Friday, November 10, 2006

NU Re-View: Nebraska 34, Missouri 20

THE GOOD ...
- BLACKSHIRT REBOUND: Much like after the Kansas defensive disaster, the Blackshirts buckled down and contained a strong Missouri offense. More impressively, defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove responded to his linebacker injuries by going to a 3-3-5 scheme and giving the new blood like Ricky Thenarse, Bryan Wilson, and Major Culbert a lot of time on the field.
- MO' MO': As in, more of Maurice Purify. The kid threw for a touchdown and caught a touchdown with a ridiculously exciting leaping catch. When you look at Purify, you are looking at the future of Nebraska football. These big, strong, fast receivers make Callahan's offense go, and there's more coming. Next year, I suspect we will see a lot of Menelik Holt, the same type of receiver, lining up next to Purify.
- CALLAHAN THE GAMBLER: Callahan's offensive game plan was as good as Cosgrove's defensive scheme. The running game was established well, and Purify's touchdown pass was brilliantly set up by the play before, as well as by Marlon Lucky's TD pass against Texas. And the fourth down play-action pass to Phillips in the third quarter was sheer genius. Had the ball been caught, the game would have been over in a romp.

THE BAD ...
- SHORT LEGS: Nebraska still has a glaring weakness in their ability to kick the ball into the endzone on kickoffs. You know it's a problem when Jake Wesch got one into the end zone in the first half and the crowd cheered like a touchdown was scored. The 'Huskers again gave up significant field position to their opponents as a result.
- SECOND HALF BENDING: At least they didn't break this time. NU missed a chance for a knockout punch in the third quarter, and Missouri's offense got on track enough to make the last minutes of the game somewhat tense. Although it would have been a lot to ask out of players who hadn't seen a lot of playing time (the aforementioned Thenarse, Wilson, and Culbert) it would be nice to see Nebraska put a team away.
- MOVING TARGETS: At the start of the season, the generally accepted premise was that Nebraska would demonstrate progress by winning the North. It was assumed that NU would lose to Texas and USC, and probably drop a road game along the way. As we sit now, Nebraska is right where we thought they would be ... and people are disappointed. I understand the Texas game raised people's hopes and the Oklahoma State game was difficult to watch. But restoring the order is a process, and one Nebraska has not yet completed. Nebraska is on track, but they aren't there yet. To expect them to be a national contender is unreasonable and, quite honestly, foolish.

... AND THE TRADITIONAL.
Up next, Kyle Field, the 12th Man, and one of the most difficult places to play in all of college football. Texas A&M is a team that has been waiting as long, if not longer, for their promised resurgence. Their one point loss to Oklahoma last week will only make them hungrier and ready for redemption. Plus, Nebraska doesn't "need" this game to accomplish their goal of the North championship. The setup to this game looks remarkably similar to the setup for the Oklahoma State game ... and we all know how well that went.

THE BIG PICTURE
If, at the start of the season, you would have asked a 'Husker fan if they would take being 7-3 and needing just one more win to capture the North title, almost all of them would have jumped at the chance. Nebraska has shown this season that they are moving forward. They are at this point pretty clearly the best team in the Big XII north (although that is akin to being the tallest midget in a room). But it's time to stop the hand-wringing and doom-saying that 'Husker Nation fell into after the Oklahoma State game. The 'Huskers have done just about all we could have reasonably asked them for this season, up to now. Next season, though, expect the bar to be raised again.

THE NEXT GAME
Nebraska (-1) at Texas A&M. Road game in the South. Mobile quarterback. Opposing team smarting from a tough loss. Nebraska with "goals intact" even after losing. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn't it? But let's not forget, NU had Oklahoma State beaten in the first half before falling apart. Given the firestorm that created, I don't think we'll see that again. Take Nebraska, lay the point.

GBR, baby.

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