Thursday, September 18, 2008

NU Re-View: Nebraska 38, New Mexico State 7

THE GOOD ...
- I GOT RHYTHM: Actually, more accurately, the Nebraska offense finally looked like it had some rhythm. No surprise that as the running game became more effective, the entire offense started clicking. Hard to tell given the competition, but the NU offense looked the best it has so far this season.
- TURN 'EM OVER: One of the calling cards of Pelini's first stint at Nebraska was forcing turnovers. As the game wore on, the secondary was able to start turning New Mexico State over. I think turnovers are infectious, and as the DBs get more confident in getting turnovers, more will come.
- TRICKERATION: Lucky's TD strike to Joe Ganz was a little flashback to the Callahan era, but it was fun to see. More importantly, it gets that play on tape to give teams on the schedule something to worry about.
- THEY'RE INTO IT: At the end of the third quarter, going into the beginning of the fourth quarter, NMSU had 11 plays inside of Nebraska's 10 yard line. That's hard to do. It's even harder to have that many plays and not score, which the we-can't-call-them-Blackshirts accomplished. And as the Aggies were trying to punch it in, the crowd was as loud as I've heard in the first three games. Perhaps warming up for Virginia Tech and Missouri?

THE BAD ...
- D-LINE WOES: Pierre Allen, in for the injured Barry Turner, ended up on the trainer's table as well. It's not clear how bad his injury is, but Nebraska cannot afford much more attrition on the defensive line.
- KICKER KONCERNS: (OK, that's a pretty lame headline to this one, and makes this look a bit like something from Mortal Kombat. Although, how cool would it be to see Adi Kunalic's fatality move ...) Kunalic is still struggling with consistency in getting the ball into the end zone. He's got a phenomenal leg, but when he mis-hits the ball it looks a bit like when I hit my driver. Similarly, the otherwise-dependable Alex Henery badly shanked his first FG attempt. I wonder if the late field goal attempt was more to help his confidence than anything else.
- A 31-POINT PLAY?: OK, what in the world was New Mexico State head coach Hal Mumme doing calling a timeout in the dying moments of the game, with Nebraska up 38-7? Had he gotten a bookie somewhere to give him a 30-point spread and he had taken the points? Never was I happier to see a play fail than the post-time-out incompletion afterwards.
- NEXT MAN UP: Perhaps it's just me, but I thought it strange that #2 QB Patrick Witt is wearing a #2 jersey, and #3 QB Zac Lee is wearing #3. If that's the case, shouldn't Joe Ganz get to rock the ace, and shouldn't we put #4 on Beau Davis?

... AND THE END OF THE PRESEASON.
Nebraska has come through the first part of their season unscathed, but relatively untested. The teams NU has played so far have been at least respectable (I'm talking to you, Kansas State before playing Louisville), but the level of play rises with the next three games. We know that NU is 3-0, but we don't really know how much stock to put in that record. We'll find out soon enough.

THE BIG PICTURE
Say what you will about Steve Pederson, he did a masterful job in setting the schedule up this year. Nebraska has had at least some test, enough to get some of the kinks out. They get a week off to prepare and to rest, and then get a game against a nationally-respected team. At home. At night. On national TV. Then, if NU wins that game, they get the most dangerous team in the Big XII North. At home. Probably on national TV again if NU beats the Hokies. Now, I don't think NU has the horses to run with Missouri. But putting that game at home, after potentially a huge win over Virginia Tech, with the team and the fans being sky-high, gives Nebraska the best possible chance to stun the Tigers they could possibly have.

THE NEXT GAME
Virginia Tech at Nebraska. No spread yet, although I did finally call one right last week. Tough to say how this game is going to go. We will learn a lot about the Hokies this weekend as they travel to a greatly-improved North Carolina team. One way or the other, I think this game is Nebraska's to lose. VT coach Frank Beemer's decision to burn QB Tyrod Taylor's redshirt after VT's opening-day loss to East Carolina reeks of desperation, and it's hard to imagine how the team is going to be able to gel. Virginia Tech struggled last week against a good Georgia Tech team, but won. But now they have to play a tough road game against UNC, then turn around and play ANOTHER (hopefully) tough road game in Lincoln. However the North Carolina game turns out, that doesn't bode well for VT against the 'Huskers.

GBR, baby.

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