Shooting Point Blank: In Our Defense

Settling in for the annual Nebraska-Kansas tilt, I wasn't sure what to expect. Nebraska's recent struggles offensively and Kansas' overall defensive improvement over the past few years made me wonder if perhaps there was a chance for this to be the year Kansas snaps a Nebraska win streak that ranges in the 30s. Overall, I was treated to a defensive spectacle with signs that, indeed, the offense has a long ways to go.

Watching the game, one thing became clear: the offense chosen by new Nebraska head coach Bill Callahan could, indeed, work. There were flashes of it even against Kansas during a game in which very little went right offensively. There was one problem that seemed to hinder the offense to a point of stalling, that being at quarterback. Now, honestly, I love Joe Dailey. He's a bright kid who studies hard and takes his job seriously. That's the sort of attitude I can get behind. However, his lack of judgment on the field and some downright silly mistakes have hindered the offense from even getting going and I don't feel he's the man for the job at this point.

Nebraska doesn't have much to work with as far as depth at the position goes. Ryan Goodman is obviously a tough lad, but he's a freshman recruited for the wrestling mat, not the quarterback position. Beau Davis is touted as having a tight spiral and crisp throws, but one would be remiss not to look at his physical stature and wonder just how much of a pounding Beau could take before being injured, possibly seriously. Mike Stuntz just can't even seem to get the center-quarterback exchange down and that stops any thought of putting him in at the West Coast Offense's most powerful position.

I would have to say that I think Beau Davis would be a go-to guy at this stage. Perhaps it's time for an ultimatum for Joe? Give him one game to turn things around. At that point, you start looking at your other options and who can give you the best chance to not only win, but run the offense well, injuries be damned. Like I said, I like Joe, but football is a very honest sport and if you cannot cut the mustard after four games at a very crucial spot that makes the whole thing go? You simply need to sit and let others take the reigns that can do so if they are available.

Now, defensively, I thought Nebraska played a fantastic game. They gave up six points and the secondary play was outright fantastic a good chunk of the time, so a tip of the cap goes to Coach Elmo for that. I was a bit concerned by the lack of pressure from the front four, but was very impressed by the work of the linebackers, specifically Barrett Ruud and Stewart Bradley. Overall, the defense had a good game and I can even go as far as to say they won this contest almost single-handedly.

Blankman's Offensive Workhorse Award goes to Cory Ross. Cory continues to show that he is the man when it comes to offensive production with 19 carries for 109 yards. Cory's lone touchdown came on a play in which he showcased a little razzle-dazzle and juked a few Jayhawks into oblivion. As the offensive line continues to work together and hopefully gel, Cory's abilities will continue to be showcased. I think he's clearly more of a runningback than many, including myself, gave him credit for.

Blankman's Jewel-Encrusted Blackshirts Award goes to Barrett Ruud. Ruud sits just a few tackles away from Murtaugh's record and simply had a banner night against the Jayhawks with 15 total tackles. I also must make mention of a simply devastating hit that prevented a fourth down conversion on a fake punt. Seriously, folks, Barrett hit the guy so hard, Benard Thomas' fillings must've rattled during the impact. While Barrett may not be the fastest linebacker that Nebraska has ever had, he's a proven commodity and can do his job in the middle well.

Blankman's Simply Special Teams Award goes to Brandon "The Missle" Rigoni. I know, it's rather cliché to say that a kid plays beyond his size, but if you looked up the phrase in an encyclopedia, Brandon's picture would have to be beside the text. During a return, Mr. Rigoni was obviously blocked in the back, then sprung up and made the tackle anyway. His determination, heart and ability make him a shining star on special teams and believe me, it's been said before, but that young man can play on my team any day of the week.

There honestly weren't a whole lot of positives to go around in this one, folks. A lot of could've and should'ves, no doubt, but nothing that could really be said on the field aside from the defensive performance. Also, I'd like to make mention that while the crowd at Memorial Stadium can really turn it up when the situation warrants, a number of the individuals attending a ballgame simply do not know how to act at one. If we want Lincoln, Nebraska to return to a feared place to play, it is this writer's humble opinion, that it needs to start with those putting their butts in the seats. Stand up, make some noise consistently over the course of the game and just be rowdy. Believe me, it'll be great in the end.

Next up are the Red Raiders of Texas Tech. This team proves a very stiff test for the ‘Huskers, especially in their currently depleted offensive state. Nebraska might be able to hang with the Red Raiders when the match-up features the Blackshirts, but NU is going to have to be able to score some points against Mike Leach's charges, or else we can surely tilt the record to 3-2 in a hurry. It's winnable, but improvement needs to be shown pronto.

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