Thursday, October 04, 2007

NU Re-View:Nebraska 35, Iowa State 17

THE GOOD ...
- THE TWO MINUTE OFFENSE: Boy, every time NU goes into a no-huddle, quick pass attack, they look really good on offense. Quarterback Sam Keller has always said he's a "rhythm" quarterback (no jokes about methods, please), and that kind of an offense definitely suits him. You know, there isn't really a rule that prohibits running that before two minutes are left ...
- YARDS PER PLAY: Yeah, it's bad that Iowa State had 100+ plays. But the Blackshirts held the 'Clones to 4.4 yards per play. That is a significant improvement over the last couple of games. Given that the high play count came from a number of odd plays (like two ISU punts turned into first downs by penalties), hopefully the lower YPP is a harbinger of better things to come.
- THE COMEBACK HEART: Say what you will about the problems of Nebraska's last three games. The one overarching positive you can find from it is that this team knows how to take a punch, get up, and finish the fight. That kind of mental toughness goes miles in determining what teams are successful and what teams aren't.

THE BAD ...
- 415: Just like last week, the total yards surrendered by NU was horrendous. Most disturbing in the game, though, was the 98 yard drive ISU put together after Nebraska went up 28-10 to bring the game back. This Blackshirt unit really looks like they struggle with focus.
- GETTING POUNDED: Nebraska's running game has evaporated. Much like last year when you could tell Bill Callahan lost faith in his kicking game, this year Billy C has lost faith in the run. When the rubber hits the road, Keller is dropping back to throw. Nebraska does not run between the tackles at all - is it because they choose not to, or because they can't?
- WHOOP!: (It's supposed to be the Chris Berman irritating sound effect of a ball being fumbled. I miss NFL Prime Time with Boomer and TJ ...). Once again, NU running backs develop a bad case of fumble-itis. Marlon Lucky fumbles away a touchdown, and Cody Glenn puts the ball on the ground in the first quarter to help ISU get a ten point lead. This on the heels of Quentin Castille fumbling in two straight games. The problems of the running game referred to above may be, in part, because of the ball security problems of the backs.

... AND THE BIG XII NORTH CHAMPIONSHIP GAME.
I know, I know, Colorado and Kansas State got big wins last week. But CU's win was much more a gift from Oklahoma who assumed they won once they took a 24-7 third-quarter lead and forgot to finish the game. And the Purples' win over Texas was a lot of special teams TDs combined with an over-rated Longhorn squad. Nebraska and Missouri are still the class of the North, and the winner of this game still is a near-lock to play in San Antonio this December.

THE BIG PICTURE
A win is a win is a win. Once Nebraska recovered from an awful first quarter, they had at least a tenuous control of the game. Had ISU not put the 98-yard drive together, I would be ready to say that they started to right the ship. But that drive still leaves me unsold on where this team is defensively. It's clear now that the linebacking corps is a huge disappointment, and the line is incapable of generating an adequate pass rush. Watch to see if Phillip Dillard gets a lot more play at the Mike this week, he consistently outplayed Corey McEwon against ISU.

THE NEXT GAME: Nebraska @ Missouri (-7): As bad as Nebraska's defense is, Missouri's is just as bad. Nebraska is far more battle-tested than the Tigers, as Missouri's best win was an opening-week neutral-site win over Illinois. The 'Huskers will be hurt if WR Maurice Purify does not play this weekend because of his girlfriend's death in a car accident, and Nebraska under Callahan is a historically poor road team. But this is still Missouri, and more importantly, they are still coached by Gary Pinkel. All else being equal, I would put my faith in Pinkel to lose a big game like this. Neither defense is good enough for the spread to be as large as it is. Take Nebraska and the points, but put your mortgage on the over in this one.

GBR, baby.

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