Playing offense for the University of Nebraska football team does not appear to be a particularly difficult venture.
Thanks to a Huskers’ defense that is allowing just 10.3 points per game this season and has regularly come up with big plays, the job responsibilities for an NU offensive player seem to look something like this: Look on happily, relax and take pleasure in the knowledge that, if your unit can manage to score just a touchdown or two per game, there’s a very good chance that’ll be enough to win.
“It’s hard to even describe what a nice luxury it is,” Nebraska quarterback Zac Lee said.
The problem, however, is that Nebraksa’s offense hasn’t always been able to manage a couple touchdowns.
Following a season in which it established itself as one of the nation’s best offensive attacks — the Huskers finished the 2008 season ranked in the top 25 in total, scoring and passing offense — the team’s offense has struggled mightily to put points on the board over the past month and a half.
Nebraska ranks 11th in the Big 12 in total offense this season, having averaged just 14.8 points and 273 yards per game since NU’s conference schedule began Oct. 8 and having scored 10 points or fewer in three of their past five games.
The woes have been serious enough that Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, a notoriously defensive-minded coach, has spent much of the past week insisting that things must improve if the Huskers’ hopes of a Big 12 North title are to come to fruition.
While Pelini said that last week’s particularly anemic showing was at least partly a product of the type of game the Huskers’ found themselves engaged in, he added that 10 points and 180 yards of total offense rarely will be enough to win.
“It’s very critical,” Pelini said. “We need to start generating some offense, need to get more consistent. ... It’s a tremendous sense of urgency.”
In fairness, the Huskers have dealt with a good deal of adversity this fall. The team lost last year’s starting quarterback, Joe Ganz, to graduation and is currently mired in a murky quarterback situation — it’s unclear whether Lee or true freshman Cody Green will start in today’s 2:30 p.m. game at Kansas University — while injuries to running backs Roy Helu Jr. and Rex Burkhead have significantly hindered the team’s previously dominant running game.
Still, adversity or not, the fact remains that the lack of a consistent offense has often hindered an otherwise promising season.
“That’s kind of what we’ve been hoping for the last couple weeks, get something going and get into a rhythm,” Lee said. “I don’t think we look at it as do or die, but I think it would be nice to have something going on offense.”
Even without much offensive success, however, the Huskers sit at 6-3 this season and are perhaps the favorite to win the North crown despite trailing division-leading Kansas State by a game and a half entering the weekend.
The collective belief seems to be this: If the team’s offense can improve even marginally over the next three weeks, then a lot of things seem possible.
“The big thing is we still feel like we haven’t played our best football yet,” Lee said. “We haven’t put everything together in all facets of the game. And right now, each one of these games we have to have, we have to win to control our own destiny. It’s kind of a backs-against-the-wall thing, where we have to go out and get the job done.”