Shooting Point Blank

Wow. In one of the most emotional games to take place in Memorial Stadium in quite some time, the Nebraska Cornhuskers pulled out a victory and are 3-0 heading into a much needed bye week. Though the game was low-scoring, it was not lacking in suspense, emotion and overall, the Cornhuskers came through the game with a win and perhaps more team unity than has been seen at Nebraska in years.

It was a pier six brawl.  It was a slobberknocker.  Okay, it was pretty ugly in most spots.  Nebraska once again showed signs of improvement on offense, however they continue to struggle in most areas and it seems like when an area is improved upon, another problem comes up, especially on the offensive line.  However, the defense and special teams units functioned very well leading to Nebraska's third straight victory in 2005.

Offense:

Quarterbacks:

Let this be said about Zac Taylor: You may not like his current accuracy ratings.  You may not like how he has under thrown or overthrown the ball.  However, it was said that Zac is a heady quarterback and if nothing else, he is that.  Scoring the game's only touchdown and doing so while obviously willingly sacrificing himself in the process along with turning a sure safety into a punting situation, the man clearly is not lacking in mental prowess.

Also, I would like to point out that Taylor's ability to take a sack instead if throwing a ball away as an interception has arrived and, honestly, happier about that, I could not be.  When you throw the ball to the other team, you leave the field.  When you get sacked on 2nd down, you have another shot.  A longer shot, but another shot. 

That said, Zac started out strong and ended with a 50% completion rate along with 16 positive rushing yards.  Say what you want about the guy, but he's learning.  Maybe bit by bit, but he's learning.  Also?  Kudos to Mike Stuntz for the almost-kinda-sorta 41 flashback.

Runningbacks:

I can envision this scenario in my mind where Randy Jordan calls Cory Ross into his office, gives him a smirk and says, "Now Cory, you realize that we have about 15 guys behind you on the roster who are dying for that starting spot, right?"  Welcome back, number four.  Cory Ross returned in a big way with 32 carries for 161 yards (some of that on his own, basically).  Ross also snagged 3 catches for 23 yards.  A typical day at the office for the offensive captain, no doubt.  Also, tell me what he did that garnered a 15-yard penalty.  I really would like to know.

Marlon Lucky had a situation on a reverse where he tripped and fell which would've easily netted the California native ten yards if not more.  Cody Glenn was introduced to the Nebraska faithful and simply put?  He is a stud, a beast, whatever you want to call him.  He's very good for a true freshman. 

The vaunted PS2 Sweep made its return as Tierre Green made a temporary comeback at his old position for an eight yard gain showing the nation and any recruits who might be watching that, yes, Nebraska is serious about playing their members of their roster both ways.  Overall?  Good day for the men in the backfield. 

Wide Receivers:

While many Cornhusker fans are glad that a bye week has arrived, I think that there is no person in the state of Nebraska happier about it than Wide Receivers Coach Ted Gilmore.  Thus far, his charges have shown promise, but that's about it.  The occasional catch, not even big catch, just catch, won't start a passing game.  Ted knows this and, from what I've been told, he is quite knowledgeable when it comes to the old X's and O's especially when it comes to wide receivers. 

I will say that Terrence Nunn's catch with 9:50 left in the 2nd quarter was VERY well made, however.  Frantz Hardy impresses me with his ability; however his lateral movement instead of vertical movement was not exactly what I wanted to see from him once he got the ball in his hands.  J.B. Phillips also showed some improvement with his ability to look the ball in and hey, you've got to start somewhere.

Offensive Line:

We'll entitle this chapter, "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly."  There was some fantastic blocking in the 1st, 3rd and even 4th quarter at times.  However, the offensive line's blocking improvements were overshadowed, in large part, due to multiple false start and various other offensive penalties.  I do believe such fundamentals will be taught once more during the bye week and that Offensive Line Coach Dennis Wagner might take over for Dave Kennedy's place in his players' hearts and rightfully so, at least for a while.

Defense:

Defensive Line:

Well, the boys were due for a bit of a letdown game and I believe we saw that against the Panthers.  Even though 304 yards total were given up, only 6 points were as well.  I am of the thought that yardage does matter, however, even if a team racks up 500 yards against you, if they score 6 points, typically, they will not win.  Still, I think this game gives the D-line a bit of motivation going into the bye and that could be very good once they take on Iowa State's offense.

I also think that whenever Wali Muhammad hears that his team is going to be playing Pitt, a switch goes off in his brain.  The man was an animal causing havoc all over the field and doing more damage than his three tackles (two for loss) and two sacks may indicate.  During one of those sacks, Wali actually shrugged off a double team to get to Pittsburgh Quarterback Tyler Palko.  Also, I would be remiss if I were to leave out the name of Adam Carriker who was Nebraska's second leading tackler during the game including four for loss and two sacks and let's not forget the pass breakup.

Linebackers:

While it may seem that the linebacker play took a slight dip this week, I think that's only because Nebraska didn't score 28 points due to interceptions from them.  All three starters had solid tackling days and some made plays behind the backfield.  Not a glamorous day, but a day to take pride in, nonetheless.

Defensive Backs:

Cortney Grixby proved that you don't have to be 6'2" to play cornerback sticking with Pitt's receiving corps for most of the game save for a few big plays.  Otherwise, he latched onto the Panthers' #1 and #2 men like super glue and made some fantastic plays.  Tierre Green is still learning the position, which is obvious at times, however he is making strides and, much like a fine wine, will only get better with age.

I felt that Daniel Bullocks and Blake Tiedtke played well for the most part but didn't during some very crucial points in the game.  Good tackles were made and, in Daniel's case, even one behind the line of scrimmage, but, much like the defensive line, they have some motivation to take into the bye week to only get better.  I feel that there was some poor tackling by the defensive backs especially when it came to the run game, so this could be an area that they will focus on this week.

Specials Teams:

Kicking: Fact of life: When you play true freshmen, mistakes will be made.  The first kick that Jordan Congdon missed, I felt was due to his follow through.  While the second one could have the same argument made, it was almost as if fate itself intervened and denied the young man from San Diego.  Heck, it could've banged in from the upright if it was a bit to the right.  Don't be too harsh on him, however.  It takes time to become good and even great.  Jordan will get there with time, I believe.  Also, I believe that Jake Wesch's time could be over as far as kickoffs go, at least for the time being.

Punting: Alright, first thing?  Sam Koch is money.  Sure, he might shank one during a game, but then he'll fire back with a school record to balance out his average.  8 punts, a 46 yard average, a long of 84 and 5 inside the 20 yard line (which can be attributed to the fine young men on the punt team), yeah, that's a decent punter and punting unit as well.

Punt/Kick Returns: Well, Cortney, you're a heck of a cornerback, but I believe Terrence Nunn may be starting in your place against Iowa State.  Nunn electrified the crowd with a 62 yard return that almost went the distance and simply put?  He looks far more comfortable with the position.  Don't worry though, Cortney, you still get love, just in other ways.

Blocking Unit: Introducing the newest special teams unit to make their appearance onto SPB: The Block Party.  Zach Potter and Adam Ickes (the latter of which stopping the possible game winner for Pitt) both showed that Nebraska, too, can block a kick every now and again.  Well done, gentlemen.  A steak dinner for you both.  Ickes gets seconds.

Game MVPs:

Offense: Cory Ross (32 carries for 161 yards, 3 receptions for 23 yards)

Defense: Adam Carriker (7 tackles, 4 for loss, 3 solo, one pass break up and two sacks)

Special Teams: Adam Ickes (One blocked punt that made Nebraska 3-0)

Two Minute Warning:

Nebraska's fans knew they were going to be seeing one of two Pittsburgh teams yesterday.  Either a dejected and down group of youngsters that looked at their 0-2 record and would yield to the Men of Corn or a scrappy, frustrated group of footballers with chips on their shoulders the size of a Buick.  The latter showed up. 

The group that played with, perhaps, the biggest chip was the Pitt offensive line.  While sophomore starting right tackle Mike McGlynn got a little jumpy, this group gashed the normally stout Blackshirt defensive line for LaRod Stevens and Brandon Kirkley. 

On that topic, I believe that LaRod Stevens is, in actuality, former Kansas State Runningback Darren Sproles.  You can't fool me by switching your number around, Darren.  In all seriously, Stevens and Kirkley could be just the duo that Pitt needs to get some wins this year as they are a serious one-two punch.

Some other Big XII help may have been employed as the Gary Barnett School of Kicking made its appearance during the 2nd half kickoff resulting in a Pittsburgh-recovered onside kick. 

One last note on Pitt, if you do pray, please do so for Pittsburgh Strong Safety Mike Phillips.  His leg was not looking very good at all as he was carted off the field and I have no idea what kind of internal damage was done, but if it was anything like the external looked, seeing him play next year would even be impressive.

On to Nebraska, in the fourth quarter, the Cornhuskers almost went into a shell, but they played aggressively enough at times and made first downs, so I won't quite go that far. 

The Nebraska Blackshirts seem to find a new playmaker every game.  I feel this bodes well for them as this tells me that at various points in the season, several will show up at once and yes, against Division 1-A competition.

I would also like to point out that despite the level of competition; the Nebraska defense has given up 16 points in total.  That's about five per contest for those of you playing the home game.  In fact, Nebraska has only given up one offensive touchdown through the same three games.  Will this trend hold up?  We'll have to wait and see.

One last thing before I call this edition, folks.  After the game was over, what I saw was a team gel instantly, if they could any more.  The team rushed the field and embraced, the hugged, they danced, they smiled and they had fun regardless of what those around them muttered.  They sang to the band and to that same crowd.  This team has love, it has chemistry, it has a bond and that alone can take you very, very far.

Questions and comments can be sent to Blankman71@cox.net


Big Red Report Top Stories