South Alabama (48-9)
Nebraska was in an unfamiliar position, chasing .500. Only twice in modern history have the Huskers been in such a spot. In 1981, they started 1-2 before a guy named Turner Gill took over under center and turned things around. Then in 2007, they gave up about 800 points over the course of a five-game losing streak and finished 5-7. (In 2005, they didn’t have a losing record until the end of the year.) There wasn’t much expectation that the Jaguars would keep Nebraska from getting back to even, but it was important for a team with a lot of youth and with a new coaching staff to get a solid win before a big road test. They took control of the game right away and never let up, and any nerves that remained after the collapse last week quickly vanished into the evening breeze.
The Good (What I Liked)
Out of the Gate: Once again, Nebraska started fast on both sides of the ball. It’s too early to know if it’s a trend, but it speaks to being prepared and focused. Last year, we were bemoaning slow starts (particularly by the defense) so this is a refreshing change. And a fast start wouldn’t hurt next week, either.
Ready to Run: Nebraska’s ground game was much improved from week one. That doesn’t mean their problems are solved. This was South Alabama, after all. But we’ve seen the running game struggle against lesser opponents, and that would have spelled a serious problem. Saturday, the O-line opened plenty of holes and Terrell Newby dashed and darted through them in a manner reminiscent of his predecessor. I’m not sure why Newby got the lion’s share of the carries tonight after a committee approach against BYU, but he certainly took advantage of the opportunity.
No Letdown: I didn’t expect Nebraska to be flat, but it would have been understandable if last week’s gutting loss had hung with them. There were no signs that it did. They took control early, separated before halftime, and kept the pedal down in the second half, textbook for beating an inferior opponent. You can never tell too much by how a team plays against a cupcake (Wisconsin looked much better than Alabama today), but you can judge their execution. The Huskers limited penalties and turnovers and were sharp on offense most of the night.
The Bad (What I Didn’t Like)
Getting Burned: Daniel Davie had a tough night, getting beat deep repeatedly. The entire secondary had a bit of a struggle throughout the evening, which is unnerving with Brad Kaaya on deck. The Husker D did dominate at the line and shut down any Jaguar attempt at a running game, and I thought they were flying to the football well. But the multiple long completions are a concern.
Dead (Tired) Horse: I found it a little odd that the Huskers kept feeding Newby once the game was under control. Last week, as I mentioned, they rotated the running backs evenly. I didn’t see Cross or Wilbon until the second half. Newby had a big night and may have separated himself from the pack, but with a comfortable lead, I thought it would have been a good time to get some of the young guys some reps and save wear and tear on Newby. I also questioned calling QB running plays up 28, but now I’m nitpicking.
At the End of the Day
As a four touchdown favorite, there are a few primary goals: 1) Win the game. Check. 2) Win without stress. Check. 3) Avoid major injuries. Check. 4) Play clean. Check. It wasn’t a perfect game, but it was a solid performance. Tommy was sharp. Newby showed star potential. The offense found balance. The defense gave up some plays but also held the Jaguars to 3 points until the final five minutes, and played particularly well when the Jags threatened a few times in the first half. It would be a mistake to make too much of the win, but the fact that Nebraska won with ease eliminates the worries that, say, Auburn and Florida State and Missouri might have. The win should give Nebraska confidence and build depth, both of which they will need this season if not already next week.
Did anyone else think Mike Riley looked cold on the sidelines? Maybe it’s old bones or maybe it’s just his posture.
After two weeks, I’m not sure what the offense’s bread and butter is. That was a point of contention with Tim Beck, but I think it’s too early to get much of a read on Danny Langsdorf yet. There was a definite commitment to the run, but Nebraska also spread it around a lot too. Maybe he’s experimenting to see what works and what he has. Or maybe, this is the definition of “multiple.”
It was good to see Michael Rose-Ivey back on the field, and he was all over it, making plays with the fire of a guy who’s been out for a year. Now, let’s get our other #15 back!
Maybe Brett Bielema should have spent a little more time preparing for Toledo and a little less time complaining about Ohio State’s weak schedule. Snicker, snicker.
Miami struggled for a half with Boca Raton Community College—uh, that is, Florida Atlantic—before cruising. But don’t make too much of that because it was a classic look ahead game. At the beginning of the year, my gut said Miami would win this game. My gut is leaning Nebraska now, but I think it is largely influenced by watching Newby run around and Armstrong throw over an inferior team. Miami is loaded with dudes and if they’re dialed in—and I expect they will be—it will be a stern test for Nebraska. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Huskers play well and grab a win in the Sunshine State, but I’ll stick with my original gut feeling and say the Canes win, 34-27.