After the first half of play between Nebraska and
Troy State, I know you were sitting there, deciding whether to grit your teeth,
grinding them to the roots or breath a sigh of relief, thanking all that you
hold dear for Bo Pelini, Marvin Sanders, Jimmy Williams, Jeff Jamrog and those
players on the defensive side of the ball.
The offense of Nebraska was stagnant. Not a real big headline as against Southern Miss., the offense was two passes away from equal frustration for Cotton and company. Jammal Lord once again had a decent percentage passing, but that only illustrates how deceptive the numbers can be, Lord actually having an interception negated by offsetting penalties. Even in the second half, the offense wasn't good, but it's become a typical theme for NU thus far. "It was a frustrating game." head coach, Frank Solich said of the first half. "We weren't blocking on people well enough and we just weren't getting it done."
Even the special teams (field goals specifically) were not stellar, the dependable David Dyches hitting the uprights not once, but twice in a row.
And, it's not like NU had field-position as a reason for not putting drives together and putting the ball into the end zone. NU had 3 straight drives that started at closer than the Troy State 34 yard-line, the three drives culminating in an interception, a fumble and yet another fumble, respectively. In fact, out of the 15 possessions for NU, only once did Nebraska start closer to their own end-zone than the 20, only twice from the twenty and after that, over half were started in Troy State territory.
People have the absolute need to find something positive about the game that don't want to have to look solely at the defense to do so, the second half wasn't completely different, but compared to the first half, it was close to a reversal of fortune. "It seemed like it was almost two different halves for us." Solich stated. "Hopefully, we can get to where we are putting 4 quarters together."
On the day, Nebraska had 186 yards rushing on 46 attempts and was 9-15 passing for 160 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. And, just to put the passing yards in perspective, 77 of those yards came on one play, that a pass from Lord to Herian, Herian making it to the Troy State 1 yard-line. The lone touchdown pass came from Joe Dailey, Dailey connecting from 21 yards with Matt Herian for the score.
And how about that defense? I said, HOW ABOUT THAT DEFENSE?!?!
Ok, it was against Troy State, but the Nebraska defense did it again, dominating the Trojan offense, throwing a shutout, NU's first since holding Baylor scores in the 2000 season.
The story of the game on defense wasn't really a story at all or at least, nothing so different than what Husker fans have gotten used to hearing this year. Demorrio Williams is a mutant, Barrett Ruud joining Williams amongst the top two tacklers on the day and Fabian Washington with a pick. Yep, that sounds about right.
The Nebraska defense held the Trojans' offense to just 150 yards on the day, 66 of that coming by way of the run, 84 coming through the air. The Blackshirts forced 2 fumbles, Nebraska also sacking the Trojans 6 times for a total of 42 yards.
If that wasn't enough, Troy State never managed drives of over 6 plays, held onto the ball for more than 4 minutes only once and their longest drive on the day was 24 total yards.
And, after all the numbers have been counted, tallied and compiled, Nebraska will have lowered it's nation-leading defensive average of 235.75 yards per game allowed to a paltry 218.6 yards per contest.
All in all, a typical Blackshirt showing. "I'm excited about how we played today." Defensive Coordinator, Bo Pelini said. "They (Troy State's offense) didn't look very good today and I thought that was a credit to our guys."
Missing from the game on the interior line was Ryon Bingham, the second-year starter suffering from a ligament strain, Patrick Kabongo taking his place. The Montreal-mountain was fifth on the team in total tackles against the Trojans, recording 1 pass break-up and a tackle for loss. "He did a heck of a job today." Pelini said. "He played his butt off." Daniel Bullocks also played, filling in for Philip Bland, actually ranking 3rd on the team in tackles while totaling 2 tackles for losses.
The shutout that NU pitched was again, the first since Oct. of 2000 and Bo Pelini remarked on the first goose-egg thrown up by the Blackshirts in almost 3 full years. "It's special." Pelini said of pitching a shutout. "They don't come along very often."
The shutout may mark the first obvious indication that the defense is getting better, but the statistics haven't lied throughout the entire year. What the biggest question has been most of the way eludes to the competition, that competition about to get markedly better as Nebraska hits conference play. "We still have a long ways go to." Pelini stated. "We have a lot of good offenses come up and a lot of good teams to play."
"Our work is going to be cut out for us."
That works starts next week as Nebraska travels down to Missouri to play the Tigers, Mizzou coming off a disappointing loss to Kansas. The loss notwithstanding, the game down in Missouri has been a traditionally physical one, the game of the infamous "catch" where Frost threw a ball meant for Shevin Wiggins that was kicked in the air and caught by Matt Davidson, to send the Huskers onto what would become their 3rd national title in four years.
Coach Frank Solich said of starters not in this game (Philip Bland, Jake Anderson, Ryon Bingham) that it is "hoped" that all will be available for the contest against UM.
Greg Austin opted out of his redshirt today, playing at guard behind Brandon Koch, this to help the depth behind Koch in Anderson's absence.
Matt Herian's 110 receiving yards is a career high and his total, the best by an NU tight end since Tracey Wistrom 116 yards receiving against Oklahoma State in 1999.
Kyle Larson tied his career mark of longest single punt, booming one 71 yards against Troy State. His last 71 yarder came against Utah State last year.
Steve Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or 402-730-5619