Yeah, that's about how you figured it would go, isn't it?
- A Lackluster offense
- the defense keeping the team in the games
- special teams coming out valuable in the end.
But with all three we saw a bit of a different spin:
On offense, yep, the passing game was bad, Zac Lee was getting blitzed all over the place and under 80 yards passing kind of speaks for itself.
But they ran.
No, not constantly, but they did it when it mattered.
This offense isn't really known for doing much of anything when it matters. Yes, there was that fourth quarter against Missouri, but let's face it, this defense has been saving this team's butt most of the year.
And it wasn't that they didn't this time, but in the thin air of Colorado, at a point of the game when everyone knew Nebraska was going to run, you didn't necessarily expect this offense, which was anemic most of the game, to start pounding it down the throat of Colorado with one give to the running back after another.
That's right; One run after the other.
11 in total, of that 13-play drive, finished off by the back who bore most of the load, true freshman, Rex Burkhead.
|Burkhead wore on the Buffs in that
Anyone glad to have him back?
But that's how Nebraska did it. They bore down and ran down CU's throat, even though CU knew it was coming.
So, there's one interesting spin, the spin being that it actually worked.
Then there are the special teams, and we had the mandatory stellar performance by kicker/punter Alex Henery, who averaged over 50 yards per punt. He missed a 50-yard field goal, but we'll not hang him up by his entrails just yet. Fellow kicker, Adi Kunalic almost going 50/50 for touchbacks versus kickoffs was nice. But when it comes to the Spin, you'd have to consider Niles Paul's punt return for a touchdown a bit of one. Nebraska hasn't had a punt return for a touchdown since Nate Swift did it last season against Virginia Tech.
Thankfully, this game had a better outcome.
The only negative spin was on the defense, and this had as much to do with what Colorado was dead set on doing. But it wasn't just the trying that was the spin. It was how it actually worked, or at least, worked a lot more times than Bo Pelini would want to see.
That was running right into the heart of the defensive line.
Most teams Nebraska faced this year didn't even try it.
Some teams like Kansas tried it, but it wasn't in-your-face stuff. It was a lot of waiting for the momentum of the initial rush to take hold, and then using a draw inside by the quarterback to get some yards up the middle. There was late double-teaming on Suh, coming from tight ends and fullbacks, not your conventional fare, especially in the run game.
But Colorado did it, or at least, did the best they could, and they slammed it inside, doubling Suh, sometimes doubling Crick, as well.
It wasn't a huge gainer for them, but what it definitely did was lull the defense to sleep, so to speak. Colorado was having enough success with that inside game, it seemed like the defense was preparing for it. And just when it looked like CU running back Rodney Stewart was going up the middle again, the scat-back type would bounce it outside for a decent gain.
Nebraska got fooled on that play a few times.
I'm thinking to myself that the linebackers who seem to keep getting swallowed up by the blockers, just aren't jiving quite yet. Will Compton is getting a second consecutive game of actual playing time while Sean Fisher is getting his first real game of legit playing time, almost since conference play began.
But the defensive ends were biting inside, too. So, that excuse only works so much.
Here's the question of the week though: What does this mean for next week?
|Quarterback Colt McCoy will be
easily the best all-around signal-
caller the Huskers have faced this
If you take the glass half-empty approach, this was an abysmal performance in more areas than it wasn't.
Corner Eric Hagg mistimed a jump in press coverage on a receiver he probably had three inches on. That went for a big play.
Jordan Shipley will have fun with that.
Even though the defensive players seemed to be getting in the backfield on Colorado quarterback Tyler Hansen, he seemed infuriatingly hard to actually track down and then take down.
Yeah, Colt McCoy will just fall down if he sees Nebraska coming, right?
Then there is that outside lane which Stewart exploited, which seemed to be there, because of all the success Colorado had running inside. And that's with an offensive line which is big and talented, but is as likely to hurt their own team with dumb penalties as they are to help them with road-clearing blocks.
Texas is reputed to have one of if not the best offensive lines in the country. Imagine what will happen if they do exactly what Colorado did, but with markedly better talent and fewer mistakes.
Back to the Husker offense, and man, this group is going to make your head hurt: Just over 200 yards against the Buffaloes.
You know, Colorado – a team which doesn't rank higher than 46th in any defensive category and worse than 70th in four.
Texas' worst ranking in any defensive category is 22nd, which is in pass defense. In everything else they rank 9th or higher.
|CB, Earl Thomas is tied
for tops in the nation in
interceptions, with eight.
Against the run they rank first. But that's pre-Texas A&M. Although, Texas A&M does rank amongst the conference best in most offensive stats, while Nebraska clearly doesn't. And the Aggies are a legit rival of the Horns from their annual match up. The Huskers aren't.
Let's face it, there is hardly any area where Nebraska comes even close to matching up. Heck, you can't even call Suh a definite win in that area, because like everyone else, they will double team him. It's going to be up to everyone else on defense to actually make them pay for doing it.
OK, let's go to the half full side of things. Yes, there actually is an optimistic side which isn't completely insane.
It's kind of insane, but not completely.
Slowly but surely Nebraska has established its offensive identity. It's come in bits and pieces here and there, and with the return of Burkhead, call that the icing on the cake.
Nebraska can run.
Maybe not right away, maybe not as consistently as you would like, but they can run the ball. Offensive guard Ricky Henry is totally at home in that area as he is a drive blocking machine, who is so obviously in his element when run blocking, you'd call it a crime to have him do anything else.
It's also equally obvious now, that with two healthy running backs like Helu, easily one of the best backs in the league, (when he isn't coughing up the ball) and Burkhead, a ferocious runner with incredible vision and balance – you got yourself one hell of a one-two punch in the backfield.
But how Nebraska takes advantage of it will ultimately be on Shawn Watson.
All this cute stuff they have tried out of the shotgun and had blown back in their face, was for the most part, out the window against Colorado. Most of the
|When Zac Lee is doing a lot of this, whether it's handing the ball off or passing using play action, coming out from under center is where NU has had the most success|
time, when they were in the gun, it was in situations which demanded it, i.e., obvious passing situations or on some screen plays where it helped. Going out of the gun for the sake of going out of the gun wasn't really working for the Huskers. And it would seem Watson, style points be damned, has squarely put his offense in a position where it will be able to do what it does best.
And that secondary, except for the occasional pass-coverage-lapse by Hagg or the obligatory personal foul by Larry Asante, has become better at not just defending, but taking advantage of situations. The mere idea of defense is that you are trying to stop people. But the true brilliance of defense is when you are the one making plays against a unit trying to make plays on you. This defense has slowly but surely turned themselves into ballhawks in zone and their open-field tackling has been solid almost the entire year. It's when a defense becomes offensive that you see a great defense arise.
They have been doing that more and more, and now instead of relying on the defensive line to stop plays, they are simply hoping the defensive line can cause enough disruption so that they can make plays on the back end.
And on special teams, find me a better punter and kicker in the same body in all of college football.
I dare ya
I double dare ya
I triple…oh, OK.
What a weapon he is. Henery can change the field of play in one single swing of his leg. And we know that when there is something on the line, if you need a field goal, he's your guy. You think Adi Kunalic can't go deep every kick inside the new Cowboys Stadium?
Seriously, this atmosphere might very well be a punter and kicker's dream.
Yes, Nebraska will have to contend with Jordan Shipley, but like the secondary, they have gotten better in coverage as the weeks have wore on. And how about Eric Martin? You want to get hit by him? I don't. It's not a shoo-in against someone like Shipley. There probably isn't such a thing. But you have to give Nebraska a solid chance defending him with this group.
In the return game Paul is obviously capable and sometimes downright scintillating. He can make plays, both in kick returns and as you saw today, with punts. I don't care how good Texas is, if they aren't sound in their coverage or can't do enough to avoid anything but touchbacks, Paul is good enough to make anyone pay.
See? Not feeling so bad about Nebraska's chances now, are ya?
|Bo will take unsatisfactory game and
use it to get his team ready for the
No. 3 team in the country. But will
You see that they have a chance, albeit one based on them doing a lot of things in one game, and series after series that they might not have done all year.
But here's your last glass-half-full-factor:
They stunk today.
Outside of the win and some glimpses of decent play here and there, they didn't play all that well. For some it wasn't a lack of doing their job, but doing nothing above and beyond. Bo Pelini always talks about making a play, and few did that today. It's about doing what you are asked to do, but then doing something more, a lot of which they will need next weekend.
Outside of the secondary, there wasn't much of that going on for the Big Red.
Why is that good?
If Nebraska had rolled Colorado, things might be different. As Bill Murray once said, if they came, saw and kicked the you-know-what out of the Buffs, they might not say it, but you can imagine some would feel that things are purring along just fine.
Now, there isn't a single unit and probably not a single person that doesn't feel they won't need absolutely their best game to even give themselves a chance to win this next game.
If you watched Bo's demeanor after the game, you would have assumed they lost. He was not a happy camper. Neither was Suh, Asante or anyone else who had a mic or camera in their face. This wasn't good enough, which is just the attitude you need as you get ready to take on a team where perfect might not be good enough either. But you certainly won't go into the game feeling like in some areas, you don't have anything to prove.
That's what this season has been. Heck, that's what the last two seasons have been: A proving ground for Pelini's style, his mentality and even his ability to coach. And it's in these types of games where you can prove the most.
Texas has more talent. Texas has more speed. They have the winningest quarterback in the history of college football, arguably the best offensive line this year, the best defense and in Jordan Shipley, one of the best playmakers around.
Better to go in a game like this with a chip on your shoulder than a whole lot of bravado on your mind.
It still may not mean you win. But it could very well make this one hell of a game in the end.