October 17, 2009

Early mistakes lead to 31-10 loss to Texas Tech

For the second week in a row, Nebraska came out flat and inconsistent for the first three quarters. This time, however, there was no magical fourth quarter to make up for it.

After falling into a 21-0 hole in the first half, the Huskers were left trying to play catch-up for the bulk of the day Saturday against Texas Tech. With an offense unable to produce much of anything all game, the Red Raiders proved too much for the Blackshirts to contain in what ended in a 31-10 loss.

"We didn't play good enough to win the football game in any phase of the game," head coach Bo Pelini said. "We got beat. I give Texas Tech credit. We did not play good football. We didn't play well. We got out-coached. We got outplayed. Simple as that."

The most glaring problem was undoubtedly the offense's struggles, specifically at quarterback.

Junior Zac Lee, who has been criticized lately for his poor play in big games, once again had issues leading the offense. Lee did complete 16 of his 22 passes, but only threw for 128 yards and no touchdowns while also getting sacked four times.

Things got so bad that Pelini finally decided to pull Lee for a series in the third quarter and put in true freshman Cody Green. Green threw twice on the drive - one was a dropped pass that would have been a first down and the other a drop that would have been a touchdown.

The next series, Lee was back in and it was more of the same until Green went back in with roughly 10 minutes remaining in the game. On that drive, Green orchestrated an impressive seven-play, 40-yard drive that ended in a 13-yard touchdown pass to redshirt freshman Khiry Cooper.

"We just wanted to get Zac's feet underneath him a bit," offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. "When we made the decision to go with Cody, we felt that Cody would try to give us a little spark and tried to see what he could do for us."

It was a sluggish performance all the way around for Nebraska in the first half, as the Red Raiders steadily picked apart the Blackshirts and took a 21-3 lead into halftime.
Offensively, the Huskers couldn't find any consistency whatsoever, as Lee completed just six passes for 70 yards and was sacked four times.

The Huskers' running game - which was supposed to be a big advantage heading into the game - was stuffed for just 33 yards on 18 carries.

After Texas Tech used two third-and-long conversions to score on their opening drive, linebacker Daniel Howard picked up a dropped screen pass to Niles Paul from Lee that was ruled a lateral and returned it 82 yards for a touchdown.

As Nebraska's offense continued to struggle, Tech bumped its lead up to 21-0 when Sheffield scored on a 1-yard run late in the second quarter to cap off 12-play, 65-yard drive.

The Huskers finally showed some life on their final possession of the half, as they moved the ball all the way down to the Tech 3-yard line. But they could only manage a field goal out of the drive.

With 1:42 left in the half, Sheffield hit Detron Lewis down the sideline for a 58-yard gain to the 15 to set up a 32-yard field goal that gave Tech a 21-point lead going into halftime.

"(The bad start) throws you off quite a bit," Watson said. "It does. We still stayed committed to trying to get that run game going, and we had some good things. It's just that when you're behind like that, you've got to be smart. You can't just sit there and do it all day. We've got a lot of things to get better at."

The Huskers will try to rebound from their first Big 12 Conference loss when lowly Iowa State comes to town next weekend. Until then, figuring out how to get something - anything - going offensively will obviously be a top priority.

"We didn't execute from the beginning to the end," Pelini said. "We didn't make plays. We didn't execute. On offense, we didn't come off the ball. We didn't catch the ball. We didn't make the right reads at quarterback. We didn't run the ball effectively. On defense, we didn't make plays. We had guys there. We didn't make plays.

"We didn't play well enough. You have to make plays in this game. You have to step up and make plays. We didn't do it. It's simple as that. You can sit there and ask all of the questions you want in the world. It comes down to we got beat because we didn't make plays. We got outplayed and out-coached."

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