As we move away from UCLA week and Nebraska’s first true test of the fall (which they failed miserably), many questions remain unanswered. At 2-1 with winnable games against South Dakota, Illinois, Purdue, and Minnesota over the next six weeks, we should expect a 6-1 Husker squad hosting Northwestern on November 2.
However, as we saw on Saturday you really don’t know what you’re going to get from this team game-by-game (or even quarter-by-quarter). NU was up 21-3 and looking at regaining some national relevance. The next thing you knew they had given up 38 straight points and were blown out at home. This game was eerily reminiscent of recent games against Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan.
My opinion is that this team isn’t mentally strong, and that includes the guys wearing helmets AND those wearing headsets on the sideline. When they face adversity, there are no leaders who step up and settle things down and keep them on task.
After Saturday’s game, the UCLA players and coaches talked about how head coach Jim Mora was the calm in the middle of the storm when the Bruins were down 21-3.
“Coach Mora walked in there in the last two drives we had in the first half,” said UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone. “He came in smiling, ‘Hey guys, everybody just breathe.’… He kind of lightened things up for the kids… he got things going there.”
Contrast that with Bo Pelini saying that he was looking at his guys on the sidelines and, “it looked like they had seen a ghost. When that happens, somebody’s got to step up and make a play…”
Mora stepped up for his team. That’s leadership, and I’m afraid that might be something that NU’s program lacks right now. To be fair, it can’t be all on coach Pelini. His assistant coaches are also culpable.
Where this team goes from here is completely up-in-the-air. We really won’t find out anything until November, but that month could be make or break for Pelini’s future in Lincoln. After Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Iowa in five straight weeks, NU could spend the holidays anywhere from the Rose Bowl to the Pinstripe Bowl.
On the recruiting front, Nebraska hosted four official visitors for the Southern Miss game and two for UCLA.
Quarterback Quinton Flowers (6-0/205) from Miami, Fla. was in attendance for the Southern Miss game. Flowers also lists offers from Alabama, Clemson, Tennessee and Texas, but only NU is recruiting him at quarterback which should weigh on his decision. Flowers told HuskerOnline.com that he was familiar the NU offense.
“Their offense fits my game,” Flowers sated. “We run that at my school, Miami Jackson. We run the same type of offense, we just call it different.”
After seeing Flowers up close during pregame warm-ups, I can tell you that he has a powerful upper body to go with tremendous explosion and the ability to make tacklers miss. He’s a guy who could play multiple positions in Tim Beck’s offense.
Running back Madre London (6-1/202) from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. raved about Lincoln. He was on Twitter encouraging fellow running back Brandon Powell (5-9/167) of Deerfield Beach, Fla. to make the trip to Lincoln. Powell subsequently visited for the UCLA game.
London, who ran for nearly 1,000 yards in his freshman season at St. Thomas Aquinas High, will also visit Wisconsin, Michigan State, Mississippi State and Virginia. He has strong relationships with NU coach Ron Brown and Husker running back Ameer Abdullah which should keep the Huskers in it until the end.
Erik Brown (6-2/170), a wide receiver from Fontana, Calif. committed to Washington in early July but visited Lincoln during Southern Miss week also. He was hosted by freshman running back Terrell Newby, and Brown was familiar with Newby from reports in the Los Angeles area media the prior season. The fact that the true freshman was playing early and often wasn’t lost on Brown, but it was the fan reaction that really stood out for him.
“It’s the No. 1, most sold out stadium in America. And the fans were incredible,” Brown told HuskersIllustrated.com. “A lot of the fans knew my name and I’ve never met these people a day in my life. They knew who Erik Brown was and they cheered for me to be a Cornhusker.”
Brown will also visit Notre Dame, but most recruitniks expect him to remain committed to Washington
Defensive back Josh Kalu (6-1/170) of Houston, Texas is probably the most likely visitor to commit soon. An explosive athlete who also returns punts and kickoffs for his high school, Kalu arrived in Lincoln on Friday and was able to get a full academic tour along with seeing the athletic facilities.
Kalu was hosted by redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Givens Price, who hails from the same high school as Kalu. Despite also planning to visit Iowa State, Wake Forest, Washington State and Houston, Kalu sounded like someone ready to make a pledge after the trip.
“First I’m going to go home and talk to my parents about everything,” he told HuskerOnline.com. “I’m going to most likely commit after the season, but if something happens I might commit before then.”
A Rivals.com four-star prospect, Powell committed to Miami in August after previously pledging to Tennessee in June. Flipping him a second time will be tough, but the December grad enjoyed his trip to Lincoln.
Powell is explosive and shifty, and has shown good hands in the passing game. It’s easy to see him excelling as a slot receiver or running back at NU. Swaying him away from the hometown Hurricanes will be difficult, though.
The other uncommitted official visitor for UCLA week was Rivals.com four-star defensive tackle Ricky Walker (6-2/275) of Hampton, Va. Virginia Tech is an overwhelming favorite to gain his pledge, but the opportunity for early playing time at NU certainly gave him something to think about. He was also impressed with the game day atmosphere and the family feeling on the team. It’s still a long-shot, but NU should remain in it with Walker until the end.