Senior Day in Lincoln

First I would like to address my absence. Man, life can come at you pretty quickly. This week was warp speed. One minute I was having some pre game brews with my pal at a local Husker watch site, then it was Friday night. It was just a super crazy busy week. Between my 2 jobs, my home responsibilities, and my own general sanity I didn’t have a spare minute. Whew. As you can imagine I was very pleased with the win over the Gophers. It was a great, solid victory. This team should be very proud. As much as I wanted to do a write up, time prevented it. But, hey, that’s life. On to more interesting matters.

As an avid college football fan, senior day is just a part of life. These players who have given so much to the program take the field for one last hurrah. Its a very touching scene, no matter the year. This one pulls at my heart strings just a bit more. I’m particularly fond of this group. This is a good mix of some characters, as well as some outstanding players. The production on the field and in the locker room will be very difficult to replace going forward.

Jordan Westercamp is one of the very best receivers this program has ever had. His toughness and magnet hands wont be soon forgotten. It seems like just yesterday he was a redshirt freshman catching that hail mary against Northwestern. Before this season it appeared he would set many of the all time receiving records at NU. Unfortunately a greater commitment to the running game, and a few injuries have prevented that from happening. I’ll miss Westercamp’s route running, circus catches, and spark plug runs. Hes an all timer. I would love for him to have a big game Saturday.

Tommy Armstrong is not perfect. He can be maddening. His decision making and accuracy have always been suspect. But the man is one of the toughest, most competitive players I’ve seen come through this program. Hes a fighter all the way. Ill miss his leadership and competitiveness. He has some wonderful moments as a Husker. From the game winning pass at Iowa in ’14 to the winning drive against Michigan State last year and even the go ahead score against Oregon this year. His memorable moment list is long. Ill never forget his offensive line carrying him off the field after the go ahead score last week against Minnesota. That was the essence of Tommy Armstrong. A fighter, a leader, a man whose teammates would go to the ends of the world for. Going forward I believe we will see better signal callers, but Tom will always have my admiration and respect.

One of my favorite positions in football is safety. I love a good ball hawk. Nate Gerry is just that. The dude is a heat seeking missle. He has had a super productive career as well. He has been a pleasure to watch. I must say Im a bit miffed. He should have been redshirted his freshman year. Instead Bo Pelini screwed around with him at LB, a position he simply was unfit for. Gerry is a true safety. I have to believe with another year working with Mark Banker Gerry could rack up some serious awards and improve his draft stock. I feel similarly about Josh Banderas. Both of those players were forced, unwisely in my opinion, into action and it cost them a year of eligibility. Imagine this defense nest year if NU returned both Gerry and Bando. Playing them straight out of high school was extremely short sighted.

I’m really going to miss Michael Rose-Ivey. Before he was something of a controversial figure, he was an outstanding prospect. His redshirt freshman year, 2013, he was the star of the defense. He led the team in tackles and only started 7 games. His star was so bright. Unfortunately, a knee injury in 14, a nagging groin in 15 dimmed those prospects. He even sat out a good chunk of camp this year due to injury. It has been very gratifying to watch him have a productive season. He has always been a favorite of mine. Whatever you think of his actions during the national anthem, you must respect both the player and the way he stood up for what he believed in.

There are many others. Ross Dzuris, Dylan Utter, Brandon Reilly, Ryker Fyfe, Alonzo Moore and of course Sam Foltz. This group has not reached the mountain top in their time at NU, but they have served the program well in the transition from Bo Pelini to Mike Riley. They have given the program a whole lot during their time. I am thankful for their contributions and will miss seeing them in red on Saturday. Whatever, that is for next year. Today, lets go get a W for these seniors and send them out in style. This group has earned it.

Advertisements

Never Pretty

After what may have been the worst interception I have ever seen, followed by the easiest TD run I’ve seen all year, I was feeling pretty good. Maybe it was the fever I have been fighting, but I was feeling downright upbeat. Perhaps I could spend a carefree afternoon watching Nebraska Football. That would be a welcome change from the white knuckle ride of the last 6 weeks. It was not to be. Purdue proved to be a feisty bunch, but it goes further than that. This Husker squad is simply incapable of putting the pedal to the metal and destroying an opponent. They just can’t do it. It has to be something between the ears. Couple that with the fact that NU plays some pretty ugly ball from time to time, and you get games like Saturday’s. Purdue is not a good team. This game should not have been competitive. But NU dilly-dallies around, playing with Purdue like they are the family pet for the better part of the afternoon. The result was a fair amount of perspiration for this Husker fan..

The Husker defense had me sweating bullets early on. Purdue QB David Blough came in white hot, causing problems for a pass defense that has been pretty salty to this point. Josh Kalu tripped on a deep ball. That drive ultimately resulted in a TD. Then on a 3rd and 11 Deangelo Yancy takes a pass 88 yards to the house. Jesus!! Worse yet, Purdue was consistently moving the ball early in the first half. I was seriously concerned. Then, almost in unison, Blough cooled off and the Blackshirts collected themselves and turned in a very solid effort. Purdue did not score in the last 40 minutes of the game. In fact, David Blough was just 9/23 for 78 yards in the 2nd half after throwing for 231 yards in the 1st.  The best part was that NU got to David Blough with just their front 4. Freedom Akinmoladun, Carlos Davis and Ross Dzuris made life difficult for the Purdue signal caller. This is a terrific sign. Not only is the D-line improving, but the ability to get pressure with the front 4 opens up the playbook for Mark Banker. It should also be noted that it appeared Banker called a pretty good game. David Blough looked confused with the variety of pressures and coverages Banker threw at him. There were areas for concern. Chris Jones left the game twice with what appeared to be a leg injury. Jones has been outstanding thus far. If he is lost, or even banged up, that is bad news. Ideally, you would like to see a 60 minute effort from your defense. But this is not an ideal team. Overall this was a very solid performance, particularly in the 2nd half. Hopefully this is just another sign that this defense is getting better as major challenges loom in the next couple of weeks.

The Husker offense was downright maddening Saturday afternoon. What exactly did they consistently do well? What could Tommy Armstrong and company hang their hat on? The passing game was hit and miss. Tommy missed a few open receivers, threw a pick and was generally harassed by the Purdue defensive front. Armstrong was considerably better in the 2nd half going 8/11, but the pass game was inconsistent. The run game was extremely aggravating. What happened to the NU offensive line? I know there are injuries, but how is it possible that they have forgotten how to block anyone? Remember, this Purdue defense gave up an eye popping 365 rushing yards to Iowa and rank 124th nationally in run defense. Sure, Purdue loaded the box in an effort to stop the run. Still, I expected NU to have some success on the ground. There was little. Time after time, Boilermaker defenders were wreaking havoc in the NU backfield. It’s time to be concerned about this running game. The injuries along with the quality of play have taken their toll. Danny Langsdorf, Mike Cavanaugh and of course Mike Riley need to figure out how to jump start the run game. I’m not sure exactly what that means. Perhaps some different formations. Maybe shake up the offensive line. I know I would really like to see someone in there to replace Sam Hahn. Jalin Barnett? Going forward this run game has to improve or Ws like the one we saw Saturday could become scarce.

The saving grace for the Nebraska offense was the WR unit. NU was still down 14-10 mid way through the 3rd quarter when DeMornay Pierson-El caught a simple slant, then turned on the jets and left the Purdue secondary in the dust. Its good to see Pierson-El getting more involved with the offense. You can’t coach that kind of explosiveness. Brandon Reilly had 4 catches for 73 yards. Alonzo Moore also ran for a TD on a jet sweep. Stanley Morgan had a sensational catch as well. This unit created problems all day for the Boilermakers. There  were times that Tommy Armstrong delivered a precise, beautiful ball. There were others that he just missed. That’s life with Tommy. But these receivers were consistently open and made the most of their opportunities. Purdue simply had no answers for this group.

This team does not have the killer instinct that you would like to see out of a top 10 team. That much is indisputable. But what they do have is the ability to regroup, collect themselves and keep grinding. Furthermore, this team knows how to hang around and grind out wins. In many respects, that quality may be more important to the 2016 squad. Would I have enjoyed a 42-10 shit kicking of this inconsequential Big 10 bottom feeder?  Sure, without question. But that isn’t what this team does. This team grinds out wins. It beats the hell out of the alternative. As it stands this squad is 7-0 going into a very key stretch. The rubber meets the road next week. Wisconsin beat Iowas to keep their Big 10 West aspirations afloat. NU will bring that 7-0 record to Camp Randall next Saturday night in what could be the biggest game of the year. A win would all but seal the Big 10 West for the Huskers. That sure would be sweet. Make no mistake, it will not be easy.

Another Saturday, Another Battle

My wife ran in an Oktoberfest run early Saturday morning. Naturally, I was there in red. I struck up a conversation with a Michigan fan. As it concluded, I wished him luck. He did the same. I confidently replied “I don’t think we are going to need it today.” I was that sure the Huskers would roll. In my preview I said that the Huskers would “grind Illinois into a fine powder.” I was eating those words, and my lower lip, as the Huskers trailed early in the 4th quarter. For the better part of the afternoon it seemed that Nebraska was hell bent on giving this one away. If it wasn’t penalties, it was a redzone fumble, or shotty defense. For the 3rd straight week the Big Red were in an absolute battle deep into this game. True to form, this club owned the 4th quarter and came away victorious. Give credit to the Illini. They did not play like a 1-2 team. They had this fella sweating bullets all afternoon.

Through 5 games it is now apparent that Nebraska has a few holes on defense. Specifically, the defensive line. Illinois, who had previously been listless running the ball, averaged nearly 6 yards per rush Saturday. The holes were gaping. The LBs can only do so much. We all knew that this DL would be under manned, but that is becoming painfully evident. The pass rush is poor also. If Mark Banker wants to get to opposing QBs, he has to blitz and expose the secondary. That is not a good spot to be in as a playcaller. As poor as the defense was at times Saturday, they answered the bell and made a few key stops. After Nebraska took the lead on an 11 minute drive, the defense stepped up with a 3 and out. Then after NU extended the lead to 8, the defense again forced a 3 and out. Those 2 series went a long way toward winning this game. Ultimately for all the blunders, missed assignments and poor play this unit made plays when it had to.  That deserves some kudos. This defense is far from perfect. It has a long way to go. Frankly I have serious doubts if it can be a dominating unit with the talent on hand. These problems aren’t going away.  But for today this defense played well enough. Not great, not by a mile, but well enough in key situations for this team to improve to 5-0.

The offense Saturday was not playing with a full deck. Wide Receiver Alonzo Moore and Guard Tanner Farmer did not play. Cethan Carter, Jordan Westercamp, David Knevel and Devine Ozigbo all left the game with injuries. Those are major cogs in the offensive wheel. That left the offense undermanned and it showed. The offensive line sorely missed Farmer  and then Knevel as it was unable to push Illinois around the way I thought it would. Tommy Armstrong’s safety blanket Cethan Carter would have come in handy as he escaped oncoming defenders all afternoon. Give the Illinois defense credit for confounding the NU offense for the better part of the afternoon with blitzes and other pressures. They had NU on their heels. But also give the Huskers credit for a gritty 2nd half. Down 16-10 the offense embarked on an 18 play, 75 yard TD drive that took nearly 11 minutes off the clock. That’s right, 11 minutes. Along the way Nebraska was twice bailed out by penalties on 3rd down and got an ultra favorable spot on 4th down inside the 10 yard line. Still, that is a big boy drive that completely flipped the momentum of the game. After a 3 and out, NU did it again this time with a 6 minute drive. That took the wind out of the sails of the Illini and secured the win.

During those 2 game winning, perhaps season saving drives Nebraska leaned heavily on Terrell Newby.  He wasn’t Walter Payton or anything, but the dude was durable and gutsy. This was his best game in scarlet and cream. Good for him. I’ve been tough on Newby. His performance does not change my ultimate opinion of him, but he did show incredible grit. Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf put this one on his shoulders. Newby ran 16 times for 113 yards in the 4th quarter alone!! I’ll admit, I did not think he had that kind of performance in him. With Ozigbo hurt, and Mikale Wilbon in the dog house after a red zone fumble, Newby ran 29 times for 140 yards and 2 Tds. He also caught 2 passes for 26 yards including a pivotal 3rd down reception on the go ahead drive. Newby’s biggest play was a 63 yard run that salted the game away for good. I’ve gained a new respect for Newby after this ballsy performance. On a tough day for this offense, Newby stepped up and was the difference.

Make no mistake, this was not a good performance. The defense was generally shotty, there was missed tackles, and assignments. The offense sputtered as well and there were a slew of missed opportunities. A performance like this will get you beat, especially against good teams. Illinois does not qualify. But, like last week, a win is a win. This team dug deep and collectively made plays when it had to. This is a game the 2015 Huskers lose. That is a good sign. When a team consistently plays close games they are able to draw from that experience.  This team is used to being in tough games after the last month. That experience is invaluable. It pays off. Next up is a bye. This team needs to get healthy first and foremost. There is also plenty of work to be done to improve. The race for the Big 10 west will no doubt get more and more interesting. Currently, the Huskers are in the drivers seat after Wisconsin and Iowa both lost Saturday. But performances like the one Saturday will not be good enough to earn a trip to Indy. I hope Mike Riley is pounding that point home this week.

Survive and Advance

The Nebraska/Northwestern series continues to be a head scratcher. I just cant get my head around it. It never seems to go as you would think. There have been upsets, thrillers, and heartbreakers. I hate the saying throw out the record book, but….well, you do. The 2016 version was more of the same. On paper, the Huskers were the superior team riding a wave of momentum from a nice victory while Northwestern was 1-2 with losses to a MAC team and an FCS team. Throw that out the window. While this seemed like an easy Big Red win, that did not take place. Saturday night the Wildcats fought their ass off, while the Huskers milled around and kept them in the game. It was an ugly effort for the Big Red. In the end NU wins the game and moves forward. While I would have liked a crisper effort, a more decisive victory, that was not in the cards. This one was extremely competitive from start to finish. The Huskers may not have played their best, but ultimately they are 4-0 and move a step closer to a date with the Wisconsin Badgers Halloween weekend.

I was quite distressed with the Huskers play on the defensive side of the ball. The Wildcats came in as a team that was struggling to move the ball. The Cats moved the ball consistently enough to give me gray hairs. Fortunately, their drives mostly stalled due to their lack of playmakers. NW QB Clayton Thorson, who is mediocre at best, threw for 250 yards and ran for another 79 and 2 total TDs. His success was pretty disconcerting. It seemed that Nebraska’s secondary was giving quite a cushion to the Northwestern WRs. I could not figure this out. It appeared all night that NU was superior in this area, yet Thorson was able to complete quick, short passes all night long. Personally, I would have liked to see Nebraska’s secondary challenge the NW receiving core.  I doubt they would have been able to beat NU over the top and it would have minimized the short passing game and stifled their entire attack. As much as the Nebraska defense struggled against the Cats they did make plays when they had to make them. Aaron Williams intercepted a pass in the end zone. NW was 0-2 on 4th down and 5-14 on 3rd down. Also the NU defense was able to get to Thorson to the tune of 4 sacks. Those are good numbers. The bad numbers are that Nebraska gave up 388 yards on the night and allowed NW to hang in there.  While I was generally annoyed and displeased with the performance of the defense it’s hard to argue with the 13 points given up as well as the timely plays made defensively. The really aggravating part is that I know this unit can do better. There was sloppy tackling and inconsistent play all around. My expectations for this defense are much higher than the effort I saw Saturday.

Offensively the Huskers fumbled twice into the end zone spoiling drives. The first one Terrell Newby loses control as he thrusts to the end zone after a long run. Infuriating.The 2nd Devine Ozigbo loses the ball after his progress was stopped. I don’t know why a whistle was not blown. Still these two turnovers cost NU 14 points and are completely unacceptable. Those two gaffes aside, the offense was pretty damn good Saturday night. Danny Lansgdorf did a great job calling plays and by and large the offense was efficient executing the game plan. In particular the QB runs were well conceived. As a result, Tommy Armstrong had a really solid performance. He ran for 132 yards on 10 carries, and was 18/29 for 246 yards and  TD through the air. He did miss on a couple passes, but he did so in a way that would not result in an interception. That is progress. His playmaking ability kept this offense humming for the better part of the game. Northwestern insisted on giving NU receivers a large cushion for the better part of the night. Armstrong made it look easy time and again. On the ground the Big Red ran for 310 yards with an average of 6.6 yards per carry. That is tremendous. Everyone seemed to get in on the act. In particular, it was great to see Mikale Wilbon, who ran 6 times for 55 yards. He was shifty and elusive. He needs to be part of the rotation going forward. On a night where the defense struggled this unit carried the torch. I don’t like the 2 fumbles into the end zone at all. But all things considered, this offense moved the ball consistently and at key times to ensure the win.

It’s good to have this one behind us with a notch in the w column. Northwestern is always a pain in the butt. Saturday was no exception. Pat Fitzgerald’s teams always fight to the end. Additionally, the Huskers did not play their best ball. The Huskers made enough plays to get out of Evanston with a win. That is the good news. The bad news is that the anty has been upped in the Big 10 West. Did you seen Wisconsin go into Spartan Stadium and beat the brakes off of Michigan State? If not, educate yourself. The Badgers are for real. The Husker’s had better get their act fine tuned over the next few weeks. There are a few also rans along the way, but that’s a date to look forward to. Nebraska should be 7-0 going into Madison Halloween weekend.Saturday night was great. It was good to beat Northwestern, but this is not the goal. As of Saturday, it appears a division title goes through Madison.

Next Up: Chi-Town Kitties

As we put the thrilling Oregon game in the rear view, the Northwestern Wildcats come into the windshield. If history is any indication, this will be a fun game. Since joining the Big 10 in 2011, the Husker/Wildcat games have been incredibly close. Take out the second half drubbing of 2014, and the rest of the contests have been decided by three points or less. In five games, the home team has won just once (the Hail Mary game in 2013). This year’s Northwestern squad is 1-2 with losses to Western Michigan and Illinois State by a combined total of three points. Pat Fitzgerald’s squad is always tough on defense. But this offense, led by sophomore QB Clayton Thorson, has not been good. Despite having a terrific RB in Justin Jackson, the Cats are 118th in rushing yards per game with 98.3. They only put up 17 points per game despite playing an FCS team, a MAC team and a basketball school out of the ACC. ALl that may not matter. You can throw out the trends and record books when these two get together. I expect a Northwestern team that will be ready for a brawl. NU had better buckle their chin strap for this one. The Huskers will need to focus and give their best effort to walk out of the windy city with a W. Here are a few things to look for.

*Focus Focus Focus- Too often in college sports there is a tendency to overlook an opponent. This is especially true when a team is coming off a big win. Nebraska must put the Oregon game behind them and focus on Northwestern. The nice words from around the country and top 20 ranking are terrific, but they are meaningless if you blow this one. Coach Riley and company are saying all the right things this week. We will see if Northwestern really has their full attention.

*Zone Read Defense-Oregon gave NU fits with their zone read game last Saturday. The Husker defense really had no answer for it all day long. That’s not surprising considering Oregon’s personnel. Dakota Prukop and that stable of speedy backs will cause their fair share of heartburn this fall. Rest assured, Northwestern saw that tape and will attempt to have similar success. Unlike Oregon, if it is working, they will stick with it. Clayton Thorson is not nearly as slippery of a runner as Dakota Prukop, but he torched the Huskers last year to the tune of 126 yards. Justin Jackson is a terrific RB, particularly when he gets some space. I expect the Cats to go to the zone read early and often and to stick with it if they find success.

*Pass Rush– The Nebraska front four was significantly better against the pass last week compared to the Wyoming game. While this group didn’t record a sack on a four man rush, they also didn’t let Dakota Prukop get comfortable. Let’s hope for a similar improvement this week. Last week against Duke, Northwestern allowed five sacks. I expect similar productivity from the Blackshirts. While getting pressure and sacks with the blitz is great, its not ideal. I would like to see this front four wreak havoc in the pass game. This week is a real opportunity to make an enormous difference in the game.

*Beleaguered Northwestern Secondary– The Cats will be without three of their top four cornerbacks and a starting safety. That kind of bad luck in the defensive backfield should have Danny Langsdorf and Mike Riley salivating. Covering these Nebraska wideouts is a chore with all of your top personnel available. Without it, the Big Red are at a substantial advantage. Then again, Brandon Reilly and Alonzo Moore are both questionable for the game. Look for Stanley Morgan and Jordan Westerkamp to have big games. This would be a great time to get Demornay Pierson-El going. Lets not forget Cethan Carter. The options are many for the Husker squad.  Northwestern does not have that luxury.

*Prediction– A close game early, Nebraska breaks out in the 2nd half. 31-10.

Don’t Be Fooled

College Football is a fascinating and extremely volatile game. It can turn on a dime. Husker fans saw that first hand Saturday. It appeared the Huskers were cruising, up 17-0 with :12 left in the 1st half. Wyoming was stuck with a kicker that had already shanked 2 FG chances and a 4th and 12. Wyoming QB Josh Allen rolled right, alluding a strong pass rush. He throws an absolute dart to Tanner Gentry in the back of the end zone. Shit! From that point until well into the 4th quarter the Huskers had a dog fight on their hands. The defense seemed perplexed. The offense was bumbling all over themselves. There was a curious fake punt and just bad football all around. It seemed a dark cloud had come over Lincoln. Eventually, Wyoming made a series of mistakes, and the Huskers capitalized. Don’t be fooled by the score. This one was extremely tight for quite a while.

Offensively the Huskers were an absolute mixed bag. Early on the Huskers seemed to do whatever they wanted on the outside. It seemed Wyoming was intent on stuffing the run and that opened up the passing lanes. Alonzo Moore had a career day with 3 catches for 109 yards including a 63 yarder where he flashed his considerable speed. Tommy Armstrong threw for 377 yards, which is good, but I was unhappy with his performance. Tom made some bad choices including an INT in the end zone on 1st down. Armstrong threw it right to the defender on that play. Inexcusable. There were other times he missed open receivers or made poor choices. NU had a substantial advantage on the outside. It was obvious. As plain as the sun in the sky. The Wyoming secondary could not match the athleticism Nebraska has at WR. Considering that, Armstrong should have had a much more productive day. Perhaps it seems like I’m being too hard on Tommy when you look at his stats. Watch the game. See the open receivers he misses or the questionable choices he makes. The stats don’t tell the whole story here. If NU is to become a championship contender, Armstrong needs to be better. It’s that simple.

The Nebraska offensive line was coming off an outstanding performance last week. The Fresno defense was simply pummeled by this group. This week NU had a substantial size advantage, outweighing the Wyoming front by an average of 46 pounds. This undersized Cowboy front gave the Huskers fits. NU had tremendous difficulty sustaining any kind of success on the ground. A week after rushing for an average of 5.7 yards per carry, the Huskers managed just 3.2.  That won’t cut it. The pass protection wasn’t great either. The offensive line had a hard time picking up the frequent Wyoming blitzes. Armstrong was often dodging defenders in order to throw the ball. On one particular 3rd down play, both Tackles, David Knevel and Nick Gates, got torched off the edge and Armstrong went down. Both were left standing as Armstrong peeled himself off the turf. This too, is inexcusable. In general I was not very happy with the play of this group. Wyoming certainly presented a unique challenge but it’s not a test I feel the unit handled well at all.

Don’t be fooled by some of the defensive numbers you will hear. Holding an opponent to 17 points and producing 6 turnovers is great, but in this case, it’s incredibly misleading. For a good chunk of this game the Huskers pass defense was on its heels. Wyoming QB Josh Allen was confounding NU defenders with his scrambling and accurate passes. Until it all came apart he was quite impressive. One good reason NU was having such trouble is a lack of a pass rush from the front 4. This is something you will hear about all season. NU struggled to get to Allen. When there was penetration Allen was able to buy time and find a receiver. Like on that TD pass before the half. The defensive backs cant cover forever. The rush has to get there. Mark Banker eventually began to blitz the bejesus out of Allen. That worked to put this thing away. Good Qbs will pick those blitzes apart. You would like to be able to get to pressure with just your front 4, particularly against a team like Wyoming. In the end, as Wyoming fell behind, Allen began forcing passes and NU made them pay. The Pokes last 4 possessions were all turnovers, 3 were INTs. Don’t be deceived. Those numbers look great, but this unit really struggled for the better part of the afternoon. Better offenses are ahead and this team needs to figure out what works.

If you read my Husker football questions in the preseason you will know that I was pretty tough on Mark Banker. I thought his defense was too soft and bland last year. He did nothing to inspire confidence. Thus far I have been impressed with some of creativity shown by Mark Banker. He has used personnel groups effectively. The nickel package is a great example. There are 3 down lineman and a combination of nickel back, LB and safeties for a 6 man front. Sometimes he brings a blitz, other times he plays coverage. It’s a pretty interesting look. After 2 games, offenses are confused. Additionally, it looks like the defense is getting plenty of players into the lineup which tells me Banker likes the depth of his unit. These are good signs. That said, this unit needs to be much more cohesive going forward. I saw some blown coverages and some sloppy tackling. That dog wont hunt next week, or when NU makes a trip to Madison.

A game like this was good for this squad. This thing was a freaking dog fight for quite a while. Make no mistake, there are plenty of dog fights ahead for this team. That experience will serve this squad well. Thats the sunny side. Overall, I was generally displeased with the performance. Despite a few bright spots, this team spent most of the afternoon playing like garbage. There were more of the personal foul penalties that chapped Mike Riley’s ass a week ago. 2 TDS were negated by penalties that were absolutely avoidable. There was a general sloppiness for the better part of the afternoon. I was extremely annoyed. In the end, the Cowboys folded. The moment was too big for them. That’s a young team that essentially messed itself at its big opportunity. NU was the beneficiary. That doesn’t change the fact that Nebraska needs to fix some of these problem areas and fast. Next week Oregon comes to town. Think what you will about the Ducks, if Nebraska plays like this they run the risk of getting boat raced in their own building. That’s a message I would like Riley to pound home this week.

Cowboys Come to Town

Allright folks, the season opener is behind us. Time to get the butterflies out and settle into the season. Lets hope the Huskers do the same. Make no mistake, Saturday night was emotionally charged.  From the Sam Foltz tribute to the Luke Gifford targeting penalty, along with everything else that comes with a Saturday night in Lincoln Nebraska. The team was pretty amped up. Game 2 brings the upstart Wyoming Cowboys to town fresh off a 3 OT thriller over the Northern Illinois.  Saturday presents a real opportunity for the Pokes to show that they are legitimate in Craig Bohl’s 3rd year. Here are a few things to look for.

  • Offensive Balance- The Huskers ran the ball 51 times against Fresno State. That’s 80% of their offensive plays. While I am 100% A-OK with that I don’t think its a sustainable offensive model for the season. Nebraska will have to throw the ball. Considering the various weapons around the offense, this shouldn’t be a problem. There is no sugar coating it, it was a problem Saturday night. Tommy Armstrong looked anywhere from out of sorts, to absolutely terrible for most of the night. Its not what I would expect from a QB starting in his 4th year. Danny Lansgdorf needs to get his QB going. If that happens Wyoming has no chance.
  • Punt Return Game-I’m extremely interested in this aspect of the game. Jordan Westercamp was atrocious returning punts against the Dogs. It looked like he was huffing paint before the game. NU didn’t get a single positive return, coughed up a lot of field position and avoided a near disaster when it appeared a Fresno punt careened off of Westy’s foot. This must improve and in a big way. Field position and special teams is too important to just allow it to be as bad as it was Saturday night. I need to see some positivity out of this unit. More than that, I would like to see DeMornay Pierson-El out there. In 2014 he was a game breaker in this role. If he is healthy enough to play WR, he can field punts. Get him out there for Christs sake.
  • Run Defense- The Husker defense was terrific against Fresno State’s flacid running attack, allowing just 31 yards on 26 carries. Fresno pretty much bailed on the run game when it wasn’t working.  Wyoming will not do that. The Cowboys ran the ball 56 times in their season opener for an average of 4.33 yards per carry. The Pokes have a 2 headed rushing attack with RB Brian Hill and QB Josh Allen. NU will have to maintain gap integrity and fight off blocks to be successful. This is a decent test for the front 7 and should season them for conference play. Ultimately I feel the Huskers will be successful, but its a test none the less.
  • RB Rotation- When you collectively run for 5.7 yards per carry, everyone looks good. Personally I really like Devine Ozigbo, but he wont shoulder the load himself. Terrell Newby looked fine against Fresno, but I think most fans want to see Tre Bryant as well. Bryant was electric with the ball against a battered and beaten Fresno team at that point. I want to see him run against a defense with a pulse.
  • Mentality-The score of the Fresno game remained somewhat close for the better part of 3 quarters even though NU was dominating play. The Huskers screwed around for quite a while before blowing the doors off of the Dogs. I see Nebraska having an opportunity to put the game away early Saturday. Will they seize it? Or will they let penalties, poor execution and generally tomfoolery let Wyoming hang around?
  • Prediction- Nebraska 41 Wyoming 21