There was plenty to be disappointed about with Nebraska’s loss to Northern Illinois on Saturday, but the one thing that’s most troubling can’t be measured by a stat sheet. It wasn’t one of Tanner Lee’s three interceptions or the offensive line’s inability to block. This concern actually came from a sideline report.

While the Huskers trailed 14-0 to NIU — thanks to a pair of pick-sixes thrown by Lee in the first quarter — FS1’s broadcast crew asked sideline reporter Holly Sonders what she was noticing on the Nebraska sideline. Her response? Not a lot of energy and no sense of urgency.

It’s not uncommon for a college football sideline to be a little deflated after surrendering a pair of defensive touchdowns. Those are the kind of plays that can suck the energy out of the most electric stadiums. It certainly quieted the crowd at Memorial Stadium.

But those mistakes came early enough that, a team with as much talent as Nebraska, should’ve been able to overcome, especially against an inferior opponent. Someone on the sidelines should’ve recognized that. Instead, the Huskers chose to be shell-shocked and limp into the locker room trailing by two touchdowns.

After Sonders made the comment, Nebraska’s first half performance kind of made sense. The offensive line wasn’t winning any battles in the trenches and were awful in pass protection. Receivers dropped passes, mistakes were prevalent and the play-calling was questionable. The effort, from the players and the coaching staff, was missing through 30 minutes.

It was déjà vu from a week ago. Nebraska trailed Oregon 42-14 at halftime before outscoring the Ducks 21-0 in the second half. That surge wasn’t enough last Saturday and the Huskers came up one touchdown shy of mounting an improbable comeback.

The same happened this week. The Huskers played better in the second half and even took the lead in the fourth quarter after Lee’s second touchdown run of the afternoon. With over 11 minutes left in the game, it looked like Nebraska was going to do enough to survive a major scare from a MAC opponent.

Northern Illinois answered right back, regained the lead and held on for dear life to waltz out of Lincoln with a huge win. When the Huskies found themselves down on the scoreboard after leading for a majority of the game, they actually played with a sense of urgency.

Maybe Nebraska should take some notes on that.

Last week, the Huskers looked like a young team that was hampered by the growing pains of inconsistency. With so much changing in the offseason, having a few miscues against a better opponent isn’t unordinary. That wasn’t the case against Northern Illinois.

The Huskers didn’t play with any urgency or energy on Saturday, at least in the first half.

Three turnovers hurt the Huskers. Rushing for just 85 yards hampered their ability to open things up offensively. Sure, there are some football things that Mike Riley’s team struggled with on Saturday. But those issues are only compounded when a team fails to regain its energy.

Northern Illinois might not have taken its final lead on the scoreboard until the 8:52 mark in the fourth quarter, but Nebraska lost the game way before then.

The game was over when Sonders provided that report.