Monday, September 08, 2008

NU Re-View: Nebraska 35, San Jose State 12

THE GOOD ...
- 35-12: Ultimately, a win is a win. Sure, last year's Ball State game was a real canary in the coal mine warning of dangers to come. But this is a 23-point win, and because it's a win, it provides the opportunity to right the ship. If possible.
- 1-5: That's San Jose State's touchdown conversion rate in the red zone. The we-can't-call-them-Blackshirts-yet got gashed quite a bit from 20-to-20, particularly early, but they didn't let SJSU convert those opportunities into touchdowns. NU could have very easily been down 21-7 at halftime, and there's a whole different vibe that would have been created if that happened.
- 24: That is Niles Paul's number, and his kick return functionally ended the game. Paul, along with Roy Helu Jr. and Menelik Holt, look to be the real play-makers on offense. If Nebraska is going to have better success offensively this season, a lot will depend on these guys.

THE BAD ...
- 353: As in the Spartans' total offense against Nebraska. SJSU runs a very Missouri-like version of the spread, and Nebraska looked completely flummoxed by it in the first half. There were adjustments made and the defense looked better as the game wore on. But it's still San Jose State coming to Lincoln and putting up 353. What will Missouri do?
- 3: As in three false start penalties. In a row. On different players. I kept watching as the offending player would get shuttled out, a new one shuttled in, and another flag would fly. If that went on much longer, I was waiting for them to get someone from the stands who knows how to stand still until the ball is snapped. (Memo to Shawn Watson - if that comes up, my cell number is ...)
- 99: As in Barry Turner's number, who looks to be lost for the season with a broken leg. Pierre Allen came in and played very well, but now Nebraska is really thin at defensive end. Which is problematic, because DE is the position the defense needs the most right now to generate pressure on opponent's quarterbacks without blitzing.

... AND THE SURVIVAL.
In the end, a win is a win is a win. I don't care what Bo Pelini said in his post-game presser, NU was flat as a pancake coming out for this game. Eventually the outmanned Spartans gave up the ghost in Lincoln, but they had an upset in their hands. If SJSU converts more of those early opportunities into touchdown, or even if they have kickers whose talent doesn't include kicking the ball AT the uprights instead of THROUGH them, we would be talking about "1-1" in the "bad" category.

THE BIG PICTURE
Nebraska showed heart and adaptability, especially on defense, to survive the onslaught. I do think this is the kind of game last year's team would have lost. But, if nothing else, this game should put any lofty expectations for this year's NU squad on ice. If NU puts up that first half effort against Missouri, Texas Tech, or Oklahoma, they'll be on the wrong side of 40. This is a transition year, and to expect anything beyond 7-5 is unreasonable. The crucial thing to watch for this year is what we saw on Saturday - when Pelini's Cornhuskers are faced with adversity, how do they respond? Against SJSU, they passed the test.

THE NEXT OPPONENT
New Mexico State @ Nebraska (-25 1/2): The Aggies bring the Texas Tech version of the spread to Lincoln for a night game. Where last week we saw ex-Arizona coach Dick Tomey, this week we see ex-Kentucky coach Hal Mumme. Mumme is really the architect of the throw-all-the-time spread, which should make for lots of points scored. Again, much like Texas Tech, defense is not the Aggies' strong point. I'd be more comfortable taking the over on this one, but give me the 'Huskers off the belief that Pelini won't let his crew put up two clunkers in a row.

GBR, baby.

No comments: