Thursday, October 08, 2009

NU Re-View: Nebraska 27, Missouri 12

- THE FOURTH QUARTER. After basically doing nothing for the entire game, Nebraska flipped the field and scored all 27 of their points in a furious fourth quarter rally. Through a combination of momentum shift and wearing out the Tigers, Nebraska left it late but engineered a ridiculous comeback win.
- GIVE 'EM THE BLACKSHIRTS, BO. Let's be honest. Nebraska could very easily have been down by 24 points going into the fourth quarter and we could be talking about an ugly, embarrassing loss. But the we-sure-as-heck-should-call-them-Blackshirts-now kept Nebraska in the game, surrendering only one touchdown at the end of the first half. Yes, the offense came to life in the fourth quarter, but it wouldn't have mattered - and the momentum wouldn't have swung nearly as much - had NU's defense not kept the 'Huskers in the game.
- MENTAL TOUGHNESS. If you want one key to Nebraska's victory over Missouri, it's that Nebraska has become an incredibly tough team mentally under Bo Pelini. With NU's complete offensive ineptitude, there were so many opportunities for the team to give up, roll over, and wait for the next game. That happened with disturbing regularity in 2007. But the defense stayed strong and kept faith in the offense to get the game back. And, remarkably enough, the offense was able to find enough confidence in itself to produce 27 fourth quarter points and one of the most satisfying - if unexpected - Nebraska wins in a long time.

- THE FIRST THREE QUARTERS. All you need to know is this - it took until the last play of the third quarter for Nebraska's offense to get 100 yards of total offense. Yech. Sure, it was raining, but that kind of offensive production is unacceptable and very easily could have cost NU the game.
- MORE YELLOW. Just about every week this has been on the list. Nebraska had over 100 yards of penalties against them. Now, in a chippy game like this you're going to expect to see those. But there were critical penalties all over the place. A false start on a two-point conversion (which, for the record, I am opposed until there's about 5 minutes left in the game - had NU kicked the extra point, the next TD would have put them two scores ahead and made the end of the game more comfortable). A pass interference call to keep a Missouri drive alive after NU had taken the lead. We've seen those penalties cost them a game against Virginia Tech. It's disturbing that they seem to be getting worse, not better.
- WHITHER O'LEARY? Nebraska's long snapper has been shaky all season. Against Missouri, the long snapper struggled the entire game, costing NU two points and countless yards of field position. Unless NU gets better production from that position, and fast, NU's failings at long snapper will cost them a game this season.

Pelini's 'Huskers get their win on the road against a ranked conference opponent, and knock off Missouri in Columbia without Eric Crouch on the team. Was this Pelini's signature win? Given how poorly the offense played in the first three quarters, it's tough to feel that way. Sure, NU walked away with a 15-point win (comfortably covering, bringing me to 4-1 against the number this year), but for most of the game 'Husker Fan was in shock, calling for offensive coordinator Shawn Watson's firing and backup quarterback Cody Green to come in to spell a struggling Zac Lee at halftime. Neither were unreasonable - Watson's abandonment of the run was puzzling, unless starting running back Roy Helu's illness was as bad as feared, and Lee's outstanding fourth quarter masked an awful first three. Sure, it's great to get a win against the two-time Big XII North champions, but is it a signature win if you feel a bit like you stole it?

Will the real Nebraska please stand up? It's clear Nebraska's defense is for real. It's also clear that Nebraska's offense is, put charitably, a work in progress. A win is a win is a win, particularly in a snake pit like Columbia. But the switch the offense flipped in the fourth quarter is simply mystifying. Seeing the fourth quarter performance, though, tells you that at least the potential is there for a dynamic offense to go with a smothering defense - Nebraska will likely still be near the top of the country in scoring defense. There's still some scary games on the schedule, but a 10-win season and divisional title now seems much closer than it did at the end of the third quarter.

THE NEXT GAME: Texas Tech at Nebraska (-6). It's a good thing Nebraska gets another week off before this game. The Red Raiders come into Lincoln with their trademark wide-open offense and almost complete lack of defense. This game is certainly dangerous for Nebraska, as Pelini's team have never had to deal with handling a big win. Will the 'Huskers suffer a letdown in focus and edge? If so, Texas Tech could pose a real risk. There should be enough points scored in the game to make giving the six points safe enough, so take the 'Huskers and lay the points. But I will admit I have less confidence in this pick than I have in a while.
FEARLESS FORECAST: Nebraska 45, Texas Tech 31

GBR, baby.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

'Huskers have had to deal with a big win -- they shut out a passable football team the week before. It pales in comparison to this week but it is a big deal. Admittedly the comeback victory over the Tigers, in the pit, is far more dramatic and important but the kids stayed off their laurels.

Besides, the mental toughness you so rightly point it gives us cause to believe they'll avoid the pitfalls of overconfidence. They're going to have to dial to 11 every week for the rest of conference play. So, will the real Nebraska please stand up?