Coda: ‘What Just Happened?’

Huskers - Waiving Flag -  TOUCHDOWN!!

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Lets be honest: The Huskers few losses over the past few years have been bad. They haven’t just lost; they’ve been embarrassed. But that got me wondering — does everybody just get embarrassed once or twice a season nowadays, or is this something that the Huskers are particularly bad at? …Fundamentally, getting embarrassed is all relative to expectations, when the team falls so far short of them that it really grabs even the casual observers attention.

via How Embarrassing Have the Huskers Losses Been, Really? A Look at the Stats – Corn Nation.

It’s over. To me, anyway, the Huskers’ season is over, and I am done. But I came across this article from Corn Nation and it scratched an itch I had. What I was wondering was, Is this what college football is like now? Do major college programs, if mediocre ones, really just blow it — and I mean, really blow it — a couple of times a year?

The answer to the question posed in the excerpt above — “Is this something that the Huskers are particularly bad at?” — is a qualified yes, insofar as it is possible to conclude from the hastily constructed and thoroughly imperfect metric. The writer at Corn Nation, by his own admission, came up with a simple answer for a complicated question, but it was good enough for me.

Clearly, something is wrong with Nebraska’s football program. But is it the system? Is it just rolls of the dice? Can it be fixed? Or will it just fade away on its own? For me, the reasons why are not particularly important. It’s too broad a playing field, I think, for a useful discussion.

A common complaint is that the coach, Bo Pelini, seems never to know how to explain such defeats. Possibly, they are inexplicable. Probably, Mr. Pelini is too arrogant to be appropriately self-analytical, even for the tiny attention spans of sportswriters. In any event, Mr. Pelini’s remarks — which usually involve phrases like “lack of execution” — shed no light on the subject.

If I am honest, I don’t really know what “embarrassed” has to do with college football; the corresponding feeling I have is one akin to whiplash. The what-just-happened emotion that churns your stomach after your car hits a deer on a dark night.

But unlike the human participant of such a wreck, who might be moved to ask for medical help or puzzle over a smashed fender, I empathize more with the frightened, wounded animal, stumbling into the woods, trailing gouts of blood in search of a quiet place to lie down.