If you are trying to get your star quarterback back into the rhythm, the best recipe has in there somewhere, a defense that keeps the team in the game. Well, the Husker defense didn't just keep Nebraska in it, they were the most dominating force of the evening.
87 yards, 15 of it passing. That's what Kansas notched in the game.
And you might think with their season-long struggles that they might have had another offensive performance close to as futile.
Nope, not even close. No performance even near this futile.
268 yards in total offense against Iowa State two weeks ago was the lowest output for the Jayhawk offense this year.
And that secondary?
The return of junior corner Alfonzo Dennard was seen and appreciated by all, perhaps even a few in blue. Nebraska had one interception on the day, courtesy of Dennard who admitted he got beat off the line, but he made up for it quickly as he closed on a deep pass down the left sideline and ran under it for the pick.
I hadn't seen Dennard get beat off the line, and I knew Dennard had great speed and even greater confidence. I thought for a second that maybe he baited the quarterback, ala Deion Sanders when he was at Florida State making a living off tricking QBs into throwing his way.
Dennard said it might have looked like a bait, but he couldn't claim that on that one.
And his position coach said that he knew Dennard had the confidence to do something like that, but nope, not this time. "He just got beat. That kid is super confident, but on that play the wide receiver made a great move off the line and Alfonzo had to play catch up," Marvin Sanders said. "I am not saying he wouldn't do that, but not that time. But he recovered well and made a nice play. It's good to see him back on the field."
But back to the offense, I wouldn't believe anyone who told me Martinez was a hundred percent. Bo said after the game that they were calling the game to protect their freshman QB who only played one snap last week, and as a decoy in the Wildcat formation. The freshman signal-caller ran three times in the first half for 10 yards.
Yep, that's protection.
But Taylor said in the post game that he went to the coaches and said that he was good to go, felt great and he wanted to run it some more.
He would tote the ball eight times in the second half for 66 yards.
Nope, not super duper by the lofty standards we have set for the speedy California native, but it worked, and it was enough for the win.
Extra Points (No, not the football kind):
*I'm not saying this defense is what last year's was. But this secondary is as good as any I have ever seen in Lincoln. Better than Ralph and Mike Brown. Better than Washington and Grixby. Dennard and Amukamara are crazy good. But I said it at the beginning of the year, and I will say it again: Dennard is the best corner I have ever seen here. He has a combination of physical prowess, explosion and just confidence that reminds me of the great Antoine Winfield. Fierce in run support, fluid and seemingly finesse like in coverage, the kid is a super star. But because he has another pretty darn good corner on the other side, who perhaps gets more press because he's sort of a freak for his size being able to play man coverage so well, Dennard gets lost in the shadows.
I have a feeling, though, that when the All-Conference honors are handed out, he won't be anymore. I guess we'll see.
*The fact that Martinez played the whole game is obviously a good sign. But I noticed twice him limping a bit to the sideline. Nope, it wasn't nearly as pronounced as it was two weeks ago, but he was limping. And I don't know anyone who is a hundred percent who limps. Maybe that's just me.
But there just isn't denying how much this offense needs Taylor, and when he's humming this offense is great. But he hasn't hummed for a couple of weeks now. They will need him to be doing that next week when they head down to College Station to face Texas A&M.
*I know Bo is about as sentimental as a door when it comes to rivalries. Well, maybe he appreciates the Michigan/Ohio State rivalry, and I suppose since his long-time friend Bob Stoops is at Oklahoma, he doesn't mind the one between the Sooners and Huskers either. But we know he's not a very emotional guy, at least outside of the actual game. Bo gets emotional during a game. We know he'll go off on anyone within earshot if he's not liking what he sees. But I was a little put off when a reporter asked how he felt about this being the last game against Kansas, and he said he didn't care. He even went so far to sort of prod the person who asked, asking them how they felt about it.
I don't expect him to sit there and cry. We know Bo doesn't get all caught up in the fluff around the game. And yeah, I know it probably gets a little frustrating getting asked all the time how he feels about things he probably has no reason to feel anything about at all.
And Bo said himself that he hasn't been around here all that long , so he couldn't appreciate the series like everyone else who has followed this program for most of their life.
Yep, he's right. There is no reason to have any feeling toward this, because that's not his job, and he hasn't been around long enough for it to be expected.
But when you know the entire fan base might actually be a bit sentimental about it, I don't know, maybe acknowledging the longest standing series in all of college football, after your team just won the last meeting between them for who knows how long - it wouldn't kill someone to say they respect it....a little. Or at least, not to say "I don't care."
Maybe that's just me
*The turnovers are still something Martinez really needs to get a handle on, if you pardon the play on words. He had one ball pop out of his grasp earlier in the game that he pulled back out of the air himself. Then he had another which he lost. Throw in another one, this an interception which was thrown basically to the Kansas player who picked it off. Roy Helu Jr. had one himself. If there has been a sore spot for this team the entire year, this is it. You can be the best team on the field, but still lose if you can't take care of the ball. The Texas Longhorns have been a turnover machine themselves. The only game they didn't have a single turnover was against Nebraska. The Huskers put five on the ground, but recovered all but one. The dropped balls may have been the difference against Texas, but the turnover issues certainly didn't help.
*A win is a win. Haven't we said that this year a few times? Yes, we have, and since Nebraska beat Missouri and then the Tigers subsequently lost, that's exactly how it's been. All Nebraska needs to do is win. Style points don't matter. Big margins of victory are moot. If Nebraska wins next weekend in College Station, they are officially going back to Dallas.
I remember Ohio State's national championship season in 2002. Their offense was pretty bad, but they had a defense which was dominant. Before Cincinnati was good, Ohio State squeaked by them, 23-19. Wisconsin finished conference play with only two wins that season, and the Buckeyes beat them, 19-14. It took overtime to beat an Illinois team that was 1-3 in non-conference play.
But with a good defense, especially in scoring, Ohio State was just good enough to win every single game of the season and beyond.
It was never pretty. They were getting lambasted for lackluster offensive play most of the year, and some said that if it wasn't for that defense, they wouldn't even be a .500 team. But they had that defense, and went undefeated the entire year.
Nebraska can't say they are undefeated. And the shot at playing for a national title is so slim it's hardly worth thinking about. But pretty has been replaced with serviceable, efficient (at times) and good enough to get the "W."
And let's face it, the trophy looks the same no matter how you win it, whatever trophy that may be.