Tuesday, September 04, 2007

NU Re-View:Nebraska 52, Nevada 10

THE GOOD ...
- I LOVE THE NINETIES: Nebraska's second-half beatdown of the Wolf Pack, with over 400 yards rushing and 600 yards of total offense, was delightfully remniscent of Nebraska teams of yore that would pound on a lesser team, wear them out in the first half, and finish them off in the third quarter. In the last few years, Nebraska has lacked the killer instinct necessary to finish a team off when they had the advantage. Apparently, they've discovered one, at least for one game.
- THUNDERFOOT: Do not sleep on the need for a good kicker. Nebraska struggled mightily last year both in giving up kickoff returns and in being unable to attempt long field goals. This year, it appears the 'Huskers have two kickers with the leg to compete on a national level. The game against Nevada turned when, after going down 10-7, Nebraska returned a short kickoff inside Nevada territory, then pinned Nevada back to the 20 after NU scored.
- AN EMBARASSMENT OF RICHES: The 'Huskers are really deep at running back. Marlon Lucky had a great game, but the guys behind him (Quentin Castille, Roy Helu Jr., and an injured Cody Glenn) looked very capable as well. Having an offensive line play as well as they did certainly helps, too, as QB Sam Keller routinely dropped back and ate a sandwich before delivering a pass.

THE BAD ...
- FISTS OF STONE: Part of Nebraska's struggles at the start of the game resulted from dropped passes. Especially with this being Keller's first game at Nebraska, it is understandably hard to get into a rhythm when he delivers a pass on target and the receiver drops it. Particularly guilty was Terrance Nunn, a senior, who dropped two balls and had an inexplicable brain-cramp trying to return a punt after he called for a fair catch, resulting in a penalty. Those mistakes in a 52-10 win can be laughed off. Those mistakes in a close game, or a loss, will get Nunn eviscerated in the press.
- TICK, TICK, TICK: Nebraska really struggled with the 25-second clock, suffering a number of delay penalties and having to hurry other snaps. Keller's pick-six interception was off a hurried snap, which could very well have been one of the reasons for Keller's poor decision. Coach Bill Callahan had some reasons why they struggled, including being surprised how quickly the clock was started on a dead ball. But, regardless, that's an issue that needs to be addressed. I love the pre-snap shifts, as much as it drives the blue hairs in the stands crazy. But the 25-second clock has to be the first priority, period. Those penalties simply should not happen.
- MONTY PYTHON: As the Spanish Inquisitors said, "nothing, there is no third thing." A 52-10 win over a respectable Nevada team lets me go comedy to finish this segment.

... AND THE PRELUDE.
Nebraska's trip to Winston-Salem next Saturday to take on Wake Forest has all the makings of a trap game - big opening win, red-letter opponent coming up, and a lesser-known opponent in between. Callahan, fresh off his five-year extension, needs to make sure his troops are prepared for a well-coached ACC squad, and take care of business. As fun as the 52-10 pasting of Nevada was, a loss to Wake Forest followed by a possible defeat by USC the following week would leave the 'Huskers 1-2, and the Nevada blowout long forgotten.

THE BIG PICTURE
It's hard to tell how seriously to take the Nevada result. Certainly, it's a good thing that Nebraska rolled, particularly as they were able to put a team away in the third quarter. But how good is Nevada? And how good is Nebraska on the road? There is a danger of overconfidence going into next week against a depleted Wake Forest team (although the words "Appalachian State" should be enough for any team to avoid overconfidence). How NU looks against the Demon Deacons will tell us a lot about how the 2007 campaign will go.

THE NEXT OPPONENT
Nebraska (-8 1/2) @ Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons are the defending ACC champions, but have lost a lot to graduation. Also, their starting quarterback, Riley Skinner, was injured and is doubtful to play on Saturday. In many ways, this sets up perfect for NU. Wake Forest brings the panache of an Orange Bowl bid from last year, but brings a far less talented team to play. Jim Grobe is a first-rate coach, but so is Nevada's Chris Ault. Assuming the 'Huskers can avoid their road woes and don't get comfortable with their performance against Nevada, Nebraska should win easy, so lay the points with confidence.

GBR, baby.

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