Posts Tagged ‘Nebraska’

Tonic East, Penn State HQ NYC

Penn State has been the text-book definition of stability for nearly half a century.  Many things have come and gone in the world of college athletics and more specifically college football, but Penn State has always had stability in their head football coach Joe Paterno.  All of that changed in less than a week. On October 29th JoePa notched his 409th win topping the legendary Eddie Robinson, a week later former Penn State player and coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested on allegations of child molestation.  The walls which Paterno had literally erected himself over the course of 61 years at the university were closing in on him quickly.  By Wednesday night the board of trustees were forced to fire him, students rioted in the streets and all of the fully over-caffeinated news outlets figured out where State College in on a map, then arrived in droves beaming news across the globe.  All this, and yet there was still a crucial game against Nebraska to be played on Saturday.

Tonic East, Murray Hill, NYC

Make no mistake, I’ve always liked, respected and admired Joe Paterno, being an alumnus and fan of a rival school made no difference to me.  So as much as it was for anyone else, I also found it quite difficult to come to grips with the events of the week.  I decided I needed to go to the Penn State bar on Saturday to discover first-hand what their thoughts and reactions to the events were.

Too much first-half shutout? Have some sun with that $7 beer.

Penn State alums and fans gather at Tonic East in Murray Hill.  It is among the larger CFB underground bars in NYC: it has two stories of internal bar space and a third story which is a semi-enclosed rooftop space with an open-sky terrace with views west to the Empire State Building.

I arrived a few moments before kickoff and found the first floor to be absolutely packed.  The general pre-game vibe was not incredibly different than any I would expect it to be for any other game.  Except for one moment, when both teams broke the pre-game schedule for a prayer at midfield.  This was really, the only significant moment at the bar.

In contrast to LSU folk, the Penn Staters like some techno with their Livin’ on a Prayer (slightly ironic), and then they also have a tradition of singing Hey! Baby by DJ Otzi.  Yes, we’re nowhere remotely close to Baton Rouge.

Nittany faithful cheering on a 2nd half comeback

Penn Staters do not have issues with wearing jerseys in public.  Similar to my Buckeye brethren, they’re selective about what the number on the jersey means and who it represents.  One of the guys I met at the bar was wearing a #11 home blue jersey, and he made it clear that it was Lavar Arrington’s number.

Generally, the people I spoke with agreed entirely with the board of trustees decision to fire Paterno.  It was clear that they were shell-shocked by the turn of events, and sad to see their idol go down so unceremoniously.  Though there was some historical perspective in the mess: like Woody Hayes arriving home in a police car or Bobby Bowden’s awkward forced-retirement/pushed-out-of-the-way, just to name a couple.  We laughed that like those guys, Paterno could have never heeded Batman’s advice, to simply walk-off as a hero well over a decade ago, at least.

Tonic East rooftop bar

The Nittany Lions were en route to being shut out in the first half, much to the dismay of a friend I had made.  After a particularly terrible sequence of i-formation runs off-tackle for little to no gain leading to a punt he screamed I SWEAR SOMETIMES PATERNO’S STILL AROUND!  Then we got back to discussing more relevant matters, such as rumors about Urban Meyer having contacted a real estate agent in the Happy Valley area.

Being inside that bar, that day (especially as an Ohio State fan – they dislike us quite intensely) provided a very strange and also historical moment to glimpse into the world of expat Penn Staters in New York City.


NEBRASKA 34  The Former OHIO STATE University 27

“Hey Tom, did you see that Nebraska , Ohio State game  –  what was that??   That Bowserhead guy really SUCKS! It was crazy – that Brandon Miller kid is kickin some ass – showing off all this talent everyone’s talking about – gets hurt – in comes Bozehead and they cant get anymore points. Suddenly, Martini catches fire and that’s the game – no way the bucks lose that game if Miller doesnt get hurt!” 

“Yeah – I think you mean Martinez – but he’s so inconsistent – young kids – takes them forever to get the fundamentals. Plus, he’s one of them there runnin qbs – cant really pass – all that gimmiky fake hand off stuff – like we’re back in the 1920s or somethin. That shit would never work in the NFL!  But , yeah that Bowsermen guy really sucks – whats he doing on Ohio State – wasnt he that bartender we had at that place with all those hot chicks at last year’ company party,  hoohahahahaha!”

HAHAHAHOOHOHHAHA.. UGH.UH….choke/ gag, cough up a huge amount of morning flem and uses his coffee cup as a sewer grate to spit in

“Jesus, are you ok?… Like Ive always said – ITS ALL ABOUT THE QB – Its how its always been – thats why the NFL pays their QBs so much – the first half was Miller time and the 2nd half was Martini ..time..?”

“Yep, no doubt about it – the QB runs the show- if that damn Martini kid would grow up Nebraska will have a shot at the BCS this year……. Whoa , Damn!…  who’s the hot new temp! weeowww!”

I hate to say it, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a conversation like this amongst our Financial Elite in the Wall Street District of NYC.  It would be no different than what we would hear throughout the rest of the country – from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Atlanta to Texas, Nebraska, Montana or anywhere in CA!  Its always been the same – since I’ve been a kid anyway – all about the talent – all about the stars – and #1, all about the QB.  But I have always disagreed with this theory.  When I was a kid growing up in Pittsburgh, I always felt everyone gave Terry Bradshaw wayyy too much credit for the Pittsburgh Steelers 4 Super Bowls.  And still today, I feel the same and would disagree with most who feel it was all about the QBS in  Saturday Nights Debacle where OSU gave up a 27-6 lead to lose by a TD.

Sure, Miller and Martinez are two youngsters learning their way to potential stardom and Joe Bauserman (hopefully I got the name right!) doesn’t have their kind of talent – especially in his feet.  But here’s the truth that I see –  laugh as you might, but Bauserman is not that bad and all 3 of these QBs production or lack thereof was a product of the schemes run on that night. And,  btw, while I agree that Bauserman may be better off at a smaller Division I school, he was once a top recruit from Florida and he has a decent arm and can make some reads IF he’s put in the right position.

In the first half for OSU there were some positive signs.  It looked like maybe Fickell let ex-Urban Meyer assistant, Stan Drayton, put in some of his expertise on the Power Spread as there weren’t so many different sets and plays and a lot more cohesion. Also, there was more misdirection out of the Power Spread,  using the skills of Miller and his talented tandem of RBs.   This made life easier on young Miller as OSU as THE POWER SPREAD CAN USE THE RUN TO SET UP THE PASS – now THERE’S  a staple that has always worked in Football. Not a focus on a single player (QB), but a design on offense that has always worked – only now it can be down out of the Spread – not pass first Spread, but run first Spread philosophy.

And that’s where Nebraska got in trouble in the 1st half.  I know that Kurt said below that Pellini has said he wants to run out of the Spread and the blame last year in Nebraska’s abandonment of the Power Spread lies with their former Offensive Coordinator, but Pellini’s Offense is doing the same stupid schemes this year with the RBs Coach, Beck, promoted as the new OC – Pellini’s the one in control.  It was nice of Beck to admit mistakes during the Wisconsin game, but they happened agains against OSU.   I really don’t think he or Pellini really understand the Power Spread – or even know that’s what they are running.  How could any coach that understands the benefit of a great running QB in the Power Spread continue to use the Pro Set or I Formation for more than a handful of plays a game??  THIS is the main reason Ohio State didn’t win any National Titles with Terrele Pryor.

Then, to start the 2nd half, Nebraska comes out in the Pro Set again!!!  Down 20-6 and a 2 RB, running QB under center – ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!??  As an Ohio State Fan I was so happy that we arent the only  Offensively Challenged minds in College Football.  This year has gotten so bad that Im reduced to rooting for other team’s ineptitude in an effort to get a victory!  But, alas – it was too good to be true.  But not until after Ohio State proved even more brainless in coming out in the 2nd Half in the I Formation with power runs up the left and right guard on almost EVERY 1ST DOWN PLAY and many 2nd downs. HORRIBLE SCHEME – HORRIBLE OFFENSIVE GAME MANAGEMENT!  As my good OSU buddy Jimmy was yelling at me that we had a big lead and should play it safe – I SAID “THAT’S NOT THE GAME OF FOOTBALL ANYMORE!”  With all the talent on the field today and with some of the brilliant schemes going on – mostly out of the Power Spread Concept – NO LEAD IS SAFE!  To OSU’s credit and I think to the credit of Luke Fickell to try and stay aggressive – we went back to the Power Spread and that’s when we  moved the ball and got another TD.  But after that there was more I Formation junk and then the INJURY>  then almost a total shutdown with Bauserman.

Finally, for Nebraska, after the turnover, Pellini went to the Power Spread and  lo and behold , IT WORKED! And I thought to myself with the score now 27-13 is he going to try it again?  Or will he think its smart to go the way of the “brilliant” NFL with either a Pro Set , Pro Passing Spread or West Coast offense – basically all the NFL really does.  But to my dismay he ran Power Spread after Power Spread scheme and I knew then we wouldn’t be able to stop Martinez. Only a handful of Defensive Coaches are even close to slowing down the Power Spread right now – lead by Charlie Strong at Louisville – but NO ONE CAN STOP IT – if its executed to even a minimum degree of efficiency. And with Fickell unable to concentrate on just Defense anymore, we are seeing the inept efforts of Heacock, who NEVER knew how to stop an offense with a running QB in a misdirection Read Option Spread.

Now, where does Bauserman fit into all of this – he’s just a sucky QB,  right?? Case Closed. NO- CASE RE OPENED!  Bauserman may not be a Heisman Candidate, but he’s good enough.  Again, the field needs to be Spread to help him out – WHY you ask – because he’s too damn short to be behind center or doing silly NFL play action out of the 2 back set – the days of Pat Haden are over!  What do you do with a small , but smart QB , with some arm strength on shorter passes and a decent release – spread the field and whip short passes around.  Even some Read Option – or even some Pistol.  In fact, Nebraska, WHEN they do use the Power Spread , has a real nice package of Zone Read Pistol and a 3 RB look that resembles the  Single Wing Hybrid with which Urban Meyer experimented. Bauserman would be fine in this package.  But I cant expect that from the cluster mess that we have going on. But at least spread the field and do some quick passes – sort of like Purdue’s Joe Tiller offense or the Air Raid of Leach’s Texas Tech attack.  Our lone TD against MSU was from the spread.

Now, you can see even from highlights of the last drive that it wasn’t all good with Bauserman in the shotgun passing spread – but its our best chance – and he made some nice throws even though MSU had their ears pinned back, knowing we had to throw, and were really coming after Bauserman.

Would we have won with Bauserman in the Spread??  Probably not once Nebraska went to and stayed in the Power Spread.  BUT if we had run the Power Spread at the start of the 2nd half and kept applying the pressure, we may have been up 34-6 or more!   THEN by continuing to run the spread we may have held the ball longer with short completions and maybe Nebraska runs out of time – or starts to throw too much and gets one last interception.  This game WAS NOT ABOUT THE QBS – and it wasn’t JUST about just passing or running the ball as Steven Sipple said (see Kurt’s Entry on Week 5) – IT WAS ALL ABOUT SCHEMES – IN PARTICULAR THE POWER SPREAD.  Ohio State executed it in the first half and Nebraska had an even better Power Spread package at the end.

Over on  I will eventually research further into what the heck’s going on with Bo Pellini – who made such a big splash as a head coach, but is now being questioned not only for his Offense’s flaws, but amazingly, also for his Defense’s issues.

Oh and don’t worry – we will be hearing more from our Wall Street friends, Tom & Dick – The Football Experts – later in the year …. Harry may even chime in with some thoughtful insights of his own!


#8 NEBRASKA: 17 – #7 WISCONSIN: 48

In the 2nd half I’ll have an identity crisis

Tim Beck replaced Shawn Watson as offensive coordinator in the off-season after the Husker offense’s production seemingly fell off of a cliff in the second half of the previous two seasons. Saturday night against Wisconsin in Nebraska’s long anticipated debut in the Big Ten Beck seemed to fall into the same trap Watson did: abandoning their ground attack and relying on Martinez’s arm.

With Watson it seemed that he tended to fall back into his West Coast Offensive roots when things would go awry. With Beck, to be fair, it’s still too early to tell. It seemed that when he took over for Watson it was because Pelini wanted an offense truly oriented around The Power Spread which Watson was not producing. So why Beck part way through Saturday night’s game dialed up pass after pass, without even much play-action, is a mystery. What is encouraging though is that Beck knows Nebraska is a spread-to-run team and they will have to get back to that.

I like the way you naked bootleg

2011 is something of an experiment for the Badgers: give offensive coordinator Paul Chryst a qb that can run but yet who possesses all of the same qualities as any of Wisconsin’s previous steady pocket-passer types, along with their gargantuan offensive line and stable of bruising running backs and you have one scary offense.

For Paul Chryst landing Russell Wilson might turn out to be on parallel to what Cam Newton was for Gus Malzahn.  Both Chryst and Malzahn are excellent coaches with great schemes, but those players were like gifting them video game-like athletes capable of seemingly anything. While it’s well documented that Bielema likes Wisconsin to have a smash-mouth offense, what doesn’t get enough attention is the subtle mis-directional cues that Chryst throws at opposing defenses. Against Ohio State last year it was variation of Jet Sweeps pump fakes to wide receivers in the flats which kept the Buckeye defense on their heels. In the past Chryst has also been one to catch defenses off-guard by using the Naked Bootleg, with Russell Wilson this is more lethal for Chryst than ever before. Despite whatever Bret Bielema says about his team’s offense, which seems to only discredit the ingeniousness of his offensive coordinator, there’s much more to it than just three yards and a cloud of dust.