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October 2, 2011MADISON, Wis. - In the wake of a loss as humbling and downright embarrassing as the one Nebraska suffered on a national stage to Wisconsin on Saturday night, there are two directions a team can go.
They could point the finger at one another and cast the blame for all that went wrong on the field, or they could own up to their issues and mistakes and work together to get them corrected.
If there's one upside to the debacle in Camp Randall Stadium for the Huskers, it's that they appear to be taking the latter approach.
"It's not difficult to bounce back," head coach Bo Pelini said. "We need to play better. We've got to get some guys to step up and man up and start playing football. I've been saying, we need to fix us, and we haven't fixed us. We've got to get fixed."
There were plenty of problems for Nebraska on both sides of the ball against the Badgers, as the offense made countless costly mental mistakes and the defense was absolutely torched by UW quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Montee Ball.
Offensive coordinator Tim Beck was the first to admit his play calling, especially with the game still well within reach early in the second quarter, got away from him and the original game plan.
The Huskers set season highs with nine penalties for 80 yards and three turnovers, and their balanced attack from the first quarter turned into an air-it-out strategy that never got off the ground.
"We just didn't play very good," Beck said. "I didn't do a very good job. We didn't execute very well. We had penalties and turnovers. You can't have that in a game like this, and we had it. It falls on me. I'm the offensive coordinator, and I take the blame. We just weren't ready. I thought we were ready, but we weren't."
Beck said getting away from the running game when Wisconsin took the lead in the second quarter was probably his most crucial mistake of all.
"I did some bonehead things too (Saturday night), obviously," Beck said. "We're not a just drop-back-and-throw-the-ball-every-down team. That's not who we are, and we did that for a little bit. That's on me. Like I said, it's on me as much as it's on anybody else. We had a little bit of a rhythm going at times, but we weren't able to sustain it."
On defense, the Huskers did a good job of shutting down Wisconsin's running game in the first quarter, but things completely fell apart after they gave up some huge plays and the Badgers started to pull away.
Pelini and defensive coordinator Carl Pelini were equally vocal about their displeasure with the defense's performance, saying Nebraska's mistakes made things way too easy for Wilson and Co.
The problems on defense just might be the most concerning aspect for the Huskers, as the same mistakes that were being made in the season opener are still issues five games into the season. Carl Pelini had maybe the most telling quote of the season so far when asked if there had been a time since he's been at NU that the defense had so many issues this late in the season.
"It reminds me of Year 1," he said. "I'm sad to say that's what it reminds me of."
It was obvious as players spoke to media after Saturday night's game that the loss had taken a big toll on the Huskers. As expected, the team was rattled and a bit shell-shocked from what had just happened, and when asked to explain what went wrong, none could come up with any real answers.
However, they all shared one common thought: this coming week could very well make or break Nebraska in terms of achieving the bulk of their season goals. As much as Saturday's loss stung, every single player knew the only option was to step up and find a solution.
"It's just adversity," senior receiver Brandon Kinnie said. "It was going to hit us, and it did. We've just got to bounce back from it. As a senior here, I do have to come in - all of us - we just have to stay together. That's the thing I've got to preach more, just staying together. We can't break apart just from this."