Say what you will about the team's deficiencies, but they play hard and they can run the ball. They also went into a hostile environment and committed no mistakes, and basically played a perfect offensive game and were opportunistic on defense and special teams.
Yeah, this wasn't your normal Husker team. They were fragile, and frankly not very good on defense. In fact, they were one of the worst run defenses in college football. There's just no way they were going to stop A&M's run as long as the Aggies played with intensity and focus. And given everything that is swirling around this team and all the distractions, you have to give this team credit for staying focused and on task. Just look at all of the shocking upsets this season, it's easier said than done to play mistake-free, 100% effort football.
With that said, football is more than heart, focus, and intensity. It's about schemes, talent, and match-ups in addition to effort. A&M's run offense matched-up well with Nebraska, and it was proven out with 359 yards on the ground and a convincing 36-14 road win. But some have asked if this is the turning point in the season, and I again say look at the matchups. A&M faces better run defenses the rest of the way, along with better pass offenses. That's not a good match-up for the Aggies.
I do think that KU's rush defense numbers are skewed given that they haven't faced a good rushing offense yet, so I do think A&M will be able to run the ball and I think they have a chance to win the game. However, the future match-ups the rest of the way do not favor the Aggies. That doesn't mean they can't win those games, but it means that turnovers, mistakes, and intangibles must fall A&M's way.
Is it a turning point? It's a nice start, but the road gets much tougher starting next weekend, and from what I'm hearing the Aggies may be coming into the KU game undermanned with a few knots and bruises. But let's not diminish what this team accomplished yesterday just because the upcoming schedule looks challenging. This team could have laid down on the road with all the drama being played out around this team. They didn't. Give credit where credit is due.
McGee took what the Nebraska defense gave him, which was himself on the zone read option. The Husker plan was to key on Lane and Goodson, and then hit McGee over and over to wear him down. That may have been a good strategy against a lesser person at QB, but not McGee who torched NU for 167 yards on the ground. While McGee didn't have huge passing numbers, he was effective when it counted. He was 6-for-6 in those first two scoring drives of the game, including a third down TD pass to Earvin Taylor that set the tone for the day.
Jorvorskie Lane not only did his usual thing in the red zone, adding another four touchdowns to what will be the most prolific TD scorer in Texas A&M history. He also rattled off some long runs, including a 31 yarder that was one of the longest in his career. His 27-yard run down to the goal line immediately following a NU fumble was a back breaker that opened up a 16-7 lead, and he also had a 22-yard burst on the second play from scrimmage that sparked the opening TD drive. He finished with 130 yards on only 15 carries and was never stopped behind the line. Goodson continues to have a quiet season gaining just 32 yards on eight carries.
Most of the damage from the receivers was early in the game that helped loosen up an already porous NU defense. Earvin Taylor only had two catches for two yards, but made it count with a third down TD catch from McGee on the first drive. Pierre Brown was the go-to man, catching four passes for 49 yards including the game's longest pass completion of 21 yards.
With Martellus Bennett out, senior Joey Thomas had to bring it for the Legion of Doom and he did helping the offensive line put up 359 yards on the ground. He also caught two passes for 19 yards. His name doesn't get called much, but Thomas is a valuable piece of the puzzle and he will be sorely missed after he graduates.
The line saw the return of Yemi Babalola at tackle with Michael Shumard still starting at guard for the injured Chris Yoder. The line had its way with the broken NU rush defense, grinding out 359 yards on the ground and physically dominating the line of scrimmage in drive blocking. That's amazing when you think back to the late 1990's when the roles were completely reversed in the 1997 Big 12 Championship game and the shellacking A&M took in Lincoln in 1999. The line did give up two sacks and McGee was hurried a few times. Still, that didn't affect the outcome of the game given the dominating rushing game.
OVERALL OFFENSIVE GRADE: A-
The defensive line had a solid effort on Saturday, although they were fairly quiet individually. The defense held Nebraska to 130 yards on the ground. Red Bryant and Henry Smith had a tackle for loss each, and Chris Harrington recovered a NU fumble. Otherwise, it was a fairly quiet day. The highlight may have been Von Miller getting his sack, which will hopefully be the first of many more to come and gives A&M hope finally for a pass rush threat at defensive end.
Mark Dodge and Msi Tupe combined for 18 tackles of which seven were solo stops. Dodge also had a pass break-up to his credit. These seniors may be undersized and a step slow, but they play with intensity and always seem to be around the ball making plays. However, NU had a field day with swing passes to Marlon Lucky out of the backfield to the tune of 125 yards on 13 catches.
Granted, the Huskers passed for 275 yards but 125 of that came via the safety valve option to Lucky which is typically a linebacker function. In fact, many times NU QB Sam Keller was having difficulties finding an open man downfield, which is something rare for this secondary in recent years. They also helped limit Keller to under 60% completion percentage. That may not seem like a big accomplishment, but considering that Miami's Kyle Wright completed 78% of his passes against A&M, I see it as a positive.
OVERALL DEFENSIVE GRADE: B-
It appeared that Matt Szymanski's troubles were continuing after the first extra point attempt was blocked, and it looked like it may be costly when NU took a brief 7-6 lead. However, Szymanski steadied the ship and made a 39 yard field goal on the next drive that gave A&M the lead for good. It was a crucial kick, as the momentum could've swung over to the Huskers with a miss.
Coverages were again very good, and with all of NU's kickoffs sailing through the end zone, A&M's kick return team wasn't a factor. Bottom line, the Aggies did not make any mistakes and played solid special teams while capitalizing on the opponent's special teams mistake. Really, that's all yiu can ask for with your special teams.
OVERALL SPECIAL TEAMS GRADE: B+
Hop's Report Card - Nebraska
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