Nebraska's offense and defense have been under the microscope from the outset this season. Especially after two losses, both sides of the ball have been scrutinized at the point of frustration. A game like they had today against a team that just came off a nail-biting loss to Oklahoma is as they say, just what the doctor ordered.
On offense, Jammal wasn't overly good at passing, but his ability to make plays once again put NU down the field. Where he has been self-destructive at times, this time he was destructive to the other team. Slippery, agile and fast, Jammal again led the team in rushing, followed closely by David Horne who carried the ball a team-leading 20 times in only his second showing as an NU I-back.
The offense really did it's job today against a mild, but determined Missouri defense. Not ranked overly high, Nebraska had an opportunity to take it to them and that's just what NU did. This really was a "typical" Nebraska win, utilizing the pass when they wanted, but having great success on the ground, especially with the "ISO" plays, which up to this game seemed virtually non-existent. Nebraska totaled 325 yards on the day rushing the ball.
As a Husker fan, you tell me just seeing that number doesn't put a smile on your face.
Whether it was the blocking from the O-line or even the fullback (yes, I said the fullback), NU did what they needed to do to pave the way for plays to be made. Though Lord, Horne and others certainly contributed with some plays made solely on their ability, this offense won on a team effort as everyone hit their assignments for most of the game.
On defense, what can you say about the Blackshirts showing up huge and shutting down one of the hottest players in the country, Brad Smith. A young man that is used to averaging 300+ per game in total offense got a total of 157, only 34 of that on the ground.
And, let's talk about the second half. This is a time where the defense has found themselves on their heels, losing ground and not finishing plays off. Today, it was completely different. It wasn't one guy to the tackle, but three, four and sometimes more. Philip Bland, DeJuan Groce, Pat Ricketts and the list goes on and on. It was a complete defensive effort as in the second half, the only team on it's heels was the Tigers. Missouri was only able to put up apprx. 60 yards in total offense in the second half vs. almost 200 in the first.
Special teams was again, special as DeJuan Groce had an electrifying punt return for a touchdown, but Josh Davis contributed mightily as he continually put NU in great field position with his kickoff returns. Josh Brown did miss a field goal today, his first miscue of the season, but it could hardly put a dark light on what was overall another outstanding special teams performance.
Let's face it, NU did what everyone wanted them to do today. They ran the ball, they sustained drives and on defense, they all but hogtied Brad Smith. Smith was Mizzou's leading rusher, with only 34 yards on the ground.
Whether it was moving the ball or not allowing the other team to move it, Nebraska stepped up, especially in the second half. In a half where NU fans watched games slip away, both sides of the ball took the momentum squarely on their shoulders and never game Missouri another chance to get back in it.
This was a win for NU, but in a game like this, against a good northern division team, it wasn't just a win. It could very well be pivotal in bringing back at least a sense of the swagger this team enjoyed prior to the season beginning.
Take the victories over ASU, TSU, Utah State and McNeese State and each is significant, but together, they do not equal this weekend. It was only partially because of the opponent, but more because NU didn't take themselves out of the game. It didn't look good early with a turnover that resulted in a Missouri touchdown, but NU settled down and simply played football.
You can't say enough for the home field advantage that NU has. It makes them play like a completely different team. Now, with a road game against Oklahoma State coming up, let's hope that NU can take this home game attitude and style of play on the road to beat a staunch and ready Cowboy team.
Nebraska is used to winning games, but this year is so unlike many in recent past. This was more than victory over Missouri. This was more than a victory against Brad Smith. This was a victory over the deluge of critics that said they were over and done. Only time will tell how pivotal this game could end up being, but as wins go this year, this one was special.