Five questions following Nebraska loss

Problems with the offense loomed most of the afternoon, stemming from the double-teaming of Rashaun Woods, turnovers by QB Josh Fields and a low-kick booted by Luke Phillips that resulted in a block by NU. What can the Cowboys do to rebound after the disappointing opening loss?


1. What were the problems with the offense, and why wasn't it more full throttle like last season?

You start with the turnovers, which have already been well explained. There were other problems. Because of the lack of offense the Cowboys rarely enjoyed good field position. Offensive coordinator Mike Gundy admitted afterwards, that the field position caused the play calling to be on the conservative side. The Cowboys rarely threw downfield like they did last season. Fields overthrew several open receivers, and pressure from Nebraska caused a couple of bad underthrows. The Cowboys had five turnovers, only mustered 183-yards of total offense, averaged just 3.3-yards on first down plays, and made more mistakes than they may have made on offense in the last seven games of last season.

"We didn't mean for it to go that way,"  Fields said, who completed just 13-of-28 passes with three interceptions for 97-yards. "We made a lot of first game mistakes. We need to still have a good feeling for each other, stay together, make good adjustments. Today we just didn't execute."

"You really have to be conservative when you don't have good field position,"Rashaun Woods said . "I guess you have to protect from the turnover when you are deep in your own territory. We were conservative, and still had the turnovers."

Fields wasn't the only one to blame. The offensive line had far from their best game and new tackles Matt Hardison and Kellen Davis will have to play better than they did in their debut. Teams are going to give Rashaun Woods more attention. Woods should be able to get his share of receptions, but little brother D'Juan Woods, Gabe Lindsay, the other wide receivers, the tight ends, and backs will have to pull their share of the load. Look for freshman Tommy Deveraux to continue to emerge as he has that speed that John Lewis brought to the O-State offensive equation last season. 

Give Nebraska credit, new defensive coordinator Bo Pelini didn't invent anything new, but he did mix up his coverages, called some opportune blitzes, and most important, got the Husker Blackshirts to play hard.

It was a lousy start for the Cowboy offense, but I'd be very surprised if it doesn't improve by Wyoming this coming Saturday.


2. What happened on the missed field goal in the first half?

Pretty simple, the kick was too low. For some reason senior kicker Luke Phillips hasn't been able to get the ball up as quickly as he has in the past. Deep snapper Jacob Dressen was fine in his first performance. He doesn't get the ball back there as fast as bullet snapper Jed  Newkirk did last season, but he was just fine. I noticed it during warm ups that Phillips kicks had a low trajectory, and it has happened some during the preseason. It will certainly be something special teams coordinator Joe DeForest will try to help Phillips with in the upcoming weeks.


3. What was the biggest play of the game nobody seems to be talking about?

It came early in the second quarter. The Cowboys had the 7-3 lead and faced a third and five at the Nebraska 26. Josh Fields dropped back to pass and eluded the rush to roll slightly to his left and found a wide open Shawn Willis. The fullback dropped the ball. Had Willis, who got most of the work because of a shoulder injury bothering starter Tim Burrough, caught the ball he would have easily had the first down inside the Husker 20. Instead the Cowboys tried a 43-yard field goal that was blocked.
Had the Cowboys continued that drive and punched it in for a touchdown and a 14-3 lead, you'd have to wonder what that might have done to the seeming fragile pysche of the Huskers.  The play was a killer for the Cowboys who had only a few real good scoring chances all afternoon.


4. What did Nebraska do to neutralize All American Rashaun Woods?

They really didn't do anything unusual. The Huskers lined up a corner on Woods, most often off the ball five to ten-yards, and then they brought over the safety, most often Phillip Bland to cover over the top for extra help. Woods finished with five receptions for 47-yards and a four-yard touchdown. The biggest chunk of his receiving yardage came on a 28-yard slant, his first catch of the game coming on the Cowboys only scoring drive. Woods said it wasn't the kind of attention that should have kept him down to his smallest numbers since the Baylor game of his sophomore season.

"I really had double coverage all day long," Woods said. "I don't think that was the big thing (stopping us), their defense did a good job all they way around. Coming in we felt we knew what they were going to do, and sure enough, that's what they did. We just didn't execute, and when you don't execute you're not going to score points."


5. How did the middle of the defense hold up?

It was mixed. Using defensive end Antonio Smith inside most of the game, there were times that Nebraska was able to post big gains up the middle. The Huskers ran for 268-yards, but a big chunk of that came out on the perimeter with quarterback Jammal Lord running for 90-yards. Josh Davis had 95-yards, and some of that came up the middle. However, the middle of the line toughened up throughout the game and as experience and health come for the defensive line they should be all right. Head coach Les Miles was not in the most complimentary of moods, but he did compliment the defense.

"They really fought like heck, and that defense, if you would have told me we were going to tunr the ball over five times and they are only going to score 17 points. If we just don't turn the ball over I just don't know how many times they get in the endzone. It's a different day and a different outcome."

Antonio Smith said he got some lessons during the game from defensive line coach Karl Dunbar that helped.

"A couple of plays I was in my defensive end stance and I don't have the weight and they were pushing me around,"  Smith said. "Then Coach Dunbar told me to widen my stance and play the base block, and after that it became easy. I can always get up the field on pass rush."

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