Now, don't get me wrong. I like cartoons, and this one was on the TV guide for awhile now.
The problem is trying to figure out just what this team is going to look like, and I have to say that overall, you aren't going to learn a heck of a lot.
But there are some things.
When both sides know pretty much everything the other team is going to do, that puts the emphasis on the individuals to make plays. Some were my those we expect, but there were some pleasant surprises to be had as well.
Nope, he didn't have a great statistical day. In fact, my jaw was agape based on one play, where he gained a mere six yards. But it was how he got it which really made my jaw drop. All it was, was basically a run right up the middle, and closing in on Culberts right side Tierre Green, who had a nice angle and was coming in with a nice head of steam. Culbert proceeded to make this impossibly hard cut to his left, and then back to his right, leaving Green on his back. Green shouldn't be faulted for the play, because the cut was probably as expected by Green as it was myself. I think the kid almost juked himself out of his ankles. It doesn't show you anything in regard to long term success, and there are so many facets of the game a simple cut can't illustrate as to just how dependable he can be. But what a cut. It was the hardest cut of the game, and certainly reminiscent of anything I saw former Husker Cory Ross do.
I took a lot of time evaluating this kid throughout the game and I am proud to say that he didn't disappoint. Hell, when he actually knew where he was going, he dominated. I doubt senior nose tackle Brandon Johnson wants anymore of this kid, because even with no actual game time, he was super impressive at the point of attack. But the thing that gets me about him is how quick he is off the ball, especially in pulling situations. Now, there were some communication breakdowns, prompting Williams to run into senior offensive tackle Carl Nicks, but those weren't many, and far fewer than expected. After watching him play, all I could think that it is going to be a long road for junior guard Andy Christensen in getting his starting spot back. At this point, I don't think he can.
How about this kid? The only time he ever sees the backfield is when it's so depleted they bring him and give him reps so they don't wear out the rest of their backs. And all he does is go at it like it's the last play of his career. You can ask redshirt freshman cornerback Anthony West what it's like to tackle Lawson up high, because that's what he tried to do, and that was after Thomas had already turned up field and had a head of steam going. What's that old law in physics about for every action, there being an equal an opposite reaction? This one fit the bill as it was Lawson putting his shoulder down and West hitting the turf, back-first, like someone hit him with a car. That was consistent for Lawson the entire game. He didn't get many opportunities, but the kid poured hits guts out onto the field.
Speaking of guts on the field, I think sophomore Rickey Thenarse left some out there as well. But they weren't his. It's in cases like this when I think about the phrase "playing with abandon." I think Thenarse just became the poster child for that. I remember asking Thenarse after the game just what got into him today in how he was not only beating everyone like they owed him money, but doing it all over the field. He just smiled and said "NFL Network, baby."
I remember when Wilson first arrived. He had a career riddled with injuries, not the least of which was a broken leg back in junior college. I saw the athleticism, but it just never seemed to materialize. He didn't register on the stat-scale yesterday, but like Thenarse, he was hitting people like they just told him his mom couldn't cook. Pure aggressiveness, but controlled to the point where he was an effective player and not a liability. Wilson had a great game.
At his size, I have to admit that there was a little stereotyping going on by myself, because I knew he would be playing the three technique, and let's face it, this is a big darn kid. But he did a nice job, and while the competition wasn't always the best, Barfield didn't lessen his intensity, and showed that he can be the kind of run-stopper you expect him to be, but be just slippery enough, or as slippery as someone over 300 pounds can be, to be a nuisance in the backfield.
I know the senior defensive tackle won't want to talk about the one-on-one match up he had to endure most of the game as he took on redshirt freshman Keith Williams. But Johnson, nicknamed "The Beast" reminded me of Ola Dagunduro in so many ways. He's pretty quick for his size moving laterally, not bad at the point of attack, and like Dagunduro and the also-departed Barry Cryer, he brings an energy to the game which is sorely needed. I actually did worry that when Nebraska lost two of their most emotional leaders on that defensive line, just how they might do. I am not sure how much Johnson will play, but I was more impressed with him this year than last year, and his energy alone could help spark a unit when it sorely needs one.
Yeah, I know that the defense basically knows what the offense is going to do, but that goes out the window when you get matched up against Maurice Purify. Purify got the better end of that deal, as you would expect, but this kid can cover. He can jump, he's athletic, backpedals well, and at speed, and while Maurice got to him a few times, I have to say that for someone fresh around the gills, he did a very nice job. Oh, and that's with that God awful cue tip he had to wear on his left hand.
It gets thrown around to the point of being cliché', but it fits for this senior safety: All he does his make plays. Once again Ben led the white team in tackles, and once again, he hits people like he is hoping they don't get up. Between his athleticism and just pure heart, nobody will ever tell me how much of a drop off there will be if Ben is on the field. I love watching the kid play. He's got as much gumption as any of them and he's pretty technically sound.
Andre Jones and Maurice Purify both said that this junior wide receiver was the smartest receiver on the field. He didn't know just what the receivers were doing, but the quarterbacks, running backs, fullbacks, offensive line and tight ends as well. Oh, and he can make plays. Belying his rather modest frame, the kid is very physical, flies up for the ball and he's got a great set of hands. 105 yards receiving in the first half? Are you kidding me? He looked great on the day.
There's not much you can say about this guy that hasn't already been said. He's Nebraska 's best all-around pass-catching threat, and he's the big play guy they have needed for years. What I am continually amazed at with him is that as high as he goes up with the ball, he always seems to have an awareness of where he's at, and he's got the dexterity to keep his feet if only for a couple of extra yards.
You remember when Michael Jordan was playing against (I think) the Cleveland Cavaliers? The Cavs were normally a whipping boy for King Jordan, but on this day he was as sick as a dog to the point of actually being helped back to the bench a time or two. But once he got the ball in his hands, you thought he was as healthy as anyone else on that field. That thought came to me continually as I watched Glenn run. There were times when you could tell he was favoring that ankle, but most of the time, you couldn't tell at all. He was physical, almost slashing, but super dependable, especially in short yardage situations. Just don't ask him to talk about the goal-line dive, where he seemed headed into the end zone, only to have Rickey Thenarse wallop him for no gain. Glenn did score on the next play, running to the outside, of course.
Before Lucky went down with the injury, I watched him run and kept thinking back to Tierre Green's first year with the Huskers. He was at running back then, before he went on this tour of sorts, trying to find the right position. When Green was in the backfield, you could call the play:
With Lucky, most of his effectiveness was from a similar play, the California prep star using his speed to get to the outside and using nimble, but tough running to get a few extra yards. I'm still not sure how he physical he is compared to how physical he was as a freshman. That's an odd thing to say, because that's not the norm. He'll no doubt get a little of that back over the summer, and we can only hope that his injury was nothing which will put him out for any extended period of time.
You get close to the 80 percent mark in completions, even in a window dressing campaign like this, that's pretty darn good. And for the most part Keller struck me as someone who is entirely more confident in an actual game than he is in practice. I say that, because we have heard about how good of an arm he has, how instinctive he is and all that. But it seems that it's the crowd that really pushes him over the top. He's got an unorthodox, but deliberate and strong release. I really like how he steps into his throws, and when this kid find who he wants to throw to, he wastes no time in pumping that thing in there like a bullet. I actually was surprised at his versatility outside of the hashes, but he's still a pocket-guy, and not a bad one at that.
His completion percentage wasn't helped by a couple of drops, but Ganz showed that this QB race (at least to me) isn't as clearcut as some might assume. What I love about this kid is that on a pretty good clip moving to his side, he's still able to make reads and there's nobody on this team that can throw more accurately on the run than he can.
But tell me that one particular moment during the game, where he seemed to have daylight all the way down to the five or so yard line to run, and didn't, you didn't think of Joe Dailey. The kid can run. Let the kid run. RUN, JOE, RUN. Nebraska doesn't need another Joe who isn't allowed to do everything he's capable of doing, but THIS Joe is a considerably better thrower. I like this battle between the two and the fact that it is a close one is only going to make both better during the off season.
When Swift dropped the first ball, I was thinking that this could be a long day for one of Nebraska 's most dependable wideouts. Of course, after that, he proceeded to make some highlight reel grabs, bringing a little normalcy back to the Universe in regard to one of the most coveted aspects of his game. He's such a solid-dependable-smart and gutsy player, Nebraska needs him to be both a playmaker and one hell of a legit decoy at times.
Patrick Witt/Beau Davis
It's one of those newcomer things, but the problem is, Davis is far from a newcomer. But when you have to face the first string defense…….you're screwed.
It was all either could do to get a ball in the air, much less make any inroads down the field. Davis had problems with accuracy, which wasn't helped by the defensive line always getting a big push and other defensive linemen like Zach Potter coming around the backside to bat the ball before it even got out of his hands.
With Witt, expecting very little from a true freshman, he did an admirable job at making the most out of a pretty bad situation. He's got a great arm, as he has been well chronicled, and he tries to go through his progression. But come on, going through your progression when you half about a second to even breath, this was a wash for Witt at the very least. It was just a chance for him to get out there, see what hell is really like, so when he does actually play, he can hope it won't get any worse.
New punter anyone? What a cannon
I would like to congratulate Alex on doing something I didn't even think possible at Nebraska anymore. In fact, I seem to remember going to the official NCAA guide to the rules of the game to try and figure out just what it was. But yep, it was an actual field goal, one he made from 36 yards away.
Next thing you know they will be running the single-wing
With the new rules on the ball placement, you could reason that there weren't going to be many (if any) touchbacks. But give it to Wesch for still averaging 60 yards per kick. But give him even more props for being the guy who had to tackle Rickey Thenarse, so the savage sophomore wouldn't make it all the way back to the end zone.
You hear that Rickey? You got tackled by the kicker. I bet you heard about that one on the sideline.
What can you say about this kid other than just how much you want to see him play in a real game? Not much, really. Between blowing up the inside and throwing Major Culbert around like a rag doll, to his great lateral pursuit (when needed), the sophomore continues to show flashes of just why everyone can't wait to see this kid get 40+ reps a game. I have to agree. I can't wait either. This kid is going to be a stud.
Octavien's debut (again) amounted to him leading the red squad in tackles. And he threw in a couple of haymaker tackles to boot. But based on how he is being utilized now, coming a lot off the line rather than staggered back a bit in his usual formation last year, it's going to be a little difficult to get a full read on what he can do in an actual game situation.
And let's remember, the spring game is anything but an actual game.
There were a variety of other nice performances – Clayton Sievers tying for the team lead with two sacks – Tyler Wortman ranking second on the white team in tackles, while also forcing a fumble – and cornerback Tyler Kester making a touchdown saving pass break up in the end zone.
What does all of this mean in the end?
As I said going into this game, the only really good thing you can get out of this is everything who came in on their cleats, goes out on their cleats. Unfortunately, Marlon Lucky and Lydon Murtha, both starters, didn't manage to finish the game that way.
The only good thing is that you hope these injuries aren't serious and that they don't miss any of the summer conditioning, which is so very vital to getting everyone in shape to play.
If you are thinking to yourself that Nebraska 's offense will consistently put up 500 yards in total offense, while holding all the teams they face to less than 10, you need to stop sniffing glue. This game was a well orchestrated plan, meant to give fans something to think about and lots of good stuff to talk about over the summer. It was by no stretch and in any way any sort of barometer as to what this team will accomplish.
They still have a long ways to go.
But I have to say that I like the potential. The offensive line is good, the secondary looks to be better, and the competition between Keller and Ganz is going to make them both markedly better this fall than they would be if either was already THE man.
The worry spots are, of course, at running back, where health and experience are key. The defensive end spot is a serious dilemma which I don't know how they solve. And as to the return game, this spring game showed nothing concrete enough to say that Nebraska is going to actually better on its woeful performances from last year.
So, you don't learn a lot as a team, but you do get an idea of some individual play. And I have to say, some of it isn't all that bad.
As for the quarterback race, to me it still is one. Keller did some great things, but in a game like this, as scripted as it is, and against the world instead of the ones, this is one battle which won't end until the first game of the 2007 season.
Maybe not even then.