Now, THAT was fun to watch, huh? A rejuvenated Husker Defense and Tough/Multiple Offense was just what the Husker Nation needed to go from being too negative to being too positive. That’s what it’s like here in Nebraska where the fan base and media are like a roller coaster. Fortunately, the Coaching Staff and Players are sticking to the process and continuing to grind away. That is what it takes, especially in this new world of Big 10 Football.
If a tone can be set on one play, the opening kickoff did just that. Eric Martin blasts a blocker leaves him limp on the field. Fortunately, he wasn’t hurt badly, but the tone and stage was set for a tough, physical battle. Speaking of EMart, his two sacks were a sight to behold after the Front Four had struggled so much getting pressure this year.
How about Lance (Loomis Legend) Thorell making the defensive play of the game? Great read and reaction on the first big 3rd Down play of the game. Thorell, as the Peso, also had 4 unassisted tackles.
I get tired of constantly talking about how good Rex Burkhead is…but I’ll keep saying it. He is the best 3.5 yd back in College Football. His ability to get a first down when he seems to have NO ROOM is uncanny. You have to watch in slow motion to see all of his little shakes and steps that get positive yards. Oh yeah, how about carrying 35x for 130 plus coming back after leg cramps to catch a HUGE td pass? He does it all. He is sick. Ok, I’m done talking about him…until next week.
Sparties hadn’t lost a Conference game in 364 days. They had spanked the Buckeyes, Wolverines, and Badgers in a brutal October schedule. Kudos to them for their performance this year, but much credit has to go to this Husker team and the way they dominated this team. There wasn’t much talk of this “bully” Defense and the toughness of the Spartans after the game. They were humbled and classy in defeat.
The Fonz is back! Alfonzo just flat out shut down BJ Cunningham. Having a lock-down, physical corner makes such a difference in the secondary. Speaking of the Secondary, Bo talked about their preparation and great practice this week. The fact that they matched up so well with the Mich St patterns is a testament to the Coaches. We’ve heard it when they struggled…we heard it after the game…reading keys and execution is a MUST. It happened Saturday.
Andrew Green got the call over Stanley Jean-Baptiste this week. Who knows who is going to get the call next? Again, competition and practice performance are so important and make a difference.
Daimion Stafford played very well over the top at Safety, but missed his chance for a pick-6 in the 2nd Q. He was already on his way to a 90 yd TD sprint when he realized that he forgot something important…the ball.
The physicality advantage came through again when Brandon Kinnie stoned a Defender on a crack-back block. Dennard ran right through a knock out/blind side shot in the 4th Q. Our Receivers can block and even if they draw a penalty or two (which they did), it is worth it in the end. The old Ron Brown coaching style has been transferred to Coach Fisher and I am noticing. Yes, you can have big play receivers who still are physical.
Let’s talk Taylor. Think about the transformation of Martinez in the short time he has been here. He used to be a one-trick pony who would get a crack and outrun everyone to the end zone. Once teams have seen that on film and adjusted, that piece has been taken away from him game. On Saturday, he was a manager of the game who made audibles, took care of the ball (for the most part), and made good decisions. He doesn’t have to be great for this Offense to be good. Right now, we are better being multiple, saddling up Rex, running play action passes, and getting him 10 or so carries a game (which increase the chances of him scrambling or breaking a few for big yards. Probably the biggest sign of growth was the discipline of the Offense in using the hard count. Twice the Mich St Defense jumped offsides and TMart recognized it and went for the big pass (having nothing to lose). It’s a small thing but a good sign.
All the people and the pundits who talked about the lack of changes in the NU Offense after a couple weeks just weren’t paying attention. This Tim Beck philosophy is nothing like a Shawn Watson plan. It’s different. It takes a while to evolve. It just looks better and better each week. The interesting thing is that all cries for an Identity are exactly coming true. The Offense is becoming multiple but does have the physical ideals that HAVE to be in place to be successful. Two big, time consuming drives in the 3rd Q were evidence of progress. The success came through a variety of plays…Rex power, Option, short passes vs Corners who were bailing out, QB keepers, “Wildcat and Diamond” formations, a screen pass etc…it was a thing of beauty to people like myself who love diversity.
I loved two calls by Beck. In the 2nd Q, we run Wildcat with Rex but hand off to Tim Marlow on a sweep. It broke away from a pattern, it was well blocked, and few people expected the steady Marlowe to be the benefactor of the hand off. The second great call was on a 3rd and 10 play in the 2nd Q. Instead of asking Martinez to drop back and make multiple reads (like at Wisc), Beck dialed up a middle/jailbreak screen to K Bell (who is still fast)…1st down and NU is on its way to a 24-3 lead.
How about the “Radar” look with the Front Four all up and moving before the snap. Sometimes just a little tweak give the opposing blockers a little trouble. Nice work Carl.
For all of the Will Compton criticizers (me included), the kid played a great game and it was nice to see him not only in the right place, but making the play once he got there.
It wasn’t all good. Nothing is more frustrating when the Offense has a 1st and Goal (especially from the 3) and it has to settle for a Field Goal. Give credit to the MSU Front as it stiffened inside on three straight runs. Hindsight says an Option would have been nice, but that same Option led to problems on the Goal line vs Minnesota. With Red Zone Offense, the basic rule is that if it works, it’s a great call and if it doesn’t, it was a bad call. Bottom line is that good execution trumps play calling every time.
Quote of the Day from Lance Thorell – “Every day I come in and I work my tail off…when things don’t go your way, you can’t get all mad and quit on yourself. You’ve just got to keep working day in and day out, and that’s what I’ve done.” Words that we ALL can live by.
Kirk Cousins is a good QB. He was also 11 of 27 for 86 yards. His poor statistics weren’t all his fault as the lack of success by MSU on early downs really hurt them. There were a lot of 3rd and longs for the Spartans. A credit to him is that when receivers weren’t open (which they weren’t most of the time), he didn’t throw it to the wrong team.
William Gholston is a MAN. The MSU DT had a hand in 15 tackles and was a load. He won some battles but obviously lost the war. Jerel Worth is another HUGE man who will play on Sundays for a while. The fast tempo of NU’s Offense as well as the physicality seemed to have worn down their great Defensive front. There is a trend that NU has been the better team in the 2nd Half. Include some nice halftime adjustments and I like what I see in quarters 3 and 4.
OK – now what? A home game vs a team that we should beat. Don’t look ahead Husker Fans…remember the goal. Be 1-0 this week.