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1- UCLA came to this game expecting a dance, Nebraska turned it into a back ally fight. That was the best and most accurate line I read on Facebook all night. Nebraska is known for being a tough, physical football program that will punch you right in the mouth. The Huskers showed the Bruins a little bit of that ??Husker power on Saturday night.
Nebraska ran the ball 62 times for a season high 326 yards and an average of 5.3 yards per carry. That's exactly how this team wins football games. There will come a day under Mike Riley and his offense that this could change, but with the players the Huskers currently have, running the football is not only what Nebraska football is known for, but it's what our players do best.
It's hard to fathom when you run the ball 76% of the time, but there were still times I felt like we passed when we shouldn't have. However, when you're playing an undersized UCLA defense that gives up an average of 188 yards a game rushing (88th in the nation) and our offensive line is playing with a nasty streak that I haven't seen all season, I personally couldn't get enough of the I-formation power and option plays.
2- I'm happy for Tommy Armstrong. That's what I love about this kid. He's a fighter, he's a warrior and he has a ton of heart. I'll say it again; I can go to war with someone like that. He has plenty of work to do this off season, but for right now, he has more than enough talent and so many intangibles you just can't teach. Danny Langsdord finally called a game for four full quarters that played into Tommy's skill set and what he does well. Like I said last week, with Armstrong as our quarterback the Huskers need to consistently run the ball at least 60% of the time.
Let's not get too carried away. Nebraska dominated a poor UCLA rush defense and Tommy wasn't asked to do as much in this game. But when asked to, Armstrong repeatedly made plays in clutch situations and earned Offensive Player of the Game honors. Let's also not forget that the guy who's going to be battling a freshman for his job come spring practice (and I hope they push each other every day), is second all time in Nebraska history with 7,998 yards of total offense and just had only the 3rd 3,000 yard passing season in Husker history.
3- Will somebody please let Nate Gerry play tackle football. For the second game in a row he was ejected from the game for wait for it...tackling somebody too hard. You can debate the targeting call in the Iowa game if you want. But this was ridiculous! He didn't hit him in the head and he got his helmet across his body, so he didn't strike him with his own head either. It was a great form tackle. The only logical conclusion is, he hit him too hard.
The rule is an absolute joke. There's no clear definition of the rule and just when you think you understand it, apparently that's not right either. I didn't like it when they first introduced the "Targeting" penalty and I dislike it even more now. It's altering the results of offensive drives and possibly changing the outcome of football games. The rule needs to be seriously re-evaluated and those officials need to lose a game, just like the one they took away from Nate Gerry.
The biggest reason I can't stand it, is this is football. This isn't a contact sport, it's a collision sport. Player safety is one thing, but utter BS is another thing. Everyone knows when they strap on those pads they're going to have a great time and there's a possibility you will get hurt. That's part of the game. Stop changing the game. This sport is unique and special, don't take that away. If you want to decrease your chances of getting hurt then play another sport with a lower risk of injury. I'm all for making the game as safe as possible, but it's getting to the point where it's not even tackle football anymore. #FreeNateGerry
4- The Blackshirts had the toughest challenge in my opinion, going against a Bruins team that was among the best in the Pac-12 in explosive plays. The defense struggled early on to pressure the quarterback and gave up some big plays and a quick 21 points. The Blackshirts took away the run game, had a bend but don't break type mentality and with some adjustments were able to slow down the UCLA offense. In fact, by the end of the 3rd quarter the defense had held the Bruins to only 8 total first downs, while the Huskers had 27. In the 3rd quarter alone the Blackshirts held UCLA to -5 yards rushing and 1 total yard, while Nebraska had 151 rushing yards and 208 total yards.
With the defense slowing down the Bruins' offense and showing up when it mattered the most, that allowed the Huskers to score 30 unanswered points and overcome their 14 point deficit. That's the the biggest comeback in Nebraska bowl history. They've struggled at times to close games out this year, but I'm proud of this team for coming together and finding a way to win amidst adversity.
??Maliek Collins has declared for the NFL draft. I wish him the best of luck in his future career. I know ??Vincent Valentine is still deciding on whether to return to school or go pro. My only advice would be, to take your time and make sure you're completely comfortable with your decision.
5- Here are some random thoughts I have about Saturday night:
I loved how the uniforms looked. Especially the players who wore red with their socks.
With Nebraska getting the big bowl game win and the ??Redskins winning the Division Championship on the same night, it was a pretty good evening in the Carriker house.
I've never been one to say I told you so. But if you read my Carriker Chronicles last week, I said the Huskers would win and that they'd have to run the ball and be physical. A lot of people gave me a hard time about it but, I told ya so.
It's none of my business, but I'm pretty sure ??Mike Riley and the entire coaching staff earned their bowl bonuses back.
The last ??Carriker Chronicles of the season will be one week from tonight. I'll take a look back at the season as a whole and give some general and more specific thoughts that I have. I'll also look ahead to next year and talk about my expectations and some things that need to happen in my opinion going forward. Tune in next Sunday night at 7pm CT, right here on my Facebook page.