up scoring a touchdown. These little things are what a smart/veteran defensive team knows and executes.
– Why do so many players "tap" out after a couple plays?
Jay Foreman spent eight years in the NFL with four different teams, and starred at Nebraska as a four-year letter winner who played on Nebraska's 1995 and 1997 National Championship teams. For more takes and opinions from Foreman, check out Jay's Blog or follow him on Twitter.