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Questions Surround Nebraska’s Watson

Perhaps it would be best for both parties if both Nebraska and Shawn Watson parted ways, with the latter landing the open position at Miami (Ohio) and the former going in a different direction at offensive coordinator. This is a storm that has been brewing for more than a year, rocky turf whose roots lie in the vast juxtaposition seen between Nebraska’s offense and its defense during last fall’s 10-4 finish. A year ago, one could have said that the only factor preventing the Cornhuskers from reaching B.C.S. play was the uneven play seen on the offensive side of the ball; a year later, one could very well say the same thing.

One can’t help but stand at the precipice of the end of the college football season and look back, taking stock of the ups-and-downs that create a year in the life: for Nebraska’s offense, the roller coaster includes a superb first half, complete with a lopsided win at Washington, and the seemingly inevitable slide down, complete with a shockingly inept offensive performance against those same Huskies in last night’s Holiday Bowl.

You can explain away the slide by blaming the slide on nagging injuries suffered by quarterback Taylor Martinez, the once-invincible redshirt freshman who has looked painfully ordinary since November. When Martinez was healthy, he granted the offense a dimension not seen a year ago: excitability, for starters, with a taste of the unexpected.

For some time, Martinez looked like the type of athlete capable of lifting even the most pedestrian of offensive play-calling to another level. Once lower-body injuries limited his explosiveness, Martinez lacked punch — once he lost his first step and that top-end speed, the Nebraska offense was revealed to be what it might have been all along: pedestrian.

The play-calling isn’t strong. Shawn Watson is a well-regarded offensive mind, one who will someday — perhaps someday soon — be a head coach on the F.B.S. level; nevertheless, the lack of adjustments made over a number of instances in 2010 won’t do wonders for his resume.

One thing to keep an eye on: Watson is not responsible for which quarterback starts, does not have the juice to dictate to Bo Pelini whether a quarterback should remain in a game if he’s struggling. That’s Pelini’s call, has been, always will be, and Watson can’t be blamed if Martinez, for instance, isn’t back at full strength.

Question marks still surround the fifth-year coordinator. When given two clear truths, what should one believe? Is the offense we saw in September and October — the wildly successful offense — the true, Watson-run attack? Or is what we saw over the last five games the true story?

Better yet: where does Nebraska go from here? Can this program, one with national title aspirations, continue with the status quo? As noted, it might be better for all parties involved if Watson lands the open MAC position, one where he might find early success.

If that does occur, Nebraska and Bo Pelini could bury the past, avoid an ugly divorce and move forward. Mark Mangino’s name was bandied about earlier this week as a potential replacement should Watson depart, though one wonders how his personality would mesh with the staff currently in place.

Above all else, Nebraska — Tom Osborne’s Nebraska — has always been a place of trust, where it is extremely rare to see an assistant unceremoniously dumped. That same sense of consistency has been returned under Pelini, leaving one to believe that should Watson not nab the job at Miami (Ohio), he would be asked to return in 2011. That’s great for consistency, perhaps great for recruiting, but one continues to wonder if such a scenario would settle the questions surrounding Watson’s viability.

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  1. Dr. Klahn says:

    “See, before I heard that the Holiday Bowl would be a rematch, I thought the earlier date between these two teams was one of the ugliest, least exciting games of the season. I must have been wrong. Why else would the Huskies and Cornhuskers meet again?”
    Yet, the game still has to be played and anything can happen in college football. I think UW finally got a win they can hang their hat on. Go Dawgs!

    Paul: I deserve it. Congrats to your Dawgs. A big win.

  2. duecers says:

    This article questions which Watson the team presented during the course of the season. I suspect both results were originated by Watson. His skill appears to lack exception. What if the plan doesn’t work, there is no back up call. You can blame inexperience , you can blame injuries, but the fact still remains that it is a coaches job to insure the capability of the team. It might also be pointed out that it is supposed to be a team effort. We shouldn’t have to worry that one member goes down and it crushes the hopes of the entire season. The coach should be able to mold the talent and succed with an alternative should Plan A not work. That appears to be the inadequacy of the Nebraska Offense. If Plan A fails, we have no Plan B. Initially the offense met with success and took the opponent of guard. Subsequent opponents watched film and easily discovered we had nothing else in the bag. Our coaching team panicked and became one dimensional.

  3. Paul says:

    I agree with most of the earlier post by duecers, but our offense at the beginning of the year was totally based on Taylors speed and the zone read. I’m afraid it’s one of those “Live by the sword, die by the sword” types of deals…it’s not a do this (drop back in the pocket for example) for now, then go do this…it’s more one way and dependent on the health of the star running it, in this case Taylor Martinez. And he did show that he can throw…ie. against Ok State. He was a true dual threat. Remember when we were saying “we havn’t thrown much because we haven’t needed to”?
    I think we need a proven offensive mind in there, someone other than Watson. I wish him well, but he’s not for Nebraska right now. What about Rich Rodriguez? I hear he has a wonderful offensive mind. His problems at Michigan were defensive. Anyway, the point being if we got an offensive mind as good offensively as Bo is on defense and they can get along, can you imagine what a team we’d have? I really think it is the right path for us to take, and maybe the last piece of the puzzel we need to be National Championship contenders again. Forget about Taylor and let him heal and get back to being the “star in the making” I still think he is!

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