Its always tough to gauge the first game of the season. ┬áThere is so much expectation and speculation that rarely matches reality. The season opener needs to be taken for what it is, a starting place. This is the beginning. Each game is another checkpoint. This team will evolve. That is not to say I wasn’t pleased with what happened Saturday night in Memorial Stadium. The Big Red did some really good things. But this team, and all others, are a work in progress. This is far from the final product. Likewise there were areas that need work. The good part is I think the problems that I saw Saturday night are largely fixable. Still, it is important not to read too much into a first game. Those results can be extremely misleading. Remember 2007 when the Huskers smashed Nevada on a sun soaked opening Saturday 52-10? That team won 4 more games. Take the opener at face value. This is a week by week process. This is simply checkpoint 1. By and large, NU passed.

I want to make this clear. Fresno did not stop the Huskers offense one freaking time Saturday night. When NU got serious, pounded the rock and stayed focused, it was 6. The various drive killers were penalties, poorly executed plays or cutesy play calls. On the whole, the Huskers were able to grind out yards with ease, rushing for 292 and an average of 5.7 yards per rush. It wasn’t an explosive ground attack by any stretch. Rather it was a steady pounding that the Dogs never had an answer for. The Big Red flexed some serious muscle in this department. Devine Ozigbo led the way with 103 yards on 17 carries. Ozigbo is a lot of fun to watch.When he gets a head of steam and squares his shoulders, he’s tough to stop. ┬áThe offensive line had a good showing Saturday night, opening holes routinely for whoever the ball carrier was. Those boys kicked some serious tail. I was impressed. It was a heavy ground attack that some Husker fans have been craving. Tommy Armstrong threw just 10 passes on the night, completing 5 of them for 108 yards and a TD. Armstrong wasn’t at all sharp in his passes. Set aside the beautiful 57 yard bomb to Alonzo Moore on a well time play action pass, and I was pretty underwhelmed with his passing. He easily could have completed a few more of them and really stressed the Fresno defense. It mattered little. When NU set their mind to running the ball and stayed out of their own way, they were unstopable against a woeful Fresno defense. There will be much stiffer tests ahead, but for tonight, this unit passed with room to spare.

Overall, I was fairly pleased with the defense. I think they were put in some tough spots, some of their own doing, but hung in there to produce a pretty decent opening outing. Let’s start with the defensive line. This group was pretty stout against the run. In particular I was impressed with Mick Stoltenberg. He was disruptive and tough to move. This group wasn’t particularly productive in the pass rush department, but were terrific in the run game. Fresno had nowhere to run all night gaining a meager 31 yards on 26 attempts. The defense wasn’t perfect. NU was off the field before a Luke Gifford targeting call kept the drive alive. That led to a Fresno field goal. Also, it appeared freshman Lamar Jackson was getting picked on in the nickel package. Fresno QB Chason Virgil seemed to target Jackson and found success against the freshman. Looking at the big picture its tough to be too critical of the defense. The lone Fresno TD came after a blocked punt on a drive that spanned just 32 yards. They produced 2 turnovers and was exceptional against the run. This defense did allow 243 passing yards, but it took FSU 43 attempts to obtain those yards. That’s an average of just 5.7 yards per pass which isn’t bad. There were just 2 deep balls, a bugaboo for last years secondary. One of those came in junk time. Personally, I was happy with the NU pass defense as a whole. The balls that Fresno WRs did catch were contested and there were several sound plays by NU defensive backs. There was some sloppy play, which is true for the entire squad, but generally I feel good about the NU defense and this initial outing.

Make no mistake, this was far from a perfect debut. Then again if you were expecting perfection perhaps you should re-calibrate your expectations. Still, there was some sloppiness all the way around. There were too many penalties including 2 unsportsmanlike conduct penalties that were completely uncalled for. Stupidity like that gets you beat. I don’t want to see any more of that trash. Additionally, there was a blocked punt, leading to Fresno’s lone TD. Jordan Westercamp fielding punts seemed pretty wheels off all night long. Where is Demornay Pierson-El? Armstrong wasn’t very sharp throwing the ball, and the playcalling was a bit unfocused at times. Mike Riley in his post game interviews was underwhelmed with his team’s performance. I find that encouraging. That means he expects much more than we got Saturday. That’s good news. For now, from my armchair, I was pleased with this first game. It was a pretty good jumping off place. This is just one of 12. Punch your picket at this particular checkpoint and get ready for next week.

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5 thoughts on “Checkpoint #1

  1. The game was played pretty well like I thought. VANILLA! The first half was just line up and block straight ahead no situational substitution’s showing nothing of the offense their capable of(that was on purpose of course). Fresno did make some play’s on defense early and did beat some blocks. The 2nd half Fresno’s defense was done the line just wore them out, but they showed a little more of the offense, a little more substitutions , and when they brought in Fife they ran a lot more then they did with Armstrong (different formations-pass plays etc). The guy that jumped off the field too me was Tre Bryant. Granted Fresno’s defense was done but just look at the way he strides, his cutting, his running downfield this kid’s a big time player that will see more and more action as the season unfolds. I was wondering why in this recruiting cycle they haven’t gone after a running back , now I know. Expect the same kind of offense against Wyoming. He’s coaching now just to get them ready for Oregon.

    We will get a much better read on the defensive line vs. Wyoming. The Cowboy’s have a much better line than Fresno and a much better running back in Hill. The Fresno game even defensive was a little Vanilla (mostly one on one straight up defense). Defensively our linebacker’s dominated. They were just way too fast for Fresno’s line period. Jackson is a true freshman who is a big time talent. He was put out there on one on one coverage and held his own he will get better as you know. The real test of him is coming up when they put more blitz and coverage packages in, and play more matchup zones (again not going too see any of that till Oregon). There was only one area that concerned me and you did hit on it. The punting game was down right awful. Not only the kicker but downfield coverage was horrible. Our return game was just non existent on punts and only OK on kickoffs. Pierson-El is coming off big time injures that happened early last year. Riley doesn’t want to take the chance in loosing him again early. We will see him a lot more but again probably not much till Oregon.

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    1. One other thing the announcer Joe Bennati was just horrible. He’s not a bad Hockey announcer (Washington Capitals) and for a guy from Long Island NY you thought he was from Nebraska listening to his commentary. Right off the bat he implored the virtues of the tunnel walk and yes I’m quoting him. “The tunnel walk has been producing goose bumps to Husker fan’s since the 1990’s. THE GLADIATORS MARCH TOWARD THE ARENA”! I don’t know about you nephew but I found that very funny. I will say when I attended the Husker, Notre Dame game years ago with Bunny during the tunnel walk sitting down from us was this guy who had too weigh at least 400 pounds. He was actually crying alligator tears streaming down his face and yes have too admit I found that funny also. His saying “Their dear friend Sam is going to forever be watching over them from above the clouds”. His continuous calling of Sam Fultz a hero was just nauseating after awhile. I just found so many things he said very funny and he talked way too much. Poor Glen Mason (who was a solid coach) didn’t really get too say much because Joe just wouldn’t shut up.

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      1. Ha!!! I too found that announcer to be annoying. Then again when I say something like that I am accused of being too hard on them. My wife says Im always bitching about the announcers. I dont know about that, I simply think I could do better. After a while I tuned it out, as I often do. I like most of the guys that do BTN games. They are solid, and let the moment come to you. The douche Saturday night was simply trying too hard. You say he’s a good hockey announcer? Good for him, go sit on the damn beach in Florida until they drop the puck and leave College Football to those that know it, and do it, better. Personally, I like Glen Mason, and it seemed like he was getting annoyed. Who can blame him.

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  2. In total agreement. Yes as hard as it is too believe he is a good hockey announcer. He’s been the Washington Capitals announcer for about 25 years and yes I agree he needs to stop announcing College Football games. Wish I could tune them out I unfortunately don’t posses that talent. The one thing we totally agree with is how bad most of them are. I don’t think I could do better, their just that bad. Tell your wife (no I do not recall her name, but then again I can barley remember your Mother’s name sometimes) that we are not too hard on them. THEY’RE JUST THAT BAD. This weeks game against Wyoming is going too be a better indicator on the defense side. They have a solid offensive line made up of senior classmen, decent Quarterback, a solid running game and some decent wide outs. To win the Husker’s are going too have to outscore them. As you know if we get ahead early and take their running game out of it, Husker’s will win easily. If they get to stick too their offensive game plan which is rush, rush, sprinkled with a short passing game Wyoming will control the clock, field position (which is vital in the College game, which is the problem with the punting game) and keep it close. Offensive it’s going too be a lot like the Fresno game just a little more situational substitutions and more passing play’s. They will win but Wyoming could keep it much closer if the defense line don’t hold their own that will force the Husker’s to stack the box which forces one on one coverage that Wyoming could exploit real easily.

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