MINNEAPOLIS — Three things we learned and three things we still don’t know about the Huskers coming out of Saturday's loss to Minnesota.
* * *
Three things we learned
1. Nebraska isn’t a physical team. You can praise strength and conditioning from Valentine’s Day to Labor Day, but it matters most when you have to play football in the snow. And in that endeavor, Nebraska failed. Minnesota couldn’t run for 100 yards on Georgia Southern, but in the rain and snow, the Gophers went for 220 in the first half. Talk is talk, but when it comes to bowing up and being a physical football team, the Huskers aren’t there, despite the talk that they are.
2. Tip of the cap to Noah Vedral. He played well. But what we learned from his performance is that the issues on Nebraska’s offense are not just the quarterback. The offensive line couldn’t handle bull rushes from defensive tackles, couldn’t set up screens, couldn’t give Vedral enough time. The receivers didn’t get open, the running backs couldn’t shake tackles and take off running. Be it Adrian Martinez or Vedral, the story is the same: The offense is off, and it isn’t just because of the guy catching the snaps. There’s far more blame to go around.
3. It’s difficult to try to find improvement in this program — tangible, real improvement — from 2017 to 2018 to 2019. The records are a little different. So are the coaches. But 2017 was a 4-8 disaster. The 2018 season included a loss to Troy and a blowout in Ann Arbor and 4-8. And now, 2019 has the blowout against Ohio State and this unimpressive, unenthusiastic, unacceptable blowout loss at Minnesota. What’s the difference between these seasons beyond narratives? What, really, truly, has changed since 2017?
Three things we still don’t know
1. Martinez’s health. He was out, but he was there, and didn’t appear to have anything on his knee. He appeared to walk around the field fine. How serious is that injury, and how long could he be out? Vedral, again, was more than fine. But Martinez can just make plays Vedral can’t. How long until he’s back? And what about Wan’Dale Robinson? Nebraska’s offense clearly relies on him. And he was in a walking boot. Who knows when he’ll be back, or when we’ll know when he’ll be back? And what about Vedral? Andrew Bunch came in late. Is it because Vedral was gimpy? He limped off on his final drive.
2. What’s the reaction in the bye week? We’ll hear that things will change, and we’ll hear that the players are responding well to the loss. But coaches also said last week that practice was great, and then the Minnesota game happened. Cut through all that. What will be the actual reaction inside the walls of Memorial Stadium? That’s far more important.
3. Is there a win left on the schedule? Seriously, is there? Are you sure Nebraska’s better than Indiana or Purdue or Maryland?