LINCOLN, Neb. — Consistency, consistency, consistency. After losing to Oregon in Week 2, that became the buzzword for both the offense and the defense.
In a first half that allowed 42 points to the Ducks, Nebraska lacked exactly that: consistency. And it was a problem that was supposed to be fixed over the week. It was brought up each day in different ways and addressed by coaches and players alike.
Nebraska’s defense held up its end of the deal for the most part against Northern Illinois, but the offense struggled to find that consistency everyone talked about. Quarterback Tanner Lee threw another 3 interceptions, making it 7 total over the last two games.
While Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf hasn’t watched game film yet, he has a hunch about what he might see. And it goes back to that “consistency” word yet again.
“We have such a rough time at times,” Langsdorf said after Nebraska’s 21-17 loss to Northern Illinois. “We do some great things and then we’re three-and-out, or we don’t protect the quarterback very well. We’re inconsistent running. We’re up and down so much.
We’ve got to find a way to get them in a good position to execute plays and stay on the field.”
Looking only at the numbers, it’s hard to believe Nebraska lost. The Huskers had 384 yards of offense to Northern Illinois’ 213. Nebraska also had the ball for 13 more minutes than the Huskies. Add in the 83 total plays Nebraska had to Northern Illinois’ 54, and you start to think it should have been a Nebraska win.
But here’s where the consistency (or lack thereof) comes back to bite the Huskers. Nebraska had 3 turnovers, whereas Northern Illinois had 1. The Huskies capitalized on those turnovers, scoring 14 of their 21 points on 2 of Lee’s interceptions alone.
For all that Nebraska did well, just as much went wrong. You can hear it in Langsdorf’s voice. When asked if there’s anything he liked about Nebraska’s offense on Saturday, he hesitates. It’s clear for just a moment he’s not sure what to say, before he goes back to the “ups and downs” of the day.
“I don’t know until I watch that film,” Langsdorf said. “I thought we hit a few throws here and there. I thought we had a few good drives and then too many stalled, too many three-and-outs. I don’t think our third down was very good again. I think we had opportunities in the red zone and didn’t convert with touchdowns. I think we got down there to get a field goal and got the field goal blocked. We’ve got to get it down there and that’s a chip shot.
“But we need 7 points, not 3.”
Beyond that, Langsdorf saw a lack of consistency with the offensive line and an inability to protect Lee. He also saw the Huskers struggle to get into a run-action pass game, which he believes ultimately hurt the offense.
There were moments of hope. Langsdorf saw some life from the offense in the third quarter and for a portion of the fourth. After all, Nebraska added all of its points in the second half against Northern Illinois. Yet once again, it wasn’t enough.
So the “consistency” drum beats on. And if consistency really is what’s holding this team back, what will it take to change that?
It’s the million-dollar question, and one that should be asked all week until Rutgers rolls into town.