The 38-17 loss on Black Friday to Iowa would seal up another mediocre season for the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Nebraska was manhandled by the Hawkeyes for four quarters en route to its third home loss of the season, the most since 2007, when the Huskers went 5-7 for only their second losing season since 1961. It was a fitting end to an otherwise disappointing season for the Huskers, who were wildly inconsistent throughout the entire year.
In spite of lofty preseason expectations, the Huskers were unable to overcome their turnover problems and a plethora of injuries, with several starting offensive stars sidelined for most of the season, including quarterback Taylor Martinez, offensive lineman Spencer Long, and receiver Jamal Turner.
Prior to the start of the season, Nebraska looked to have one of the most explosive and dynamic offenses in the country, but Martinez was hurt in the blowout loss to UCLA, and Spencer Long going down thereafter for the remainder of the season with a knee injury, leaving the Huskers without a pair of three-year starters and All-Big Ten performers.
Ameer Abdullah essentially carried the offense for most of the year, as both backup quarterbacks, Tommy Armstrong Jr. and Ron Kellogg III, were also inconsistent at times. Abdullah put up an All-American caliber season, rushing for 1,568 yards and eight touchdowns in addition to rushing for 100+ yards in 10 of 12 games, with the lone exceptions coming against Iowa and UCLA, where Abdullah had 98 yards. If it wasn’t for Abdullah, Nebraska very well may have lost more than four games this season.
8-4 is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, many programs would be more than happy with an 8-4 mark, especially given the drama surrounding the Nebraska program.
But for so many Husker fans, it is not enough.
In every one of Bo Pelini’s six seasons as head coach, he has lost four games. And while he has won 10 games twice and nine games three times, his streak of losing four games in a season isn’t something that makes fans excited or hopeful about the future. Conversely, it shows a trend of mediocrity that Pelini’s Huskers can’t seem to shake. The 8-4 mark means the Huskers will likely head to another bowl with little significance against a better SEC or Pac-12 opponent, and get exposed on defense for big plays and turn the ball over on offense at costly times to lose by at least three scores. At least that’s what recent history shows us.
In all actuality, and 8-4 record will get the Huskers to an even lesser bowl than they have played in the past three or four seasons, as ESPN’s Bowl Projections have Nebraska heading to Tempe, Ariz. for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, potentially facing a Big 12 team like Texas or Kansas State.
As expected, the young defense struggled this season, but is one of the lone bright spot looking forward to next season. The defense showed shades of greatness throughout the season, especially on the defensive line with breakout start Randy Gregory, who was dominant at defensive end in his first season in Lincoln. They did of course have their low spots, but overall, I think the defense performed much better than expected.
All is not lost for the Huskers this season. Although they won’t be playing in a conference championship game or going to a BCS bowl, the Huskers can still get a bowl victory to make up for the disappointing season and try to get a little bit of positive momentum heading into the offseason.