In this corner, you have the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Undefeated and 3-0, but struggling on offense. Their defense is the immoveable object and will stop at nothing to make an opposing offense's day miserable. In the opposite corner, the Iowa State Cyclones, also undefeated and 3-0. Ranked #23 in the country, ISU hadn't won a game in Lincoln since 1977 and were looking to make it three out of the last four contests versus the Big Red. The ensuing bout did not disappoint.
Taylor, party of one? Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that those in attendance and the millions watching around the globe saw at least some potential being realized by Nebraska's starting signal-caller. Breaking school records for passes completed (36) and passing yards (431), Taylor was as accurate as initial reports from before he stepped on campus claimed he was throwing with a 65.5 completion percentage. Early in the game, Taylor completed seven passes in a row.
In short? The kid was money in the bank and what a game to be able to have under his belt He did it all. He made great throws under pressure. Pressure which he now appears to be getting the knack for feeling around him as the pocket forms. He showed off his mobility and one thing I really like about Zac is that when someone tries to tackle him, he secures the football and spins to gain extra yardage. A doff of the cap to #13 under center.
Speaking of football players who can do it all, since when did Cory Ross decide to become a receiver? Well, it'd been talked about that the backs would get the chance to catch the football in the MidWest Coast Offense, but nobody really expected one, even the vaunted Porkchop, to have eight catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns RECEIVING at the end of the game.
The rushing attack was minimal, but it did what it was required to do. There was just enough to allow Taylor to shred the Iowa State secondary like rice paper. Also, it's unfortunate that Dane Todd allowed a sure touchdown catch to slip through his hands, but through mistakes, we learn and through defeat, in small ways, can come victory in large ones.
Wide Receivers:When you rack up 431 yards passing, typically you have to have someone to throw to and while Cory Ross was the leading receiver, there were a few other characters in this production. Terrence Nunn showed quality and reliability with eight catches for 59 yards. A young man by the name of Nate Swift hauled in five catches for 81 yards. Grant Mulkey, who you may all now refer to as "Clutch" now (hand motions as if you were operating a 16-wheeler and sound effects optional) had 5 catches for 60 yards. Isaiah Fluellen, Mark LeFlore, Frantz Hardy, Dane Todd, J.B. Phillips and Clayton Sievers, they all got their licks in and the performance was, well, record-breaking. In the first half alone, eight different receivers caught passes. Yeah, dropped balls are for the birds, or in this case, the Cyclones (assuming you technically take the mascot into account).
Offensive Line:Still some troubling issues with this bunch. While run blocking appears to still be a rough spot, you can't throw for that many yards without at least a little help, so while the O-line still has question marks here and there, they continue to show positives. Also, one holding penalty in the first half? Not too bad, at all. I wonder, however, if some players won't be shuffled and perhaps a new starting lineup won't be seen next week. That jury is still deliberating, methinks. Defense: Defensive Line:
Adam Carriker and Jay Moore both proved solid on keeping a very talented Bret Meyer contained for most of the game but Moore comes out on top with the stats showing fantastic awareness on an interception along with sacking Meyer and his tackles for loss. Le Kevin Smith also continued his normal production, however I felt Titus Adams was slightly off against the Cyclones as he was pushed around a little more than I was used to seeing and when he came free on a blitz against Meyer, I felt he committed to one side extremely early.
I would also like to commend the defensive line for their excellent pressuring of Meyer (though that also includes the ‘backers, so don't get too sad, fellas, we're getting to you shortly). Bret Meyer is very fast and extremely talented so keeping him in check and notching six sacks isn't exactly something to shrug off. Also, I would like to state that I feel Barry Turner is a future All-American. Yet another solid game by the front four.
I could just fill this space with a paragraph that said "Corey McKeon. Corey McKeon. Corey McKeon.", but I won't as that would be somewhat unfair and boring. While Corey did play like a man possessed, being the leading tackler, putting the fear of God into Bret Meyer and generally causing havoc, Stewart Bradley may have had the hit of the game on the Cyclone quarterback as he drilled him into Tom Osborne Field.
We would be remiss to not mention the younger Ruud who was the second leading tackler on the day and contributed a tackle for loss. I also noticed Phillip Dillard and Adam Ickes getting some solid time here and there and as we all know by now, experience doesn't hurt you in terms of getting better.
Going back to Corey for a minute, there was an exchange that I feel some may have missed. On a 2nd down play, Meyer rolled out to his right which McKeon identified immediately and was about to lay another lick on him for. There was a split second where Meyer saw who was in front of him and stepped out of bounds. Corey then let Meyer know he did the smart thing and actually would have use of his extremities, Bret smiled and patted Corey's helmet and the game went on. I thought that was cool.
There was some good, there was some bad and then there was sucking it up and doing what needed to be done. First thing's first: Dan Bullocks should not be missing tackles. No defensive back should miss tackles but your defensive captain and certainly not an athlete with the talent of Dan Bullocks should be missing tackles.
However, in overtime? Dan played beautifully. Personally, I believe Dan has moments where he lets down his focus. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, he can make a silly mistake or two. This is correctable and will need to be done so this week because Jarrett Hicks and the Texas Tech receivers will capitalize on silly mistakes.
Tierre still struggles in pass coverage, but really, do you expect that much in his fourth game as a cornerback? While some may consider him one now, I do not totally. I believe the Texas Tech game may define him a little bit more in that role considering he WILL be picked on. Let's see how he responds.
Overall, the D-backs had some solid plays and they did have some blown coverages against a solid group of wide receivers. The difference between ISU and Texas Tech is that Cody Hodges is no Bret Meyer, at least in terms of mobility, so that's taken out of the equation somewhat. Mike Leach enjoys letting his quarterbacks sit back and pick apart defenses, but more on that later. It was an okay day for the secondary, but they'll need to improve because the front seven cannot do it all as good as they may be.
Now, I know a lot of folks are down on Jordan Congdon and making statements such as "He's no Kris Brown." Kris Brown wasn't Kris Brown as a true freshman and true freshmen make errors. It's going to happen as much as the sun in the sky is going to rise and set each day. Congdon will improve and he will learn as has been stated many times. He does not allow himself to remain at a level where he feels he is not playing 100% and if he is? That's fine by me.
Sam had his daily shank and a coffin corner that technically worked since it did get inside the 20 yard line (19, it counts). Still, he managed a decent day and, especially with kicking, the mental aspect of the game is crucial. When you get on a roll, you're really making things happen but when doubt gets going in your mind, that's when problems occur. Sam's a good punter and he'll get it figured out. Of that, there is no question, at least in my mind.
Much better job of catching before the return by Cortney Grixby, however, I'm not quite sure if he's the man for the job. Still, with that said, he is typically affording the Cornhuskers an extra 10 yards that the offense doesn't have to go. Terrence Nunn continues to look like the bread-winner at the position but blocking broke down a bit for him this game.
Tierre Green had a solid 45 yard return which cements his spot at the position even more (like he was going anywhere to begin with) and while I ask myself if Brandon Jackson is really the guy you want at the other spot, obviously he has performed well in practice, so he gets the benefit of the doubt and Dirty South shall rise again.
Offense: Zac Taylor (36-55, 431 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, long pass of 70 yards) Defense: Corey McKeon (10 tackles, 9 solo, 1 assisted, 4 tackles for loss for 21 yards, 2 sacks for 18 yards, one pass break up and the intimidation of Bret Meyer) Special Teams: Jordon Congdon (2-for-3 on field goals, 2 vital extra points in overtime)
Two Minute Warning:
As emotional and exciting as the last home game at Memorial Stadium was, this one, I think, blew it away. One thing that happens when you have these types of games back to back is that team chemistry, which already gelled nicely, is cemented. There is love amongst the team, the coaches, everybody. As Jay Moore put it, "We're a unit."
I love watching this team because despite the early struggles and despite the fact that they are who they are, they're fun and now, they're HAVING fun and clearly enjoying what they do. That's not a good combination for opposing teams and Nebraska, a team that people had almost written off despite being undefeated, is starting to come out of their shell. The dam may not be broken, but there are fractures.
The defense continues to ratchet up their games, but they're giving up yards. Who cares? Texas Tech can put up 700 yards against Nebraska, but if they only score 17 points, I wouldn't care. Would you, honestly? Yardage is sometimes connected to scoring but if you're settling for three points while the other is making seven, you're not going to win the ball game and I don't have to even really say that. The Blackshirts' current streak of not allowing a point all year in the first quarter will be testing against the Red Raiders, but hey, crazier things have happened.
Next up comes a game that, before the season started, many had chalked up as a definite loss. The only question poised was, "How badly is Nebraska going to lose?" Nebraska can beat Texas Tech. In fact, there is no team on the Cornhuskers' schedule that they cannot beat. 70-10 is gone and has come full circle.
Mike Leach knows how to coach and offense and I will give him all of the credit in the world for making order out of what seems like chaos, but Cody Hodges' and the Red Raiders' performance in general at Lawrence makes me wonder what could be. I wonder if they think the same thing. Maybe, maybe not.
We'll take a look at the statistical breakdowns between the teams with Statistically Speaking, of course, but for now, anyone up for triple overtime?
Questions and comments can be sent to Blankman71@cox.net