Now that the dust is beginning to settle from NU’s frustrating loss on Sept. 16 to Northern Illinois, it's time to examine some facets of the game that need to be addressed.
It’s not all Tanner Lee’s fault.
While that may be hard to hear for some after Nebraska’s 21-17 loss to NIU on Saturday, it’s true; Lee really isn’t the only one at fault.
I heard it said after the game yesterday that no matter how good a quarterback is, if he doesn’t have an offensive line to protect him, he’s nothing.
There’s really no better way to describe what happened yesterday.
Even the most talented quarterbacks need a good offensive line. They can't do it by themselves.
I'm not trying to diminish Tanner Lee's mistakes during the game, the Tulane transfer did throw a combined seven interceptions in two games; I'm just saying it's a collective problem rather than an individual one.
A lot of time, the quarterback gets all of the blame. They're the one who handles the ball so people know who they are. But like head coach Mike Riley said in his postgame press conference, the team — and offensive line— is a unit and the blame can’t be put on one individual. However, he also said the pressure on the quarterback was evident yesterday, and that falls on the offensive line.
Nebraska's offensive line is struggling, and that's putting it lightly. Yesterday, it couldn't protect its QB against what will be one of the easiest defenses they'll face all season. It gave up three sacks and nine quarterback rushes on Lee. He sustained a lot of hard hits during the game and had a difficult time getting up from more than one of them.
The worst part is, they looked like they didn't want to protect him. The urgency wasn’t there to give Lee protection and as result he had no time to throw the ball.
Not only that, but the line got beat and burned too many times to count during the game.
There was one play in the game when this was undeniably apparent. Lee sustained a sack causing the ball to come loose, and the NIU defensive player who picked it up ran directly by offensive lineman Nick Gates without even being touched. It looked like Gates didn’t even try. He got burned, badly.
The problems with Nebraska’s offensive line aren’t a new development. At the end of the season last year, NU’s offensive line started crumbling — much like it did in yesterday’s game. The difference is it’s more noticeable now.
Lee is a pocket passing quarterback, completely different from NU’s previous quarterback in Tommy Armstrong Jr., and because of that, the offensive line’s problems are now thrust into the limelight.
Armstrong Jr. was a scrambler. Even when his line failed to protect him, he could still make something out of the play because he still knew how to run. This year, that’s not the case. Lee being primarily a pocket passer means if the line breaks down, he gets hit and the play is dead. And he got hit a lot yesterday.
After Saturday’s game, it’s clear the Huskers have a lot of problems to work out if they want to turn their season around. While this list is long and growing, yesterday made it apparent improving the offensive line needs to be at the top of that list.
If it doesn’t get better, Nebraska is in for a long season, and Lee is in for a lot more hard hits.