Happy Week 0.5!
I’m going to be taking over this feature, which is always one of my favorites. It’s quite fortuitous timing, since I get to warm up by basically...talking about Illinois’ Week 0 opponent.
I’ve spoken on the good things Illinois did, and make no mistake, they did earn the win, but Saturday’s game was a showcase for the dysfunction of Nebraska.
The First Score Of The Season
I can’t think of a witty enough heading to describe a punt return that turned into a safety on an illegal forward pass from the end zone.
Blake Hayes’ first punt hit the sideline inside the 1 yard line. There is literally nothing you can do about this. He’s a monster.
Cam Taylor-Britt, however, thought he had the solution on how to contain Hayes’ foot.
Here’s what he came up with.
So he fielded it at the 1, backed up into the end zone and flung the ball out of bounds to the 5. This was ruled an illegal forward pass from the end zone, but upon further review it was...still a safety, as Taylor-Britt had his knee down on the goal line with the ball.
BIG TEN FOOTBALL.
Special Teams, Generally
In addition to that highlight play, Nebraska’s special teams missed two extra points and had punts of 37, 26 and 19 yards. Advanced stats showed a “Hidden Yards” advantage of 126 for Illinois. These are all special teams yards. Not ideal, and possibly a dagger to the heart!
Adrian Martinez Unleashes The Leidner
After seizing the momentum with Illini starting quarterback Brandon Peters injured, Nebraska went on the offensive with a 6-2 lead looking to crush the downtrodden spirits of the Illini. Then Adrian Martinez did this:
That’s the tallest tight end a Big Ten quarterback has overthrown since Mitch Leidner used to sail the ball over Nate Wozniak. That particular throw led to a field goal which kept it a one possession game and soon the wheels would come off...
You Picked The Wrong Day To Pick On Artur Sitkowski
On Illinois’ ensuing drive, Sitkowski did Sitkowski things and threw an interception under pressure. This turnover was negated by Caleb Tannor driving Sitkowski into the ground after the throw and then picking up another personal foul for taunting. What would have been Nebraska ball at the Illini 35 or so became first and 10 Illinois at the Nebraska 24.
But a turnover and 30 yards were just the start of Nebraska’s mistakes. They had unleashed the dragon. They’d pushed Art Sitkowski too far, and now they were going to suffer his wrath.
Apparently Artur Sitkowski’s wrath is something Big Ten teams can suffer.
Illinois scored 28 straight points (including a Martinez fumble taken to the house at the end of the half) as Sitkowski finished 12/15 with 2 TD’s and no picks. Nebraska picks up yet another Tart for being the first college team to ever fuck around and then actually find out with regards to Mr. Sitkowski.
Nebraska’s Hope Dies On A Nebraska Touchdown Drive
The Huskers got the ball back down 14 points with 9;36 to play in the game.
Five minutes into this drive, Gabe Ervin was given a generous spot on a 3rd and 5 run, which led to confusion over what down it was. The end result was that Nebraska ran a QB sneak on first and goal thinking it was 4th and short. This proved inconsequential.
What wasn’t consequential was that by the time they scored, there were only 161 seconds left on the clock. Down two scores with 9:36 remaining, they burned seven minutes of clock scoring a touchdown. This evaporated their hopes of making the comeback, and while some credit is due to Illinois for limiting big plays, at some point you have to snap it quickly, get out of bounds, take deep shots, do SOMETHING to manage the clock.
Scott Frost Admits He Got Punk’d By Bert Without Bert Even Trying
I’m still trying to wrap my head around Scott Frost’s postgame comments.
'But we — our strategy for this was to rep against a certain look all of camp against our defense and we guessed wrong on what they were going to be in. Their defensive guys come from a place where they've been a lot of odd front.' Frost on the Huskers lack of a running game.— Jeff Johnson (@therealJeffJ97) August 29, 2021
This suggests that the coaches thought that because Bielema had run a 3-4 defense at Wisconsin and Illinois had shown a 5-2 look in the spring game, they were going to come out in either a 3-4 or 5-2 and practiced exclusively for that. When Illinois came out in a 4-2-5, they were unable to adjust.
Illinois never changed up that defense, and somehow it was too complex to adjust to at halftime.
But, OK, I suppose it’s not unreasonable to make that assumption and do some gameplanning around it, and then it’s not what you expected out of the gate so you have to adjust a bit. I get that. Some more research would have uncovered that Illinois DC Ryan Walters ran this 4-2-5 look an awful lot at Missouri last year, but I get that.
However, on Monday, Frost said this:
Frost said he called the plays Saturday. Half of the gameplan had to be thrown out because of Illinois’ defensive alignment.— Sam McKewon (@swmckewonOWH) August 30, 2021
This suggests they genuinely had no contingency plan for “what if Illinois has an even number of defensive linemen like EVERY OTHER TEAM IN THE BIG TEN EXCEPT WISCONSIN?”
Bret Bielema suggested that the 5-man front from the spring game may yet be used, presumably against Big Meaty Men Slappin’ Meat offenses like Wisconsin and Iowa, so I don’t think he showed that in the spring game JUST to trip up Scott Frost. And yet, Scott Frost appears to have invented a trap that Bielema didn’t mean to set and then gotten caught in it.
I’m an Illinois fan and I have never seen a coach say something so dumb. You could argue that Ron Zook’s “well, you take the 3 points instead of the 7, then if you hold them to a field goal it’s still a 7 point game” logic from the 2010 Ohio State game is worse, but that could be categorized as a brain fart. What Frost did here was set himself up for failure over the course of fall camp and leave himself totally unprepared. This coaching malpractice is the biggest reason Nebraska’s backs combined for 63 yards. Watch the tape and you’ll see Nebraska linemen confused on their assignments often.
I’m still struggling to wrap my head around this. It’s the dumbest thing Scott Frost has done at Nebraska, and think about what a high bar that is.
Honorable Mention: Fake School!
This isn’t college football, so it’s not going in the poll, but holy shit the Bishop Sycamore affair is something else!
Since there were only 5 games involving FBS teams (with only one being competitive), ESPN showed a few showcase high school games during the weekend, culminating in one featuring defending national champion IMG Academy. Their opponent was Bishop Sycamore, an unknown entity from Ohio that nevertheless apparently had a lot of P5 prospects on the roster.
ESPN’s crew eventually noticed that something was wrong:
ESPN’s commendations WENT IN on Bishop Sycamore pic.twitter.com/RCJv46gOA3— BuckeyeScoop.com (@kirk_barton) August 29, 2021
But it went so much farther than that. Turns out Bishop Sycamore had played two days earlier for some reason. Further investigation revealed that there’s little evidence Bishop Sycamore is actually a school! Read more here, because this rabbit hole is BIZARRE.
What do we think, readers?
What’s the tartest tart of Week 0?
This poll is closed
Punt return safety
Four year starter can’t hit open touchdowns
Waking up the Sitkowski vengeance machine
Ball control offense while trailing by 14
The Odd Front Debacle