Friday, December 01, 2006

NU Re-View: Nebraska 37, Colorado 14

THE GOOD ...
- FINISH WHAT YOU START: The M.O. for this year's Nebraska team was to struggle in the end part of the game to put a team away. In the final act of the regular season, though, Nebraska was able to find a killer instinct and throw the knockout punch once they had Colorado on the ropes.
- TRICKERATION: It's a strange sight when a halfback pass becomes a commonplace thing. But if nothing else, it makes watching the game fun. And the play where Zac Taylor walked away from the line of scrimmage in disgust, then the ball was snapped to Tierre Green, might be my favorite play of all time. I remember reading a Pro Football Weekly article in junior high talking about that play, and to finally see it happen - and work - was a lot of fun.
- MOMENTUM: The Colorado game had no bearing on what Bill Callahan said was his goal the entire season, namely the Big XII North championship. However, he sure didn't coach the game like it didn't matter. Callahan pulled out all the stops in going for the win, which was refreshing to see.

THE BAD ...
- SLEEPY START: For all the talk of focus, and Colorado coach Dan Hawkins' "rather be a Buff" comment, Nebraska came out pretty flat. It looked like, on both sides of the ball, NU lacked focus and intensity. During Colorado's first scoring drive, it looked like the Blackshirts simply checked out and let Colorado go straight down the field. To their credit, they stiffened after that, but those lapses are disturbing.
- FIELD GOAL RANGE: It was amazing when Jordan Congdon lined up for a 55-yard field goal attempt, that everyone in the stadium knew there was no way Congdon could kick it that far and something must be up. Everyone, that is, except for Hawkins, who allowed Congdon to pooch-punt the ball, setting up the safety that fundamentally ended the game. But how nice would it be to have a kicker that could actually convert that long field goal and not have to rely on that trickeration?
- STARTING FALSELY: One of the hallmarks of Callahan's version of the West Coast offense has Nebraska shifting formations on almost every play. There's clearly value in that, by confusing the defense and making them shift on the fly. However, it seems that Nebraska has yet to master it to the point where they can get set in the new formation and get the ball snapped without a penalty. Sometimes the benefits can be outweighed by a momentum-killing penalty.

... AND THE TRADITIONAL
Nebraska-Oklahoma, for all the marbles. There's something that just sounds right about that. Sure, it's not the day after Thanksgiving, and sure, it's in an NFL stadium, but it's still the 'Huskers and the Sooners. It's not the best matchup for Nebraska - an injured and reeling Texas team would give NU a better chance at victory - but the renewal of the old rivalry in such an important setting is simply too good to complain about.

THE BIG PICTURE
The national consensus seems to be that Nebraska is on the way back, but not quite there yet. Almost every review of this game has Oklahoma winning a close game, which for Nebraska is a good thing. A victory for NU means even more positive attention, more talk of Nebraska returning to glory. A loss means the progress gained this season remains at its' current level. Either way, Nebraska has successfully laid the next layer of foundation in rebuilding the program. The work is not yet completed, but it's a lot closer than it was at this time last year.

THE NEXT GAME
Nebraska vs. Oklahoma (-4). These are two very evenly matched teams. Oklahoma has the edge on defense, but is a one-dimensional, run-first offense. It will be critical for Nebraska's offense to be able to establish Brandon Jackson on the ground, and to give Taylor enough time to throw. On defense, NU must avoid the poor tackling that has led to big plays being hit against them. In a game as close as this, always take the points. In this case, that's Nebraska, but take the under in this game too.

GBR, baby.

No comments: