Two personal fouls on the first drive of the game, one a chop block by senior offensive guard Ricky Henry, which nullified a big gain off the right side by Roy Helu Jr. The second was by tight end Ben Cotton, who got a personal foul after the play was down, the playing being a long gain down the left side by Taylor Martinez. The drive ultimately stalled and Nebraska had to settle for a field goal. Nebraska would finish the half with 55 yards in penalties. In the midst of another solid drive in the second half. Nebraska shot themselves in the foot again, getting nailed for two straight penalties, the big one another personal foul on Ben Cotton. The Huskers finished that drive by punting. The Huskers would finish the game with 10 penalties for 123 yards.
Still in the first quarter, Martinez ran the option off the right side and classic option style sans under center and out of the I-formation. But he goes to his right, and right before he takes a Vandal facial, he executed a perfect pitch to Rex Burkhead off the right side which he took from the Husker 36 down to the Vandal 43-yard line. It was one of those pitches that seemed as much instinct as intent. It was perfectly delivered. After the game Martinez said he was looking at Burkhead, but not directly. He said he caught the sophomore in his peripheral vision.
Through the first quarter the Huskers had two opportunities to intercept the ball, the best one coming late in the first quarter as safety Dejon Gomes had an Enderle pass hit him in the hands, but Gomes couldn't pull it in. Even though the Huskers nabbed five, realistically, they could have had as many as eight picks on the day.
Linebacker Lavonte David continued to show his prowess at being around the ball, first with a big tackle for loss early on, and then getting a pass break up on a drag route off the right side. Through one quarter David had three tackles, one of those for a loss of 13 yards and a pass break up. He'd end up with seven tackles, taking his season total to a team best 20.
How about a 67-yard touchdown run by Taylor Martinez which started on the right side of the field and finished on the left side, Martinez taking it in, down at the northwest corner of the end zone. It's the longest run for a touchdown by a freshman quarterback at Nebraska.
A 58-yard run by Roy Helu Jr. down the left side where he broke a couple of tackles and bullied his way to the end zone. The hand off by Cody Green had just came in to the game, was statue of liberty-esque. It was Cody's only play of the first half.
How about Dejon Gomes making up for the dropped interception in the first quarter with a 40-yard interception for a TD in the second? Mr Big Play's rep stays alive.
The very next possession for the Vandals, Enderle was pick-sixed yet again, this time coming from Rickey Thenarse, who read Enderle the entire way, jumping the pass and taking it back to the end zone for the score. What a great moment for a kid who missed all of last year and was in his last year for the Huskers. He's been solid so far this year, and this play was a stellar defensive play where Thenarse, the huge hitter, used great instincts and vision in reading it and closing on the ball for the pick.
Niles Paul gets a shot in the wildcat formation to open the second half, and promptly fumbles the ball, giving the Vandals first down at the Husker 15-yard line.
Martinez, trying to make something happen, as he was getting tackled for a sack , opted to throw the ball before going down, the ill-advised throw resulting in an interception, giving the Vandals first down at the Husker 12-yard line.
Another penalty, this one absolutely pointless and costly as the Huskers scored a touchdown and then didn't as a Taylor Martinez galloped 25 yards in for an apparent score. But that was wiped off the board as junior wide receiver Brandon Kinnie held on the play, wiping the points off the board. In that same drive Nebraska would endure another wide receiver holding penalty, this one coming from Niles Paul.
With the third quarter winding down Enderle threw his fourth pick of the game, but the pick was pure brilliance in a game where there was plenty of that on the defensive side. On a basic "IN" from the left side, Alfonzo Dennard perhaps the most impressive interception of the game as he was behind the receiver and diving with him, but still managed to come up with the ball, giving the Huskers the ball to open up the fourth quarter. It was one of those interceptions that to describe it, is to take away from it. It was one you had to see to believe, but seemed appropriate on a day where the defense was making big plays all day.
Nate Enderle goes out of the game having thrown five interceptions in the game, tied for a career high for him. The only other time he had that bad of a day was against Hawaii. But his replacement, Brian Reader comes in and on the fourth play of the drive, he's sacked for 13 a 13-yard loss by junior Terrence Moore. After an incomplete pass, he's sacked again, this time by senior Pierre Allen. Allen forces the fumble which Moore recovers, giving the Huskers first and goal at the Idaho two.
On the second play of the drive following the Reader fumble, sophomore Dontrayevous Robinson fumbles the ball, the Vandals recovering. Idaho managed to turn that change of possession into a touchdown as Reader, facing mostly Husker reserves, engineered a 10-play, 98-yard drive which was finished off by a very nice 19-yard pass into the end zone. In that drive you saw players like true freshman Ciante Evans, who was the one beat for the TD; redshirt freshman Andrew Green who had a stop in the drive and Courtney Osborne who had solid coverage on one of the pass attempts by Reader.
Summing up the Good
What can you say about Taylor Martinez' ability to run? He tops last week's total, going for 155-yards in this game, and he even had one scoring TD called back by a penalty. And he continues to amaze with his ability to sell that handoff and get to full speed in about a second.
And I will say this right now, I'll take Roy Helu Jr. over any running back in this conference. Yes, even Demarco Murray. What he showed in regard to being both physical and agile, especially with some of his ankle-breaking cuts, he's too big to be this nimble as well as having the ability to move an entire pile of defenders. I know he's had more yards in some games, and I know he's faced much better defenses. But this kid ran as tough as I have ever seen him run. I thought he was absolutely at his best. Burkhead was tough, too, and he made some great plays when it came to moving defenders. But Helu was something else.
Jeremiah Sirles continues to be simply solid. He's already looking like he's heading for a heck of a career.
Five different members of the secondary all with picks, and against an NFL caliber QB. But if Enderle has a couple of obvious flaws, one is that he didn't look off a receiver the entire game and he needs to learn what a pump fake is. It made him easy pickings for a team which plays almost completely man coverage.
Imagine how good Lavonte David is going to be when you knows this system up and down. Yeah, it's scary, isn't it?
Summing up the bad
10 penalties for 123 yards, and two by tight end Ben Cotton.
Eight fumbles, three lost and one interception
I know there is always a lot of hollering about Ricky Henry, but he had the one chop block and then a holding. For a guy who plays to the whistle every single play (how many players can say that…honestly?), I'll take that. Lord knows Ricky couldn't hold a candle to Larry Asante last year when it came to the 15-yard flags. But the tight end? Seriously. Rickey Thenarse' was an aggression penalty. He got the players' facemask and didn't let go. But for all the publicity personal fouls get, the fouls which hurt the most are those that take points off the board or hurt you toward the end of a game. Kinnie's holding took a Martinez touchdown off the board, and it was a hold. Anyone in the stadium saw that.
The thing is with these deals, you have to figure out in your own mind what's enough or too much. You know darn well that with a Pelini defense you will never be completely clean. He simply asks these guys to play to the edge too much for Nebraska to get out of a game without getting some yellow flags thrown their way. Again, that's fine here and there. But when you start taking points off the board, and against better teams than Idaho, people will look at them in a whole new light.
As for the turnovers, I asked Helu after the game if it felt somewhat similar to how it did against Iowa State last year when they turned the ball over eight times. He said it did. But they got the win out of this. I remember the very next practice where guys were doing almost nothing but fumble recovery drills, stripping drills, etc. This wasn't as bad as Iowa State. But if you are making these kinds of mistakes against those kinds of teams, you need to shore that up before you get into the meat of the schedule.
Focus, focus, focus. I know I am not the only one who thought Nebraska basically went into sleep mode most of the second half. While there were some seemingly into the game the entire time, some others were just out there and not playing like they did in the first half. Shawn Watson said after the game that they were sloppy. Yep, they definitely were. Was it focus or Idaho? Well, you better hope it's focus, which I think it is. The Huskers were in control of this game from the outset. I am sure they will be more zoned in against Washington. Or at least, they better be.