The full Hail Varsity staff is back to answer your questions about food, fandom and football.
It's a loaded mailbag. Buckle up.
Is it possible that the majority of Husker fans, while disappointed, are not in the-sky-is-falling mode as some national writers would suggest? When will this reputation of us as a fan base with unrealistic expectations end? I think we all are on board for the long haul here. (@HuskerInSota)
DP: I think the problem here is the ones that are fine aren’t saying anything. The loudest mouths are typically the ones that get the media attention. And there is plenty of dumb “Scott Frost is overrated” Twitter takes out there.
JP: I think you have a point here. This seems to be a fairly common occurrence, when people race to write against backlash before the backlash actually happens. I haven’t seen too many people jumping off the ship at this point and those that are making negative comments are the kind would react that way no matter what happens.
ES: We jokingly asked if Nebraska fans are still there in this week’s No Huddle, and have already had responses from people saying they absolutely are still on board. As Derek said, those who are yelling loudest don’t necessarily represent the majority.
BV: You could really write a lengthy, deep-diving book on this subject. Here’s my standard platform on this: Football fandom is an emotional endeavor. As such, some people respond emotionally and when you get to base-level, emotional reactions, they’re pretty predictable. Human beings respond in predictable ways, and that’s true of Florida State fans, UCLA fans, Nebraska fans et al. There are basic human emotions at play here. We’re all the same, really, which isn’t anything anyone wants to hear because part of the fun of rooting for a team, a college team specifically, is to say “well, we’re different than them.” But the fact that certain outlets are willing to highlight the highly emotional reactions of certain fan bases –– and the source always switches week-to-week to which fan base had the most painful loss –– sort of proves the point. Some people will always react emotionally to a bad loss. Is it the majority of this fan base? It is not. But people often use the most out-there examples to provide easy angles.
GS: I could not agree with Derek any more on this.
With the struggles on the O Line, is this staff willing to try and mix up who’s playing? (@IBeLionsBeats)
DP: Several coaches on staff are. And you’ve seen that recently, Jovan Dewitt comes to mind here. The issue this staff is running into, particularly up front for Greg Austin, is the guys behind the starters aren’t ready. I think what’s happening right now is a serious risk-reward assessment of “if we go with the young guys, yes they’ll be better for it in the future but we’ll be much worse off in the present,” and they’re still very much trying to win as many games as possible this season. Troy Walters said it Wednesday: these guys hadn’t lost a football game in over a year heading into this season. They don’t like it and don’t want it. Walters said all their goals are still in front of them, which, I guess is technically true for the Big Ten West.
JP: Greg Austin basically said it’s too early to say that any of the back-ups are truly pushing for a starting job. You can’t really pull a starter if the guys behind them haven’t shown they deserve that spot yet. Outside of Nebraska’s starting interior line, there really isn’t much in the way of experience at all with this group. It might still take some time to full grasp what the coaches are asking them to do.
GS: I don’t think you can mix things up just for the sake of saying you did it. If the staff doesn’t trust the backups to contribute positively when given a chance, then they should not put them out there just because. I’m not saying it never happens where coaches are surprised with how someone performs in game action but they see a lot more of these players than we do and at some point we have to trust that know who to put out there.
With Rondale Moore so active in Purdue’s system, what would be considered a good day in limiting his statistical impact? (@CoryHonold)
DP: No special teams touchdowns would be a good place to start. He’s got 500 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns already and they try so hard to get him the ball, you’re not going to limit the counting stats. Just don’t give him the game-changing plays in the return game.
JP: Moore has gone for over 100 receiving yards and at least one touchdown in three of his four games (oddly enough, Eastern Michigan is the only team that has kept him in check through the air so far). He carried the ball twice in three of his four games and didn’t run in the fourth, but his impact on the ground hasn’t been too significant since the season opener. Basically, to have a chance to win, Nebraska can’t let Moore have the kind of day Laviska Shenault did for Colorado. Keep him in the 80- to 100-yard range and don’t give up any long touchdowns and I think Nebraska will have a chance.
GS: I love the call out of not giving a special teams score. To me, that would mean that Nebraska was able to develop a game plan and execute on special teams which is something they clearly have struggled to do so far this season.
Wyatt Mazour looked good on Saturday even though it was only for one drive. I think he has great potential and I think Held and Frost need to incorporate him more on offense. What are your thoughts on Wyatt Mazour? (@_LilBigRed12_)
DP: I would love to see Wyatt get more run; he’s a great kid who works his tail off. He just plays a position that’s incredibly deep for Nebraska and I don’t know where the snaps are going to come from. You want to get the ball into the hands of Greg Bell and Maurice Washington and JD Spielman and Stanley Morgan Jr. too. And we haven’t even seen Miles Jones yet.
JP: I’m a fan of Mazour as well and he definitely made the most of his opportunities, but you have to keep in mind he was playing against second- and third-team guys for the Wolverines unlike Greg Bell, Maurice Washington and Devine Ozigbo, and even then he rushed for 17 yards on one run and totaled 1 yard on his other four. Mazour is a dynamic kid, but there’s a reason he was a walk-on and guys like Bell and Washington and Jones were recruited as scholarship players.
If it meant your favorite team winning the national title, could you give up your favorite food for the rest of your life? (tklim2430)
DP: If it resulted in the Oklahoma City Thunder beating the Golden State Warriors in the Playoffs and then winning an NBA Championship, I would give up all food.
JP: Definitely not. I’m a Packers fan, and while 2010 was amazing, the Packers winning the Super Bowl that year didn’t dramatically change my life. I’m more about enjoying the journey than the destination.
ES: Give up Chipotle? Never.
GS: I would give up Popeyes if I meant the Lakers could win another title. In a heartbeat.
What are your thoughts on how far Husker volleyball will go this year? (@tylerwolken1)
JP: Based on what I’ve seen since Lexi Sun entered the lineup, I think they’ve got as good of a chance to make the NCAA Championship (the Final Four) as anyone I’ve seen. Nebraska is currently the best defensive team in the country and they’re doing it with more underclassmen in the rotation than veterans. Mikaela Foecke is playing at an incredibly high level, Nicklin Hames is living up to the lofty expectations, Sun balances out the attack and Kenzie Maloney is digging everything. Serve, pass and defense are the keys to winning at the highest level, and Nebraska is doing well in all those areas (serving and defense more so than passing at this stage) and is only getting better and better. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 3.5 years covering this program it’s to never bet against John Cook.
BV: Jacob nailed it. If Nebraska can continue to defend as well as it has, there’s no reason to think they can’t make a Final Four again. That said, the margin for error in the latter rounds of the NCAA Tournament is really small. Even if Nebraska is the best defensive team in the country, if it plays like it’s not for one night that can be enough to send the Huskers home. The downside to consistent excellence is that one-game randomness tends to define that team’s success. That’s a small downside, however. If you knew Nebraska was going to play a seven-game series against every team on its schedule, would you take the Huskers to win those series? Right now for the 2018 team, I would. But you don’t get that. And that makes Cook’s success all the more amazing. He’s outperforming sample size in recent seasons and this team, so far, looks capable of doing it again. When you stop and think about it, that’s pretty amazing.
Which unit is the weakest: secondary, o-line or d-line? I feel positive about running backs and wide receivers named JD Spielman and Stanley Morgan. (@huskerpower5904)
DP: The offensive line and it’s not even close. The secondary has been better. The defensive line has been better. The offensive line needs to step their game up.
JP: None of it was good against Michigan, but I still see some potential difference-makers on the defensive line and in the secondary. As for the offensive line, it seems like the struggles span the entire unit and a couple of those guys are veterans. They simply can’t seem to diagnose and communicate what the other team is trying to do pre-snap and it’s killing Nebraska’s offense.
BV: I’d go offensive line as well. I feel like it should be better than it is, which is really the story of Nebraska football for about a decade now.
Who do you think will step up the most in the Purdue game? (@ScNOTty_Frost)
DP: Stanley Morgan Jr. will have a big day.
BV: Luke Gifford will be “back.” We’re used to him being impossible to miss on Saturdays this season. I think that will be the case against Purdue again.
GS: I will go with Adrian Martinez. He’ll need to be good against an aggressive Purdue defense. He will likely need to improvise in the pass game as well. I can see a big day for him.
In your opinion, how big of a chance does Nebraska have to beat Purdue at home? (@_LilBigRed12_)
Are we going to win a game before Cookman? (@derbybound33)
DP: This is not just a winnable game but a game Nebraska will win. My apologies to any over-sensitive Boilermakers.
JP: I said last week that I thought Purdue would be Nebraska’s first win, so I might as well stick with it. If the team can’t rally together and fix some things coming off getting destroyed that badly, then is it ever going to happen this year? (Bethune-Cookman excepted.)
BV: It’s basically a coin-flip game in my mind, so with home field give the Huskers a 50-percent chance to start. Purdue is pretty good, and their 1-3 record won’t convince me otherwise. Nebraska should be as good, and its 0-3 record doesn’t convince me otherwise either. The Huskers’ edge is urgency. Nebraska has to get a win. Purdue was in a similar spot a week ago against Boston College and made it happen. Now the Boilermakers have to fend that off on the road this week. I think it’s easier to be in Nebraska’s position in that scenario.
GS: I give Nebraska a 35-40% chance to beat Purdue. I actually don’t like the matchup for Nebraska. David Blough has been excellent against the Huskers, Nebraska hasn’t won at home since last September against Rutgers, and Purdue’s defense plays really hard. This game feels like it could tip the Huskers season in a bad way. Yes, I think they win a game before Bethune-Cookman.
Haven’t heard a lot about Hunter Miller, was mentioned last season plus some in the spring. Any idea if he’s on the cusp of seeing some playing time? Seems like he’s bounced around from DL to OL and back? (@md_schmidt)
DP: He’s their backup center on the depth chart and came in late against Michigan but I think Nebraska would go to Tanner Farmer at center before Miller at this point.
JP: I don’t think he’s ever played anything but interior offensive line, so perhaps you’re thinking of someone else, but like Derek said, he’s second on the depth chart but probably their third option at center. He was hurt his first season and simply needs some development time; he’s not big or strong enough at this point to anchor an offense in the Big Ten.
Loved the food issue of Hail Varsity/coaching staff recipes. Have any Hail Varsity staff tried any of them out yet? If yes, what are the early impressions? (@md_schmidt)
ES: I have not yet, but we’ve been talking about a potluck with all the recipes made. Greg Austin promised he’d make the redacted guacamole for us if we do. I’m going to have to take him up on that offer.
BV: Appreciate you saying that. I haven’t had a chance to make any yet myself, but there are a few I have my eye on. That potluck is going to have to happen at some point.
Is this season pretty much a wash? The way the coaches talked [Tuesday] made it sound like this is a 1-2 year project and we are in week 3. (@thawildbunch)
ES: I don’t think so. There’s plenty of season left, and plenty of opportunities for wins. I don’t think the coaches are projecting really anything at this point. They just want to grow and learn from what’s going on, and I think they’re tempering expectations a bit. I still see plenty of opportunities for good things to happen this year.
DP: The coaches still want to win as much as they can. But, given the start, I don’t know how much that’s possible. The schedule is not conducive to a “we can get on a roll” attitude.
JP: Nebraska will lose quite a few seniors who have played big roles and might see some more attrition via transfers, but a lot of these guys are going to be back next season so regardless of the final record, this season is important. They need to find the right guys who can do what the coaches are asking of them that will be cornerstones moving forward as they get this rebuild off the ground.
BV: I’m not ready to write off this season yet. I want to see what this team can look like if it does some basic things like get a lead, control the game flow and play from ahead. If it can do those things, I’m not ruling out a rapid improvement this year from what we’ve seen through three games. And if we see that, I think that’s enough to still head into 2019 with some optimism. Nebraska still has 75 percent of its season to play. That said, the Huskers need to do it now and it starts with a win over a solid Purdue squad.