Thursday, September 17, 2009

NU Re-View: Nebraska 38, Arkansas State 9

- EXPLOSIVENESS: Nebraska started to show a bit of the additional speed and athleticism that will make Shawn Watson's offense more difficult to handle. Although it was called back, Niles Paul's scamper down the sideline was a thing to marvel at - and worry about if you're game-planning against NU.
- PUTTING THE CLAMPS DOWN: Once again, Nebraska did well in preventing their opponent from cashing in on time of possession and success moving the ball between the twenties. There is something to be said for an effective red zone defense.
- ME TOO, ME TOO!: Nebraska showed more zone read option against the Red Wolves, with Zac Lee keeping the ball and taking off upfield. It's unclear if that was by design to give Virginia Tech something to worry about, or if it was Lee's idea to show that Cody Green isn't the only one who can run the ball. Of course, Lee didn't go 45 yards down the sideline ...

- FLASHBACKS: Remember when NU's defense let people go between the twenties but not score under a certain Kevin Cosgrove? It was called a "bend but don't break" defense, and 'Husker fan lost his freaking mind about it. It's not any less dangerous when a "BBDB" defense is employed by Mr. Carlfense, even if people like him better than Cosgrove.
- POWER OUTAGE: If there were any struggles for NU against Arkansas State, it was the lack of ability to consistently run between the tackles. Being able to do so will be critical for success against Virginia Tech. It remains to be seen whether Nebraska chose not to go heavy, or whether they just lack the ability to do so.
- SLOPPY SECOND (HALF): Once the game was decided, it looked for all the world like Nebraska lost interest in the game. Particularly in the second half, poor execution on both sides of the ball and penalties plagued Nebraska. It's not a good sign going into a hostile environment to have the team lose focus.

Virginia Tech week is finally here. Nebraska has an opportunity to take the "can't beat a ranked team" monkey off its' collective backs, and to establish themselves a national presence. They also have the ability to throw up a clunker and undo a lot of the national goodwill earned by their Gator Bowl win over Clemson. Yes, Virginia (Tech), this is a big game.

Given how badly the Big XII North is starting to look (staring right at you, Dan Hawkins), a win in Blacksburg is Nebraska's best opportunity to get a marquee win. The Hokies have injuries on defense and are down to a third-string tailback. They looked inept offensively against Alabama, a team that Utah shredded. This game looked like a huge longshot at the end of last year. Now, it could really be a springboard for Nebraska.

Nebraska @ Virginia Tech (-3). Look for NU to go back to more of a ball-control offense like they ran in Lubbock, with the intent of keeping Tyrod Taylor on the sidelines. Don't be at all surprised to see one of Nebraska's big-hitting safeties (see Thenarse, Ricky) spying Taylor and daring VT to beat the Blackshirts with his arm. To win, Nebraska needs to have a lot better ball control then they have in their first two games, and to establish a power running game to set up Lee's play-action and allow NU's playmakers to get loose. All of those are doable. This game is razor close, so take Nebraska and the points.
FEARLESS FORECAST: Pelini gets the signature win Callahan never could. Alex Henery is the hero, converting more stalled drives into points than VT's kicker. Nebraska 20, Virginia Tech 16.

GBR, baby.

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