Nebraskas sloppy play on offense proves costly
[rl]MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - Watching the game film from Nebraska's 36-33 loss is not going to be a fun exercise for the team this week. Many of the bad vibes from the first half were seemingly erased by the Huskers' epic comeback to force overtime after intermission.
But Mike Riley hasn't forgotten.
"We couldn't do anything right without doing something wrong," the first-year head coach said. "Make a play and get a penalty, or something. We were sloppy, very sloppy. We waited a long time to start playing and that was my message at halftime - that this is all our fault, the way this is going down.
"And we can change it."
Nebraska improved in the second half, allowing the Huskers to end regulation on a 30-3 run. But the frustrating errors that plagued NU remained.
The Huskers entered the game with just two dropped passes, but mishandled four balls Saturday. Lane Hovey and Cethan Carter each dropped a pas that would have produced a first down on NU's first two drives, and Hovey had another drop later that got him benched.
But the real culprit that killed Nebraska's offense was penalties. The Huskers committed 12 infractions for 98 yards (and had one penalty declined). Among the miscues: two flags for having 12 men on the field, two personal fouls, two illegal formations and a false start.
Three penalties - an illegal formation by Nick Gates, a personal foul by Alex Lewis and an ineligible man downfield by Lewis- negated gains of 19, 21 and 10 yards, respectively.
"We had some silly stuff," offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said. "We just made some mistakes that we hadn't been making in practice. You have to be able to carry practice into the game and part of that is my fault.
"It's probably some inexperience and some nerves, a different environment. I don't know. You can try and guess on a lot of it, but I think it's a matter of continuing to work certain throws and plays to where it becomes a habit. We don't have to do anything crazy."
While the drops hadn't hurt the Huskers in previous games, the penalties are becoming a serious issue. NU has now been flagged 31 times for 268 yards, costing the team an average of 89.3 yards in the process. That's a major uptick from last year, when Nebraska averaged just 50.4 penalty yards per game.
Riley knows his team must perform more efficiently, and he was especially disappointed with how the Huskers started the game with such little life.
But Langsdorf takes the second half, in which Nebraska played more crisply, as a sign that things can be fixed. But there is a lot of improving to do in the coming weeks.
"We had some bad, silly mistakes," he said. "Just getting lined up, we had some illegal formation stuff - usually they warn the tackle on that deal, but that was kind of bizarre. But we had a couple of plays that we didn't line up correctly on that we know and need to be better at."