Senior offensive lineman Matt Slauson said it after the game, but plenty of other people were saying it while the game was going on: If it could go wrong, it did.
Coach Barney Cotton said|
after the game that to make as many mistakes
as his group made and for the team to still win,
What else can you say about an offensive line which couldn't pass protect - senior quarterback Joe Ganz getting sacked for the first, second and third time this season. They couldn't keep still on the line getting one procedure call after another, which became somewhat ridiculous at one point as sophomore wideout Niles Paul and sophomore tight end Michael McNeil "helped" sophomore guard Keith Williams put together a string of three false starts in a row.
If it wasn't that, it was holding. If it wasn't that, it was something else.
It got so bad that it went passed the point where you could look at one aspect of the game and say that they need to work on that a little more. It was every aspect you could imagine, but as bad as it was they still came out with the win.
Slauson also said after the game that the football Gods may have been against them, but I'd say they were smiling on them as well. Not many lines could play that badly and still come out on top.
From the goat to the hero
The defensive line got a whole lot of the blame last year as Nebraska plummeted to the depths of being one of the worst defenses in the country and certainly the worst in Husker history.
The defensive line got the blame, but I would say it fit.
They should get just as much credit for this game, because if you take away spurts in the return game this was the most solid unit in the game, overall.
Junior nose tackle Ndamukong Suh and senior defensive tackle Ty Steinkuhler are becoming a formidable pair. There's little doubt Steinkuhler would like to have a missed tackle in the first half back which should have been a loss, but ended in being a moderate gain. But if they were asked to be a basic disruption up field and across the face of the line, they did that.
Props to sophomore defensive end Pierre Allen Jr. who led the team in tackles for the game with 10. The bad news here is that while his performance was stellar as he went in while senior defensive end Barry Turner was out, Turner is now out for the year with a fractured leg. Turner fractured his leg as a result of junior safety Larry Asante rolling up the back of Turner's leg after Asante missed a tackle on a ball-carrier. His momentum from that took him up the back of Turner's leg, ending Turner's season.
Due to NCAA guidelines on the criteria for a medical redshirt, because Turner won't have competed in over 20 percent of the season, it does look good that he could get another year.
Senior defensive end Zach Potter also deserves some kudos as he not only assisted junior linebacker Phillip Dillard with a sack, but got an interception, one of two by defensive linemen, the other a momentum builder for the Husker defense as Suh ran one all the way back (49 yards) for a touchdown. Potter didn't get his all the way back, but he was no more than a few feet from the QB when the ball was released, so catching it at all was impressive indeed.
…and the whiff
Anthony West (bottom left) misses a tackle
on SJSU WR David Richmond
For the second week in a row Asante didn't have a good week in that area, especially in the first half.
Honestly, outside of the defensive line, and sometimes even they had some rough spots, the first half wasn't good for anyone.
Junior Major Culbert made it back to the field and missed a few of his own, as did sophomore cornerbacks Anthony West and Eric Hagg. I honestly couldn't tell you who I didn't see miss one outside of sophomore cornerback Prince Amukamara.
This has to make you think about last year's woes in this same area, and while you have to give some San Jose State players credit for doing what they could to break tackles (running back Yonus Davis was a tenacious runner), Nebraska better find a big old band-aid for this problem and quickly.
Maybe some stitches.
If there was any question about who the starting running back should be after last week, sophomore running back Roy Helu Jr. answered them, emphatically…again.
Averaging 6.6 yards per carry, Helu scampered, bolted and bulled his way to 59 yards, 14 of which came down the left side as Helu used agility and explosiveness to the end zone, pushing Nebraska's fourth-quarter lead from 28-12 to 35 after the extra point from sophomore kicker Alex Henery.
While Marlon Lucky got a touchdown during the course of the game, he did almost all his damage on the perimeter…again, but the difference in this game versus most any other in which he's played, he wasn't amongst the top receivers for the Huskers in the game. He didn't have a reception at all.
I don't mean to exaggerate what Lucky didn't do, because I still believe he is Nebraska's best pass-catching threat out of the backfield. But Helu wasn't just the top runner coming out of the backfield against San Jose State. He was their top receiver out of the backfield as well, averaging 16 yards per catch on his two receptions for the game.
Helu gives you everything from outside to inside, physical and finesse, and he's got an explosion Lucky simply can't match.
Maybe when it's all said and done, if Helu finishes with more touches, than it might not matter who lines up behind the quarterback for the first play of the game.
But there's no doubt in my mind, though,
that Helu's earned it…and then some.
Also, when you think about the common theme from most running backs in that each says they get better the more they are in the game, because they can get a feel for what's going on, if the brunt of the reps were given to Helu, what could he do then?
I'd like to see.
No, this obviously isn't a hack on Nebraska's return game. Heck, Niles Paul's 80-plus yarder for a TD was just what the doctor ordered to cure a certifiably in-a-funk Huskers, sparking the push to the win over San Jose State.
But it wouldn't hurt to stop the other guy from having a shot at doing the same thing.
With Paul's scintillating scamper the Huskers averaged 33 yards per kickoff return
|Niles Paul repeatedly gave Nebraska
position, when he had his hands on the ball in
the return game, but the problem is the Huskers
returned the favor to the Spartans
San Jose State averaged 34.5
I certainly don't want to take anything away from SJSU return men, but don't you think Oklahoma has a half dozen 4.4-freaks as potential playmakers in this role? What about Nebraska's opponent for the conference opener?
Oh yeah, some guy named Maclin.
Western Michigan topped Nebraska in this category last week as well, Nebraska averaging just over 20 per return while WMU averaged just under 28.
Defensive Ends Coach John Papuchis is the coach who all the players credit for being the driving force behind the success of the special teams. Well, he's then going to have to take some of the blame.
There's no doubt that Nebraska seems as potentially-potent in the return game than it has since former Husker wide receiver Terrence Nunn ranked second in the country in punt returns while teammate, cornerback Cortney Grixby ranked amongst the top 25 in the same category. But if you can't stop someone from doing to you what you are doing to them, it's a wash.
I'm not sure about you, but with the state of the Nebraska defense, as laden with inexperience as it is, and having as much issues with tackling as has happened in the first two contests, Nebraska needs every advantage it can get.
Bo wasn't joking after all
You remember the little funny Head Coach Bo Pelini pulled on us after practice on Thursday? He came up to the group, looked angrily at the ground, shaking his head and said that the practice he was just part of was the worst he had experienced in all his years of coaching.
Maybe he wasn't kidding.
Actually, he was, but call it irony then that when it seems to be an accepted idea that a team improves the most from game one to game two, the kick return unit followed that line as did the defensive guys in the trenches. But I'm not sure anyone else got the memo.
You can chalk this up to just one of those days, and count
yourself thankful that it happened against San Jose State. Give credit to the
Spartans, but look at the obvious facts:
- Nebraska had 12 penalties for 103 yards
- Joe Ganz was sacked three times, the first three sacks of the season, and he added an interception
- Ganz also threw for 216 yards and no touchdowns, his lowest output by yards since becoming the Husker starter, and the first time he failed as a starter to throw a TD in a game.
- Nebraska, from the second quarter all the way up to the fourth quarter, had six drives – four resulting in punts, one an interception and the other a fumble
- They were out-rushed once again, SJSU totaling 164 yards on the ground, while Nebraska averaged just over three yards per rush as they amassed just 121 for the game
And they still won
Not only did they win, but by over three touchdowns.
Give San Jose State credit for causing some of that stuff, but let's face it; the Spartans aren't a very good team, because Nebraska seemingly tried to lose that game in every quarter but the last one, and SJSU could never cash in.
Even Offensive Line Coach Barney Cotton said after the game that when you usually make that many mistakes, that's a game you are going to lose.
They didn't, but they are going to quickly run out of teams where they will be able to play like this again and come out on top. Think about going the other way and Nebraska executing like this, it could get a lot uglier than just the execution.
The players may not be able to look ahead, but someone asked me on the elevator at halftime what I thought Missouri would do to this team if they came out and laid an egg like they did.
Even I, who really doesn't have an emotional interest in who wins or loses, couldn't think about that, because that's just plain scary.
If the accepted rule is that you should improve the most from game one to game two, Nebraska needs to break a rule here and there and before conference-play arrives.