Another day at the office.
That’s what Bo Pelini said about Saturday’s 41-14 win over Minnesota in the school’s 52nd meeting and first as conference rivals.
Nebraska/Minnesota Final Stats
Nebraska/Minnesota Final Stats
Yeah, it was pretty ho-hum. The offense was fairly basic save for a nifty double-reverse that resulted in Kenny Bell’s 82 yard TD run and a few quick screens to the wideouts. The defense was okay, not spectacular, against a sour Minnesota offense. The Huskers got Brion Carnes and a number of reserves in the game in the second half, something they haven’t been able to do since the Chattanooga game. If you had to nit-pick, Brett Maher didn’t have his best game with a long field goal miss, a punt shank and some short kickoffs. But he’s earned the right to have one off game and this was the perfect time to have it.
Jerry Kill has a long way to go with this Gopher program. They are very young and it showed on Saturday. Marqueis Gray is a great athlete, but not a particularly good quarterback. The Gopher defense does play hard, as NU coaches told us this week, but not terribly disciplined. So, in other words, Nebraska did enough to win easily over an outmanned opponent.
So what does this mean for the final five games?
Offensively, I think the Huskers are going to be okay. Taylor Martinez is maturing in this system. He played a clean game. When Tim Beck isn’t asking him to win – or Martinez isn’t taking it upon himself to win – he is doing a better job of distributing the wealth. Eight different receivers caught a pass from Martinez. He was denied a 200 yard passing game and 2 touchdown throwing game when Jamal Turner let a sure TD pass slip through his hands in the third quarter.
Thanks to the abundance of other playmakers, Rex Burkhead can get his 20-25 carries and Beck doesn’t run the risk of wearing down his most important ball carrier. Burkhead twice Saturday made the necessary moves to convert third downs after first contact was made prior to the marker. It was good to see the three freshmen (Aaron Green, Braylon Heard & Ameer Abdullah) get significant carries (they combined for 20) to keep Burkhead fresh for games where he will be much more utilized.
Defensively, it is going to be a struggle. Saturday was not a good indicator of where this unit is going down the stretch. I guess it is good that they didn’t give up another 20+ points and 300+ yards to a poor offense, but much better offenses with better quarterbacking are waiting for the Big Red.
The loss of Jared Crick is enormous. As former Husker Blackshirt and our Friday Husker Max Tailgate colleague Jason Peter pointed out Friday, opposing teams now are free to run their offense without having to account for #94. There just isn’t anybody on the defensive line that strikes fear in opposing offensive coordinators. That’s going to mean a lot more pressure on everybody, from the linebackers to the already shaken secondary. It is going to take a team effort to overcome the loss of Crick and some players (who are not named Lavonte David) will have to play above themselves to try to turn this unit’s season around.
Nebraska was the preseason favorite in the Legends Division, but right now Michigan State is the better team. The Huskers are going to have their hands full with a team that is executing at a high level right now and is soaring with confidence after two emotional wins. With a veteran quarterback, solid receivers and a defense that drops people when they tackle, Michigan State is no fluke.
Saturday in Minneapolis was a well deserved snoozer. This Saturday in Lincoln will be anything but.
USC 19, Minnesota 17
Notre Dame 31, Michigan State 13
Wisconsin 48, Nebraska 17
Nebraska 41, Minnesota 14
Michigan State 37, Wisconsin 31
USC 31, Notre Dame 17
Husker Fans Salute The Troops
It was an honor to be invited to watch the game with the good people at Husker Fans Salute The Troops (huskersalute.org) at the Cornhusker Hotel in Lincoln. This organization, in its fourth year, works to bring active and veteran soldiers and their families from Nebraska to Lincoln for a weekend of fellowship and an opportunity to visit the Husker facilities and have a watch party.
The last couple of years, the folks from Adopt A Platoon have helped in bringing soldiers from the Wounded Warrior Project at Fort Riley, Kansas to this event. These soldiers, all recovering from wounds suffered in combat, were bused specially from Kansas to Lincoln to join the Nebraska veterans. Some of them have no ties whatsoever to Nebraska or Husker football, but they appreciated the chance to get out of the hospital and have fun for the weekend. One of these Wounded Warriors and his family were from Michigan and instantly got caught up in the Husker spirit.
Plans are already in place for next year’s Husker Salute. If you would like to contribute or know one of our veterans or active duty military from Nebraska who might be interested in being part of next year’s event, please visit Huskersalute.org.
Et tu, Bevo?
Within the state of Missouri, it is a popular sentiment that the University of Missouri should depart from the Big 12 and join the SEC. The divide among people outside the state is a little more evenly split. In this space two weeks ago, I advised Missouri to take the opportunity to leave. First, because you are going to a stable situation and secondly, I thought it might be the kind of galvanizing tool the Tiger program needed to take the next step forward.
My position is further galvanized by this interesting interview given by Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin to the school’s 12th Man Foundation last week. In it Loftin describes how Texas had been flirting in the fall of 2009 – one year prior to Nebraska and Colorado’s announced departures – with the Pac 10 for membership. Loftin claims that Pac 10 Commissioner Larry Scott had already formulated sports schedules to accommodate six new programs all presumably from the Big 12 and how Texas was the driving force behind this move.
I’m going to guess that Nebraska and Missouri were not included in that power point.
In other words, before Jim Delany ever announced plans for Big 10 expansion (that was the winter of 2009), Larry Scott and Texas were working to eviscerate the Big 12 and create the Pac 16. Now, Texas has reportedly worked on more than one occasion to leave behind the Big 12 North schools to join Southern Cal, Stanford, Oregon & Friends. At this point, what is to stop them from continuing this dialogue again at some point down the road?
Seriously, Missouri, do you need any more reason to stay tethered to Bevo’s backside?
BCS TITLE BEASTS
Rather than the traditional top 5, 10, 20 or 25 rankings, I’ll give you my list of the teams I see as BCS National Championship material.
1 – LSU. Looks like the most complete team with great athletes, especially on defense. Now, if they could just put down the bong…..
2 – Clemson. What the heck do you do if Clemson runs the table? Their wins so far (FSU, Auburn, Virginia Tech) hold up to anyone else’s and are so far better than…..
3 – Alabama. Playoff game in two weeks.
4 – Stanford. Ten games in a row won by 25+ points. Helps when you play in the Pac 12.
5 – Boone Pickens State. How much longer can OSU survive playing below average defense? For the Big 12, it’s a world-beater defense.
6 – Boise State. Here’s the one program where it would actually make sense for them to join the Southwest, er, Big 12 Conference. They have to find a better group of schools to play against or they will never play for the crystal ball.
7 – Kansas State. Have to give Grandpa Snyder his due. This appearance will also, likely, be short-lived as the Cats get the state of Oklahoma the next two weeks.