You don't judge how a team acts when things are going well, rather you judge them by how they address adversity. Nebraska did that and then some as a defense embarrassed by Missouri in the fourth quarter last week came back with four quarters of "take away", taking out the Aggies, propelling Nebraska to a 6-1 record.
After a quarter that saw Nebraska give up an incredible 27 points to Missouri, NU eventually losing the game, the offense for the Big Red wasn't the one taking the heat come Sunday. Well, not all of it for once.
NU's defense was caught off-guard and put on their heels as misdirection and Brad Smith took it to the Blackshirts, taking away a victory.
Nebraska answered today.
Causing a record 8 turnovers, the Huskers shook starting QB, Reggie McNeal to the point where he was pulled, McNeal accounting for 5 turnovers of his own, 3 via the pass.
Turnovers really were the story for the day as the blackshirts shared the wealth. Barrett Ruud caused a fumble, but his biggest play might have been the interception of McNeal that he took into the end zone during the first quarter. Not to be outdone, Josh Bullocks grabbed his NCAA-leading, 8th interception, again off of Reggie McNeal. Josh's brother, Daniel added a forced fumble of his own, recovering that fumble for the Husker defense. Fabian Washington got an interception as well, LeKevin smith picked up yet another forced fumble and (take breath) Lornell McPherson intercepted a tipped ball from, yep, you guessed it, Reggie McNeal.
Is that all of them? I lost count. Yeah, you get the theme of this game.
While the offense was mostly frustrated for the Aggies, the Husker offense was opportunistic, almost exclusively on the ground. While Jammal Lord had an exceptionally well-rounded 3 quarters against Missouri, his game against the Aggies was reminiscent of what he's done most of the year, the passing game relatively absent, but his running typically good. On the day, Lord was 2 of 7 for 22 yards, but rushed the ball 15 times for 109 yards and 2 touchdowns. For the game, the Huskers got 320 yards rushing the ball.
Records, records, records
In the game, Nebraska managed to either tie or break a few records, team and individual.
Team-wise, the 8 turnovers ties a record mark set by the Nebraska defense, a mark set several times, most recently against Kansas State in 1979.
From an individual standpoint, Barrett Ruud passed his dad, Tom Ruud for 23rd all-time in career tackles for Nebraska.
Josh Bullocks tied the season record for most interceptions in a season by a Husker cornerback, set by Larry Wachholtz in 1966; Dana Stephenson in 1969 Bill Kosch in 1970.
How good is Kyle Larson?
Can you answer that question? If this guy isn't one of if not the best punter in the nation, I would like to see who is. Averaging almost 50 yards a punt against the Aggies, the actual value of Larsen isn't even close to understood. What his percentage is in putting the other team down deep in their own territory, Larsen doing that with scary consistency. 5 of Larson's punts were fielded at the 11 yard line for the Aggies or less, one of them going out on it's own at the 3 yard line of Texas A&M.
When special teams are so valuable, there has been no more valuable special teams' player than Larson.
What Nebraska did today was what it needed and that was simply to answer the call from a heartbreaking loss against the Tigers.
After folding so fast in just one quarter of play, both sides of the ball were seriously in question coming into this contest. At least from Pelini's side of it, those questions don't exist anymore as the Blackshirts proved they are back for the second time of the year.
The offense did what they are good at doing, running the ball at the Aggies ad nauseam. The passing game was relatively ineffective except for the beautifully placed pass from Dailey to Isaiah Fluellen in the fourth quarter.
In fact, I have to question the use of the true freshman, Dailey in this game, well, as with any other as well up to this point. I mean, it's good that he got in the game, great that they actually let him pass, but when you are a true freshman that needs to learn all aspects of the game, does one pass and 4 rushes really do that? What's up with a 4th and 8, Nebraska going for it when they have little chance of making it and calling a running play and then, 4th and 1 when all they need to do is just hand it off to someone to push it through the middle, the coaches decide to punt?
If you want this kid to succeed, at least call the game in a way that he can or why put him out there? Either that or don't bring him in a mop-up situation where you have to be conservative so you don't throw too many more points on the board.
Either way, Nebraska answered the critics, possibly answered themselves and put NU back on track as they go into the Iowa State game 6-1 on the year, the Nebraska defense leading the way.
Steve Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or 402-730-5619