The Bulldogs lost in front of a sold out Nebraska crowd of 90,013 fans with a score of 43-10 but the Red Wave was able to learn more about this 2016 squad. After watching these Bulldogs through fall camp and watching the defense dominate the offense on a daily basis one question was very obvious. Was the defense really good or was the offense really bad? Well the answer is yes and no.
The defense is good, just not good enough for four quarters. The thought heading into this game was that if the defense could keep it close heading into the fourth quarter that the Bulldogs could have a shot at pulling off an upset. The defense did just that. The offense did the defense no favors. At times the offense looked like it was finally in rhythm allowing them to move the ball through the air, then the drop balls ultimately led to the stall of multiple drives. The running game was no better and has a long road ahead of them managing only 59-yards on 26 attempts.
Virgil ended the night with 133-yards and one touchdown passing. In the first half Virgil looked poised in the pocket and accurate throwing the ball allowing the bulldogs to keep the game really close in the first half. Just before halftime Virgil went down on a late hit and injured his shoulder. That’s when things seem to take a different turn. With Virgil out, in came Zack Kline who seemed to move the ball down the field with very little time on the clock. Miscommunication and poor clock management between the coaching staff and Kline ultimately led to the Bulldogs kicking a field goal.
In the second half Virgil would return but not as the same quarterback in the first half. Virgil looked uncomfortable in the pocket and his passes weren’t as accurate and his deep balls were nowhere near his targets. One has to wonder just much did the injury effect Virgil in the second half. But even when his passes did hit his receivers in the hands the receivers failed to catch them. Moving forward work will be needed to alleviate the dropped balls in order to make this offense more potent.
Normally offenses use the running game to set up the pass, however with the lack of depth and inability to run the ball, the pass may need to set up the run. Granted, this may be the toughest run defense the Dogs may face all year. The running game must figure things out in order to relieve some of the pressure for Virgil and these young receivers and most importantly giving much needed rest to the defense.
The offensive line was another source of questions heading into the season but managed to hold together very nicely throughout the game picking up blitz after blitz. The lack of depth on the line is still a concern for the rest of the season but if the line is able to stay healthy it should be ok.
The defense held up well considering the struggles the offense had to move the ball. The ability of the offense being able to move the ball will go a long way to the success of this defense. It held up well through three quarters bending but not breaking keeping the Bulldogs in the game but ultimately ran out of steam in the end. We weren’t able to get a true gauge on the ability to defend the pass as Nebraska was intent on running the ball.
For the most part this team has improved across the board and will only get better as some of the injured players get healthy especially at the running back position. The final question is, can this Bulldog team keep fighting until all the pieces fall into place.