The first year of a quality offensive system will always be the worst year. Oregon's vaunted offense that Chip Kelly put in went down in flames to us by a score of 19-8 in it's first game.
Fortunately, I feel that Petersen has done a good job recruiting athletes who are "football smart." What THAT means is that the personnel will likely be able to implement brand new schemes and styles of play. This is good. Too many teams recruit players that fit only a certain system.
I believe the thing that is hurting Southwick more than anything else has been the turmoil at offensive coordinator. Southwick came in and had Bryan Harsin for two years, then Brent Pease for one year, and will have Robert Prince for two years. While Harsin and Pease ran virtually the same offense, there were some big differences. Prince, however, appears to run a completely different offensive system. Remember, Prince didn't have time to fully learn the shift/motion system before he was promoted. 1 year is not enough time for a coach to understand the nuances fully. It's a system that almost requires a former QB to make the playcalls. Petersen, Harsin, and Pease were all QBs in their playing days. Prince was a WR. Naturally, Prince is going to want to call quick strike/speed plays because that is what he knows. This doesn't necessarily make him a bad OC (though I'm certainly leaning in that direction after last night)...it just makes him a different type of OC from what we typically have.
I've seen a lot of comments about how we "dumbed down" the playbook so Prince could handle it. I'm not sure that's the case. Southwick is smart enough to UNDERSTAND the system, but that does NOT mean that he is capable of analyzing and implementing the motion/shift offense at game speed. Last year, Southwick had his best moments when we ran no-huddle, but the entire offense including Southwick struggled to implement the motion/shift to it's best capability. It's no surprise, then, that a reworked offense would look to take advantage of those tendencies. The shift/motion depends on the QB's ability to call the right shift on each and every play. This requires a QB with a quick analytical mind who is decisive with his decisions. I don't believe Southwick fits either of these qualities.
The motion/shift worked for us when we had QB's that were decisive with their shift calls and could analyze the defense in 2 seconds after lining up the offense. Southwick can't do that. He depends on up-tempo quick strike attacks. However, I don't see Petersen agreeing to switch from the motion/shift offense if the other QBs on the roster or recruited were capable of actually running it. Hedrick played a run/gun offense, Patti played a varied-tempo no-huddle offense, and Finley played no-huddle. The committed QB for next year is the first dual-threat QB we've recruited in a long while.
The mark of a good coaching staff is the ability to adapt to the personnel on the roster. I think the staff is doing that (or trying to). I also don't think we've seen the last of the motion/shift. As much as I love the motion/shift, it CAN be beaten by a disciplined defense. Nevada shut down the most complex offense in football for an entire half during Kellen's senior season. TCU shut it down in a bowl game two years before that. It can be done. There's more than enough on film of the motion/shift to game plan for it effectively.
That doesn't make the motion/shift permanently lost. I believe we'll see a hybrid of the motion/shift and no-huddle in the next couple years...a melding of Petersen's preferred playbook with what the players learned from Prince...but before this can happen, the players must first master the up-tempo no huddle.
We really struggled against up-tempo offenses the past couple years. Given the youth and inexperience on the defense, I could see that also being a consideration. You can't stop what you don't see regularly...and we've had significant issues with Nevada's offense for a very long time. Now Fresno, Wyoming, and USU all run up-tempo. Wyoming very nearly beat Nebraska, and put 600 yards of offense on the board.