A Work in Progress
Taylor Martinez had another stellar day on offense, but he couldn't avoid some rather familiar miscues early on:
On third down of the first offensive series, Taylor Martinez was looking downfield, didn't see anything and booted to his right. He stumbled and was falling to the ground and Martinez tried throwing the ball to nobody in particular. It's one of those plays that may be a byproduct of youth, but it's an absolutely dreadful play with no real purpose, and could have easily been a turnover deep in Husker territory.
On third down Martinez scrambled off to his right, cut back inside and when he got in a crowd, a turnover was forced by Oklahoma State. That gave Oklahoma State first down at the Nebraska 14-yard line.
Senior cornerback Prince Amukamara came in heralded as one of if not the best cornerbacks in the country. That probably took a hit as sophomore wide receiver Justin Blackmon had his way with the All-Conference corner, beating him one time for a 36-yard grab in the first quarter. Then Blackmon beat Amukamara to the point that the Husker DB grabbed his right arm, drawing the pass interference and giving OSU a first down at the Nebraska 39-yard line. Then, still in the first half, OSU quarterback Weeden just tossed up a floater deep down the field for Blackmon with Amukamara covering, and the Husker DB never caught up with him off the line and was beat 80 yards for the go ahead touchdown. Blackmon scored one of his two touchdowns against Amukamara, and he finished the game with 156 yards receiving, 129 of that coming in the first half. What is odd about this contest is that Oklahoma State went at Amukamara almost exclusively, while junior corner Alfonzo Dennard was relatively invisible as they went at him specifically, maybe three times in the entire game. On the stats, the first and only recorded pass toward him where he was in coverage, came at the midway point of the third quarter when OSU QB Brandon Weeden threw it to his side. It fell incomplete.
A Jekyl & Hyde D
In the first half the Oklahoma State offense piled on the yards and the points. The Husker defense came into this contest giving up under 120 yards passing per game. They allowed over 200 to the Cowboys in the first half. The "Blackshirts" were giving up just over 274 yards in total offense per game, and OSU went into halftime with 343 yards. That total is also better than any single-game performance the Husker defense has allowed this year, Kansas State recording the most total yards against the Huskers two weeks ago when they notched 315 yards. The defense looked entirely different in the second half, allowing just 152 yards in total offense. The Huskers also gave up just one scoring drive in the second half, a 25-yard pass to receiver Justin Blackmon, safety Eric Hagg on the coverage.
No Rushing Touchdowns
The Huskers don't win when they don't rush for a touchdown. Well, until now. Not only is it an almost impossible thought in regard to this team scoring 51 points without a rushing TD, they usually don't even win when there isn't at least one score on the ground. Against Texas this year was the first time this season they hadn't ran for a touchdown. They lost. Four times last year they didn't have a rushing touchdown in a game. In all four contests, they lost. You have to go back to the Gator Bowl against Clemson as the last time they didn't have a rushing touchdown and won. And you have to go back to Baylor in 2005 where they didn't have a rushing TD against a conference opponent and still came out with the victory. The most points Nebraska has scored in a game prior to this without a rushing touchdown was 35 points in a win over Wake Forest in 2005.
How about those Hands?
Yes, we saw some drops – Senior tight end Michael McNeill dropped one on third and four as the Huskers were clinging to a 21-20 to lead. Then Niles Paul dropped one on the second play of a drive in the second quarter as the Cowboys had pushed ahead of the Huskers, 27-24.
But it was pretty good after that.
On one ball early in the game, Paul had to actually turn back into the sunlight to catch a ball. If you remember, his big drop of what would have been a touchdown catch against Texas, came as he was staring directly into the sun. He dropped that one. Not this one. Then you have Michael McNeill who made a great over-the-shoulder grab on second down and 20, the play ultimately going for 33 yards and a score. Then there was Brandon Kinnie, who caught three balls for three touchdowns. Nice average, eh? But back to Paul, he made a spectacular catch where he turned back around and had to dive to the ground to catch a ball, that you would have had to assume last week he wouldn't have touched much less caught as he did this time around. And when you are dependable, your quarterback will find you as Martinez did, nine times in total, a personal record for a single game for Paul. And he totaled 131 yards.