CFN Bowl Analysis ...
Washington 19 ... Nebraska 7
Bowl apologists like to talk about how 35 different bowl games end 35 seasons on a high note and make 35 coaching staffs happy and somewhat secure during the long offseason. And then there's what the Nebraska world is going to be like for the next eight months.
Forget the motivation factor and the lack of overall focus and effort that led to the stunning gack against a team that really isn't very good; the bigger problem for Bo Pelini going forward, and into the Big Ten, is Taylor Martinez and an offense that simply didn't work.
That the ground game could be so effective at times, like it was against Missouri, and the passing game could work so well at times, like it did against Oklahoma State, only serves as a tease. The fact of the matter is that the Taylor Martinez of the first part of the season fizzled after getting hurt, and while he had more of a burst against the Huskies than he did a few weeks ago in the Big 12 Championship game against Oklahoma, he still didn't produce.
Last year, the phenomenal defense made up for the problems on offense. But against OU, and against Washington, the D didn't come through and couldn't carry the weight when the offense was stinking it up. That Husky RB Chris Polk ran for 177 yards and that Nebraska gained just 189 yards of total offense will stick in Pelini's craw and will make for one very grouchy program. Remember, coming off last year's Holiday Bowl, Nebraska was a strong sleeper to play for the national championship. Instead it got beaten up by mediocre team that played like this mattered, because it did.
But just like too much is made out of a great bowl appearance, and the results don't necessarily translate into anything tangible going into the following season, too much will be made out of Nebraska's clunker. This will serve as the definitive example for bowl teams from here on that might be a bit overconfident and cocky, and this will also serve as a game the Husker coaches will use over and over and over again to push the team going forward. The defense still did a decent job and the chances were there to take control of the game.
The question will remain, though. Is this indicative of Nebraska's inconsistency, or was this an aberration? Thanks to this game, Nebraska might be the most interesting team of the offseason.
- There were some dropped passes and the receivers didn't help the cause, but 5-of-16 is 5-of-16. Jake Locker might have closed out his career as a bowl winner, but a first round NFL draft pick never, ever, ever is this bad against the same team two games in a row.
- Oregon's LaMichael James announced he's returning next year, but after this performance, Washington's Chris Polk proves he takes a back seat to no one. He'll be one of the hot players going into 2011 after a gutty performance against a great Husker run defense.
- Nebraska has to come up with a better option if Taylor Martinez has to be pulled any time the offense needs to throw a forward pass. Martinez completed 7-of-9 passes for 53 yards with a touchdown and a pick, but Cody Green, a sophomore, was a disaster completing 3-of-12 passes and firing it high and wide all over the place when he had open targets.
- No, this doesn't mean Washington is "back" in any way. 12 penalties, no run defense, 189 yards of total offense, two turnovers; Nebraska didn't show up and the game was still there for the taking.
- However, let this be a lesson to all teams who
have a bad first half of the year. Keep pushing and
do whatever it takes to get to a bowl. Steve
Sarkisian did wonders with a team that still needs a
lot of help all across the board.
No excuses and take nothing away from Washington, but it was obvious Nebraska had no interest in this rematch or a second straight Holiday Bowl.
This one falls on you, Bo Pelini, and your staff for failing to adequately get your kids motivated for this December's trip to San Diego. The Huskers were lethargic all night. The Huskies, on the other hand, played with passion and execution. They hit a little harder, hustled to the whistle, and held their blocks long enough to spring QB Jake Locker and RB Chris Polk. Washington clearly wanted this game more and was ready to do whatever was necessary to get redemption for its ugly loss in September. For Pelini, this is a bitter pill in a season that started with so much promise. His Huskers finished 2010 by losing 3-of-4, which could prompt a little shake-up in Lincoln during the offseason.
- ESPN's heavily-promoted "Year of the Quarterback" won't contain any footage of this game. Locker is still surprisingly raw as a passer and Taylor Martinez presents painfully little threat through the air to opposing defenses.
- Go ahead and give an attaboy to Nick Holt, U-Dub's defensive coordinator. In the Huskies' best defensive performance since he arrived two years ago, he had his players revved up, swarming to the ball, and flying all over the field from the moment the game started. Somewhere, Steve Emtman is smiling.
- On Nov. 6, Washington got spanked by Oregon, 53-16, to fall to 3-6. Nearly two months later, the Huskies are Holiday Bowl champs and finishing above .500 for the first time in eight years. If Steve Sarkisian gets the program back to Pac-10 prominence down the road, he'll look to this four-game winning streak as the turning point.
By Matt Zemek
Yes, everyone in the college football community knows that Nebraska took notes from Jeff Tedford and duplicated the California Golden Bears' performance in the 2004 Holiday Bowl. Yes, it's painfully obvious that after being in the Holiday Bowl last season – and after beating Washington by 35 points in Seattle this past September – the Huskers, in their final game under the Big 12 banner, just didn't care. Fine. We get it.
There's just one thing that has to be said in light of Nebraska's sulking and grumbling: The other team had to be good enough, strong enough, and clean enough to take advantage. The Washington Huskies were the biggest reason why Nebraska was a strong favorite in this game, motivation notwithstanding. The Dawgs barely crawled to the .500 mark at the tail-end of the regular season by squeaking past three lower-rung Pac-10 opponents. Coach Steve Sarkisian's club was disjointed throughout the 2010 season and never found a sustained offensive rhythm. Even if Nebraska played at 30 percent of emotional and physical capacity, was Washington going to avoid turnovers and war in the trenches with the quality needed to knock off the Big 12 North champions? Most observers were doubtful.
Knock Nebraska for drifting through the motions. Knock the bowl system for forcing a stale rematch upon the viewing public. However, give Washington a full and heaping platter of praise for summoning the grit and resilience necessary to get the job done. Of course, Jake Locker is and has been hyped far more than he should be. Yet, Mr. Locker is a model citizen and a tireless worker who has never phoned in a single snap in his collegiate career. With hyperbole out of the picture, it is indeed heartening to see the Washington quarterback end his collegiate career on a high note. Injuries plagued Locker throughout his stay in Seattle, but in his UW swan song, the resilient field general was able to taste the sweet nectar of a bowl-game triumph.
Nebraska quit on its bowl game. Washington, though, never quit on its season, even when the Huskies stood at 3-6 and were desperately searching for answers. The more talented team didn't win the 2010 Holiday Bowl, but the team with the better mindset, the mentally stable head coach, and the superior offensive coordinator (Shawn Watson needs to leave Lincoln as soon as possible) prevailed.
That sounds like a just and proper outcome, doesn't it?