Sitting down to today's game, I felt the same sense of intrigue that has become a backdrop to the 2004 Nebraska Cornhuskers football season. Sure, everything was in place for a recovery following the Wreck at Tech, but I wasn't positive that it could be accomplished, at least not fully. I was, however, rather encouraged in what I saw as the boys got off the bus earlier in the day. They had a look of focus and determination, ready to vanquish the demons that surrounded them, so that was definitely heartening.
I think the breaking point for the contest was when on 4th and 2nd, Bill Callahan called a short pass to Fullback Steve Kriewald that not only gained the conversion, but a touchdown as well. I was also very encouraged by the kickoff return duties of Brandon Jackson, who has been a very pleasant surprise in a number of ways. Certainly, with five to ten pounds of muscle mass as affixed by Coach Kennedy, "Dirty South" could be a very special Cornhusker.
Offensively, I really enjoyed Coach Cal's schemes today. I was encouraged by his use of the run to set up the short passing game and, thusly, the long ball that we've missed a bit as of late. The return of Isaiah Fluellen was a treat, as I really hadn't seen much from him in past week in terms of effort. Today, however, Flu treated the sold out crowd to a fantastic catch for his first score and made me smile with his effort to get the score. The runningbacks certainly got to mug for the cameras a bit as Cory Ross and the aforementioned Jackson juked and pounded their way to tough yards and some eventual long gains in both the rushing and passing realm.
Defensively, I was a little concerned with the coverage schemes displayed by Coach Cosgrove. There were a few instances where a receiver had, quite literally, no one around him. The short passes that Texas Tech used so prevalently against Nebraska last week proved mostly fruitful for the Bears with the defense adjusting at times. I feel that this is a situation that should be addressed as the better teams that Nebraska must face in the remaining schedule should have the personnel to pull off these plays for a relatively large gain, if not a score. The good news is, I believe that the defensive breakdowns that occurred today are, indeed, fixable. This may or may not prove to be the case, but here's hoping that the ‘Shirts get in some new tweaks to the system before the trip to Manhattan.
Blankman's Record-Breaking "Atta Boy" Award goes to Joe Dailey. I could not be happier for Joe, to be completely honest and frank with you. I like Joe, a lot and I feel that he has been criticized a bit much thus far and somewhat unjustly. Today showed what Joe is capable of and that, hey, maybe all of that study paid off for the guy. I also feel that it is very important that we all take notice of this fact: Joe Dailey is now a member of the Nebraska record books. He has accomplished something that no quarterback in the 115 year history of this program has done. Dave "The Dealer" couldn't do it, nor could Vince Ferragamo. Even Turner Gill couldn't touch this one, folks. Joe Dailey is alone with the record for the most passing yards ever completed by a Nebraska quarterback. I don't care who the opponent was. I'm sure that Nebraska teams past have played teams of the level of 2004 Baylor, if not worse and STILL couldn't do it.
Joe's numbers today were, quite frankly, fantastic. He went 13-for-20 with 342 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions. Basically, his quarterback rating is higher than Hendrix on New Year's Eve (291.14, technically, if I calculated correctly.) A 65% competition percentage is definitely a step in the right direction for a budding MidWest Coast Offense quarterback, as well. The guy did a great job, folks. Don't pick on the opposition tag too long before standing up and giving Joe Dailey a very well-deserved round of applause. Great job, #12.
Blankman's Will You Ever Get Tired of Tackling? Award goes to Barrett Ruud. Barrett continues his jaunt through the Nebraska record books after passing Jerry Murtaugh's record last week. Ruud had a great nose for the ball today and really stood out as the definitive leader of the defensive unit. He had fifteen total tackles on the afternoon (six solo, nine assisted) and was credited with half of a sack. For those not attending the game, Barrett was also awarded the Brook Berringer Memorial Endowed Scholarship. The criteria met by Mr. Ruud were of the following, stated by Huskers.com, "Must be a senior scholarship football student-athlete; must be involved in community service along with high ideals, excellent character and integrity." Yeah, I think that's Barrett, don't you? A nice round of applause for the gentleman, won't you, please?
Blankman's Cattle Prod-Induced Special Teams Performance Award goes to Sandro DeAngelis. Sandro belted a field goal early on that was about as crooked as a pack of SEC officials to put Nebraska up 10-3, but that's not where his duty stopped. Sandro continually booted kickoffs near and into the endzone on multiple occasions Saturday. I must admit, I was a little confused when #22 was back for the kickoff instead of Dyches or Koch, but, the gent did his job and did it admirably. Here's to you, Sandro.
Also, on the note of special teams, I felt that punt and kick coverage is making some improvements. There are still some lanes open, but they've closed down a lot quicker than we've seen in past games this season. Brandon Rigoni continues to play like 10-year-old hankering for the last Mountain Dew in the state lines. Also, interestingly enough, Santino Panico split the punt return duties with Cory Ross. So much for that whole "giving up on the punt return game" thing that was so popular for a while, eh? Also, Cory seemed to have some difficulty handling one of the punts that came his way, dropping it to the turf before covering it up. This isn't a knock on Cory so much as it is a lesson for us all, I think. Maybe the skill of catching the ball isn't as overrated as we would've believed?
So, positives, shall we? Any time your offense can rack up 511 yards of total offense with several more all-purpose yards coming on returns, I think you can walk away from a ballgame happy. Also, when an offense can put 59 points on the board and win by a 32-point margin, I think you can walk away from a ballgame happy. When your starting quarterback quietly shreds the school's all-time passing record and doesn't throw a pick, not to mention your entire team not turning the ball over once, I think you can walk away from a ballgame happy. The point here? A lot of good things happened today. Sure, there's still work that needs to be done but I think what we saw was enough to let us just…be happy.
Next up, the Cornhuskers travel to Manhattan, Kansas to take on a feisty bunch of purple cats that have lain quite the whoopin' on the Big Red as of late. For Nebraska to have success for the first time in a few years against KSU, they're going to have to have some of the same successes they did this week. It should certainly make for an interesting ballgame. It irks me that the game isn't televised, though because honestly, I was amongst the 77,881 luckiest people in the state on Saturday. No, not necessarily because of Joe breaking the record, but because I didn't have to listen to Jim Rose.
Questions, commentary and Big XII officials' addresses can be sent toBlankman71@cox.net
===Brandon a.k.a. Blankman #71===