Grading the Huskers

As woefully depressing as the loss was to Iowa State just a couple of weeks ago, it was probably equally fulfilling when Nebraska walked off the field Saturday night with a win over Oklahoma. So, how did it look when it was all said and done? It's time for the grades, and we'll give you our thoughts on the game that was.

QB Grade: C-

I suppose you could give both Cody Green and Zac Lee an A for handing off correctly, because they certainly weren't asked to do much in the passing game. As in 7-of-14 for 39 yards and one touchdown between the two.

That's horrible.

Part of its play calling, which we'll get to, and that could be a big part of what hampered the offense. But for Green, he wasn't hitting receivers. Lee got that one TD pass, a short completion to tight end Ryan Hill. But other than a one-yard pass to wide receiver Brandon Kinnie, which he took for a first down, the passing game of the Huskers was non-existent.

Lee was a little less tentative than he's been, but even just coming onto the field in the second quarter, he was standing in that pocket a lot more than you would think based on his previous experience. But again, maybe that goes back to play calling.

As it is, this won't go down in anyone's book as a major success. They did manage to only turn the ball over once, that coming off a Zac-Lee pitch to Roy Helu on an option play. So, consider that the bright side to the quarterback play.

It might be the only bright side from this position during this particular game.

RB Grade: A

I am going to say it, because I can't believe it, but how about that Nebraska fullback? You bet, fullback Tyler Legate was a blocking machine when the formation was actually called that allowed him to be a significant part of the running game.

GLORY, Halleluiah , Nebraska uses a fullback.

Roy Helu Jr. was the lone bright spot
on offense for the Big Red.

And well

Legate was key on a few Helu runs, the oft-injured running back looking perfectly today, torturing the Sooner "D" for 141 yards on just 20 carries. This looked like the same Helu that torched Virginia Tech earlier in the season for a career-high 169 yards and the same Helu who was the only bright spot in last year's debacle versus the Crimson out of Norman for around 160 as well.

There were times that Helu did it the old fashioned way, that being running through holes that were actually there. But there were others, like that cutback run late in the game where Helu went against the grain of the play, scampered off the left side and went for over 20 – that was all him.

It's no joke when teams talk about how you stop the run and how you want to run in order to maintain some semblance of control on the line of scrimmage, even if your offensive line isn't great. Today was a perfect illustration of that.

Between Helu and Legate, this running attack actually looked like one.

Offensive Line Grade: C+

We'll give them credit in that when the game wore on, they actually seemed to be wearing, at least a little, on the impressive Sooner-defensive line. There were a few holes even, going up that middle, where most teams fear tread when facing standouts like sophomore Gerald McCoy.

But that wasn't the norm for most of the game.

First, it started off in glorious (note sarcasm)fashion as offensive guard Keith Williams got a false start on the first drive, turning a third and six into a third and 11. The Huskers would end up punting.

On the second drive offensive tackle Marcel Jones gets called for a personal foul, taking a first and 10 at their own 29, turning it into first and 24 at their own 15. Nebraska would end up punting on this drive, too.

Marcel Jones would add another on the following drive, this one a false start that turned 2nd and 11 into 2nd and 16. Nebraska would have to punt on this drive, too, and then followed up the punt with interference on the catch.

At least from a penalty standpoint the line would settle down. But if Oklahoma defensive end Jeremy Beal leading the Sooners in tackles with eight, including a sack, doesn't tell you something about that right side of the line, not much else will.

They had some moments, but they were few and far between.

Give OU some credit for that. That defense of the Sooners is legit. But from a very slow start with stupid mental mistakes, to being able to put just two or three decent running plays together, this line might have broke even only because of the level of competition they faced.

They certainly didn't improve.

Wide Receiver/Tight End Grade: B

Yes, Ryan Hill got the touchdown catch, and Brandon Kinnie had that reception off the right side for 13 yards.

But that was about it.

But this isn't on them. There was a pass from Cody Green, which I assume was intended for tight end Michael McNeill. But there must have been some miscommunication in the play, because McNeill cut his route off at around 20 yards, and Green threw the ball about 50.

It says something when McNeill's best reception was a shovel pass.

A shovel pass to the tight end? Seriously?

So, what can you do when your quarterbacks can't get you the ball or aren't given the opportunities to try?

Defensive Line Grade: A+

For my money this was the best all around game from the defensive line this year.

Instead of Suh and Crick getting all the work and all the stats, Pierre Allen chipped in with a tipped ball in the early portion of the game, followed by another around the midpoint of the first half. And Barry Turner added one of his own, as well as half a sack, which he shared with defensive tackle Jared Crick. All Suh did was deal with double teams most of the game, but still manage three quarterback hurries, one tipped ball and his third blocked kick of the season, the fifth of his career.

Senior DT Ndamukong Suh beats one-on-one blocking to force
OU QB Landry Jones into a quick throw which would drop

The line was once again, outstanding. They put OU quarterback Landry Jones into positions where he simply couldn't get comfortable in making reads. And they forced him into making throws when he didn't want to, and because OU could only manage 80 yards on the ground, they were forcing OU into a lot of predictable situations which the line forced and allowed players behind them to make plays.

When they needed it, they got it. This group came through…big time.

Linebacker Grade: A

Phillip Dillard comes out with another stellar contest, which included an interception and two tackles for loss. The one big tackle for loss was a delayed blitz right up the middle where Dillard leveled QB Jones for a loss of 13 yards. This was the kind of performance that continues the trend for the Oklahoma native which is going on four games. Dillard even said after the game he was giving his brother, Gabe Lynn, some grief about the win. But Dillard gave more grief to the Sooner offense, which didn't have an answer for him.

There weren't a lot of opportunities for other linebackers, simply because of the nickel and dime packages the defense was in much of the time. But Dillard made the most of his opportunities, proving to be physical and fast the entire game.

Secondary Grade: A

Give it up to Matt O'Hanlon.

The kid who everyone wanted off the team, ran out of Lincoln and removed from the roster following the Virginia Tech game, leads all players with 12 tackles and notches a single-game Husker record three interceptions.

He came up big early with solid open-field tackles, and just when you thought Landry Jones was getting his team moving down the field, you usually found O'Hanlon somewhere around, waiting or at least, wanting to make a play.

That shouldn't take away from safety Eric Hagg, who had some key tackles, none more important than a fourth-down stop on the Huskers' own 20 when Hagg took down Demarco Murray for a two-yard loss. Even redshirt freshman P.J. Smith got into the action with four tackles. Senior Larry Asante had his share of tackles, as usual, notching eight tackles for the contest. Outside of his one classless move of taunting after his hardest hit of the game, which probably should have been called, the secondary did something that they have done for the most part, but did was stellar with Saturday night – tackling in the open field.

Even when Jones started to get his rhythm going in the second half, which he did, Nebraska didn't allow a lot of plays after the catch, and they closed on the ball well, and not long after their own team coughed up the ball eight times, the secondary alone got the ball from OU four times.

But I'm going to go on the record and say this: Alfonzo Dennard is the best pure cover corner the Huskers have had since…….ummm………..well, I am going to have to get back to you on that one. Between what he does in run support from pure fearlessness to his ability to close on the ball in a flash, this kid is absolutely legit. And just think that he's been in a green jersey for three weeks.

Special Teams Grade: B-

When Alex Henery simply misses a field goal, that's big news. It's also a negative for the special teams, especially when you consider that it would have been the nail in the coffin on the Sooners at the end of the game. But Henery was solid as can be everywhere else, averaging close to 44 yards per punt on a whopping 11 attempts, and the junior field goal kicker also added a tackle on a long kickoff return, which may have saved a touchdown.

Then you can throw in the defense which got a block courtesy of Suh, and you can't rule them out of having at least some effect on the two other misses OU had in the kicking game.

Then there is freshman linebacker Eric Martin, who proves to be a wedge buster extraordinaire, busting the kickoff to open the second half, taking on the double team, bouncing off the right and tackling the return man before he barely had a chance to move.

The return game was OK, but you don't have to worry about it being the factor in the game when the opponent only scores once.

Play Calling Grade: D-

I was an ardent defender of Shawn Watson in the debacle that was Iowa State. What can you do with so many turnovers and not having all your weapons available?

Maybe he called this game the way he thought he should. But if that's the case, the O.C. has no faith in this supposedly potent offense.

It seemed to start off well enough, though, there weren't a lot of yards in return. But with freshman quarterback Cody Green starting, there were some safe pass plays littered amongst the many running plays to the outside.

That's where Green is at his best, it would seem, at least right now.

Green started to struggle, and perhaps that 50-yard pass to nobody in particular scared Watson into making the move to Lee.

Lee hadn't been stellar, but his tentativeness had at least made him safe in regard to not turning the ball over.

But where it seemed painfully obvious that Lee's strength was no longer being able to run, the junior QB still finished with double digit carries, which amounted to negative 13 yards. Throw two sacks in there which helped skew that total a bit.

But they ran the option, the zone read..heck, everything you thought they would have run ad nauseam with Green, they also ran with Lee.

Can nobody on this team pass the ball?

Deep in their own territory with what seemed like a few instances where Nebraska could have rolled out to get short gains with the passing game, Watson opted to run it right up the middle with Helu, or take these conservative plays instead of depending on someone to make a play and get a first down.

Is that what this offense has become?

Is it so lackluster and ineffective that in the face of taking a play that will more than likely get you a couple of yards if you are lucky, that's exactly what you take instead of putting it on your players to make actual plays?

Is the passing game that bad?

Is the pass protection that pathetic?

What in the world prompts you to call a shovel pass to a tight end on third and long?

I don't get it.

Either this offense is so bad that it doesn't allow for conventional and perhaps even practical play calling or someone is trying to make the game more complicated than it is.

I don't profess to be an O.C., but in a world where we are pounded with the notion that this offense is being catered to the strength of its players, either that simply isn't happening or the players don't have any strengths to cater to.


It's a win, and it's a big win at that.

This was the one automatic loss I jotted down on the schedule long before the season began. I don't have any problem saying that if OU had Sam Bradford and tight end Jermaine Gresham, this would have been a very different story. But it's not like OU doesn't have players who should be able to play effectively.

Give the Husker defense for taking the beleaguered OU offense and pushing them farther down the hole they have found themselves in. And if anything, you can give the offense credit for not turning the ball over and giving Roy Helu some opportunities to do what he does.

If you can win this game, the next three shouldn't be a problem.

They shouldn't be.

But this offense is an absolute mess. They still don't have an identity, but man, they have a defense.

And oh yeah, if they haven't already etched Ndamukong Suh's name in this year's Outland Trophy, something is wrong.

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