Nebraska piled up over 600 yards today as it pummeled the McNeese State cowboys. In a game that fits the phrase, "it was worse than the score made it appear", Nebraska ran all over and passed all around the Cowboys as Nebraska tried to gain some confidence back after it's last two games. And, in a game where Jammal Lord needed to do something to prove to everyone and himself that he could get the job done, he set the single game total offense record in Husker history. Is Lord back to being what he was or better than he's ever been?
Only time will tell.
As seems to be the theme lately with Husker football games, this was an opportunity to answer some questions. Could the offensive line improve, could Lord get his confidence back, could the running backs catch fire and could the defense stop the pass.
Just by the stats, you would have to give the O line a passing grade. 444 yards on the ground speaks for itself. The leading rusher for Nebraska was Jammal Lord, rushing for a whopping 218 yards on 17 rushes. Much of those yards were in improvisation, but it was clear that the offensive line was better, the opponent not withstanding.
As for Lord getting his confidence back, throwing over 60 percent on the day and setting a single game mark for total offense in the history of Husker football should do the trick. Lord still had a few bad reads, threw into coverage a couple of times and gave up the pic, but overall, his game was miles beyond what it was last week against Iowa State.
The running backs did well, but the highlight was true freshman David Horne as he averaged almost 7 yards a carry during the game, showing a whole lot of why he was as touted as he was coming from Omaha Central. Horne showed extremely good speed to the corners, the ability to hit creases and his patience behind his blockers was excellent if not refreshing. Horne's debut could have been a bust if he hadn't gotten the carries, but he did and did the most with them. As Horne's confidence improved throughout the game, so did his burst as he was playing much less tentative as the game went a long. What Horne did today was what no running back for the Huskers has done thus far, giving the NU ground attack a spark.
As for the defense against the pass, Nebraska was both good and bad. Efficiency-wise, Nebraska did very well against McNeese, holding the Cowboys under 50 percent on the day. The bad is what NU did against the pass between the 20s. McNeese had several plays that netted decent yardage, but against the Blackshirt's defense in RedZone the battle favored the Huskers overall. The problem is, McNeese State is a team that lives on the run. It has all year. You don't want to take too much from the Cowboys or even from the Huskers defense, but against quality conference opponents with markedly better quarterbacks, would today's performance have resulted in just 14 points? Probably not, but for the sake of looking too far beyond, if you look at it in the sense of good or bad, we'll go with a grade of "good".
I don't know about you, but some of the biggest questions I had were not just on how they did, but "how" they did. In a game that offered NU an opportunity to shell an overmatched opponent, maybe you don't look for 600 yards on offense, but you certainly have extremely high hopes. After all, it's a Division 1-AA team and an elite program like NU should put them away early and keep on piling it on.
The defense against the run was expectedly good. Though the Huskers gave up over 100 yards rushing, it wasn't until they had gotten three straight three and outs to start the game and basically made the Cowboys throw. The Cowboys' success in the throwing game made NU play the pass, thereby freeing up the running game, at least to an extent.
If you want to look at the bad of the defense (aside from the passing yards), it would have to be the one sack NU got with 12:57 left in the fourth quarter. That lack of effectiveness in putting together a pass rush continues to frustrate Husker fans and I am quite sure, Husker players themselves. Even worse news for the Huskers was the loss of Chris Kelsay who left the game with what was reported to be a Pulled Hamstring. It's not thought to be serious though, so Nebraska can only hope that he will be good to go against Mizzou.
Another big question is about Lord. Well, it's more about Stuntz than Lord. Last week, Frank Solich was upset. No, actually, he was livid. Upset with the performance of Lord, it seemed to sponsor NU possibly making a change. Throughout the entire week, NU hedged on who the starter would be, the Nebraska team actually practicing mostly with Stuntz , but Lord is named the starter. That being a mild surprise, what was the largest surprise was Stuntz coming in for mop up duty only.
I don't know about you, but after all that was said after last week's game and all the posturing since, Stuntz coming in only for mop up duty makes this whole week that was look like nothing more than a ploy to spark Lord into playing the way he is supposed to. A publicity stunt to motivate a player. The question is now, would Solich actually pull Lord if he plays badly again? Now, you just have to wonder.
It was a game NU was supposed to win and in convincing fashion. When you look at yards NU put up, you have to think that, that is just what they did. They throttled an opponent, got a lot of people in to play and hopefully, the myriad of bumps and bruies that occurred today won't be anything serious.
However, would this game beat Texas or would it beat Kansas State? Heck, will this performance beat Missouri that comes to Lincoln next week? A game like this never really answers any questions, but when you have been where NU has in recent weeks, any positive helps.
Nebraska improves to 4-2 and will host Missouri this coming weekend.
You can reach Steve Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-7360-5619