If you didn't get to hear my conversation with Damon Benning last week on SOUND BYTES, you missed D.B. playing Carnac, the all-seeing of all things. As we looked not just at the Huskers, but around the country, Benning hit it on the nose with a couple of things, USC's victory over Auburn and Selvin Young being the man down in Texas, NOT Cedric Benson. (a small note: Damon's comments will be italicized, while other comments or notations by mseylf will be in in parentheses)
"I didn't think they would pitch a shut-out, but I know that just from kind of following them, they are going to be awful hard to score on week in and week out. They are going to be a team to reckon with."
On Selvin Young
"He's tough. He's waited in the wings and playing behind a guy that has kind of split his love between two sports and has had a few problems off the field. I think Cedric made up his mind too late to play football."
"He's got a guy that is nipping on his heels that should see quite a bit of playing time."
Ok, enough with the national scene for now, what we are talking about is what everyone was talking about and that's the Huskers romp over Oklahoma State. A defensive effort that shut down some serious offense and the Huskers offense, though ugly at times still managed to move the ball.
What about those blackshirts?
"I'm kind of one of those people that thought Nebraska was capable of shutting down O.K. State, although not to that degree."
"I felt going in that O.K. State going in was a bit overrated. I looked at their schedule last year and how many quality wins they had and I believe they beat two programs that were above .500 and I just wasn't quick to anoint Josh Fields the next Drew Bledsoe. I just didn't feel that he was very good under pressure and that if Nebraska could get after him a little bit, you might see the Josh Fields that we saw a couple days ago and that was a guy that threw it up a lot and really succumbed to the blackshirt pressure."
"I talked last week about how that linebacking core was going to be pretty good. I think Barrett Ruud has made tremendous strides. It seems like he is much quicker and he's getting to the football."
"And, the guy everybody loves to hate, Pat Ricketts, he showed why Bo Pelini started him. He kind of caught a bad deal on the Rashaun Woods' touchdown. There was quite a bit of offensive pass-interference. I felt like that for the most part, he played pretty well, but Lornell McPherson will challenge him for the starting bid."
"That secondary can go 7 or 8 deep and so I think they feel pretty good about their performance."
"I think he struggles getting the ball up quickly. I also think that he's one of those guys that depending on how the early part of his game goes, it might be a microcosm of how the rest of the game is going to go. He seems to think a lot out there which is not real good if you are a kicker. You should have a short memory."
"The other thing is, if Nebraska is going to be the kind of team I think they are, going down the stretch challenging for that Big XII title, they are going to have to win some close games, meaning the kicking game will become a very integral part, so I know that's a little bit of a concern to coach Solich."
"They will have to get that squared away before it's all said and done."
(Dale Endorf has been ruled out for the year, vaulting true freshman, David Dyches clearly into the fray for the kicking duties, especially on kickoffs right now. It could segue into opportunities at field goals should Sandro continue to struggle.)
"I'm not one of those guys that believes in saving guys. If he's good enough to play, he should play. I know he (David) comes in with a lot of hoopla, but kicking is one of those things that Monday thru Friday, they stay under the radar screen relatively well, but Saturday during the game and Sunday when you read the headlines, they seem to get a lot of pub."
"It's very challenging for a young guy who is stepping into a position that seems to be in need."
"I was pleased. With the offensive line play, it's very difficult for those guys to hit on all cylinders right away. A combination of a new system, new terminology and a lot of how they look depending on how backs read holes. Also, I don't think there is any position on the field where five guys need to be in any more unison than they do up front in order to look good as whole, so overall, I would give them a B or B+ average."
"They cranked out some pretty good yards on the ground and I think they are going to be able to do it on last week's performance."
"I think that from an effort standpoint, his running style complimenting the offensive line, I would give him an A in that regard, but at least from where I was sitting, there were quite a few chances to make some big plays that I think if he had to do over again, he would do it a little bit differently."
"I think that from a balance standpoint and keeping his feet, he was a few stumbles away from having a very big day. I guess overall from a grading standpoint, I would put him in the B category. There were some opportunities missed that will show up on the film I believe that he'll look back and shake his head a little bit, but from an effort standpoint, he was every bit of an A."
Ineffectiveness in the Red Zone
"Operating in the Red Zone is very, very difficult. A lot of it hinges upon coaching and play-calling, getting your guys to execute in the way that they need to and also, it's a lot about discipline. You see a lot of different fronts when guys get their backs to the 20s. You see more blitzing, more bodies in the box and Nebraska didn't make the necessary adjustments to operate at a high efficiency in the Red Zone."
"To say the least (though), they put themselves in position to put points on the board and I think that's something they are going to have to build on."
"He is a guy that seems to do better on the move as opposed to when he has a chance to evaluate what's going on. He's a very, very good linear passer, meaning down the field. He's shown he has very good touch on the deep ball. It's that intermediate passing-game where guys seem to be open that he struggles with."
"I do think that will come with time. He's worked very hard on his mechanics. He's worked very hard on his footwork and what people will have to understand about Nebraska's passing game, especially on the edges, it's predicated on timing and if he's anticipating a guy to push up to 10 and come back 8 yards, he's throwing at that eight-yard mark."
"They did complete 50 percent of their passes. Another 5 or 6 percent I think is their offensive goal. I think Nebraska in the past has liked to operate at about the 55 or 56 percent level in terms of completions. 8 out of 16 isn't terrible, but it easily, easily could have been 12 or 13 out of 16, so I think that something they will continue to work on.
"I believe they only have about 3/4 of the playbook installed to what you will see at the end of the year, so it should get better."
QB Strategy for Utah State
"I think that if you can operate at a high efficiency level as a number one offensive unit, you get Jammal out as soon as you can. While he's in there, you take a look at the things you need to work on."
"By no means do you approach this game as a "gimee", but you do try to take a look at the places that you are trying to work on."
"When you are talking about your number two and three quarterbacks, this day and age, you do have to have a number two, even sometimes a number three guy that you can count on and win games with. The quarterback position has not been of great durability for some of these teams around the country. The more frequent you have a chance to get young guys ready, I think you have to take advantage and do so."
"Conversely, I'm not one of those guys that was sitting in my seat clamoring or chanting for Joe Dailey to come into the game and it wasn't a situation that I thought would have boded well for the young man's confidence. I think they did a good job in showing some trust and sticking with Jammal."
New Faces for this weekend
"I think (here), you obviously look for improvement. Improvement across the board, offense, defense and special teams. If the coaching staff evaluates the game as it's moving along and they feel as though their top units are improving and hitting the goals they set prior to kickoff, then you will get a chance to see some of the young guys play, but by no means will it be a deal where Nebraska hits a certain number and say ‘ok, let's take a look at these guys'."
"I feel like Nebraska has a standard, a mode operation that they would like to achieve and if they hit that, no matter what the score is, then you'll see some new faces out there."
"Nebraska is young, they are hungry and they want to build momentum. You will not see that momentum disrupted by the fact that they want to take a look at some new faces. They have a goal, they are on a mission and they will take a look at some of the younger guys once Nebraska feels like they have accomplished those goals."
"I do think that one thing you are going to have to look out for is that Nebraska will do some things that they ordinarily might not do with a higher ranked opponent. Nebraska will take a look at some things that they feel they haven't done well and want to do it in a game situation."
"While they might get off to a quick start, you might see a period of time where Nebraska might take a look at working on the passing game, working on some blitz packages that they are tinkering around with or things of that nature."
"While it has every bit of potential to get ugly, don't be surprised if early on, it doesn't go that way. Nebraska will wear Utah State down and you'll see right around the number of the point spread that's predicted (32 for NU), but early on, you just don't know what you are going to get."
"Let's not forget that this is a very young football team and we hope that they prepare them in a way they should, much like a way a veteran team would approach every game a certain way. A young team will experience peaks and valleys."
"Let's hope that this coaching staff that has these guys ready to play from a mental standpoint that will allow their physical ability to show through out there."
Final Prediction: NU 51 - Utah State 10