Friday, October 02, 2009

NU Re-View: Nebraska 55, Louisiana 0

(Apologies for this being late, and for no Re-View of Virginia Tech. That game took a while for me to get over. In my defense, though, I will note that I am 3-1 against the spread with NU this year!)

THE GOOD ...
- GOOSE EGGS AND DONUTS: Whatever you want to call it, Nebraska got a shutout against a D-I/FBS opponent. Yes, it was Louisiana (and, officially, NOT Louisiana-Lafayette, thank you very much), and yes, they were on the back end of a nightmare non-conferene run. But it was still a shutout, meaning the not-yet-Blackshirts managed to avoid the breakdowns that we've been disturbed by all season.
- UP THE MIDDLE: Towards the end of the game, when NU was in the red zone, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson seemed to make a point of running between the tackles to score. The elusiveness of Roy Helu (who regular readers know I have a disturbing man-crush on) looked just as good sliding through the line into the end zone as he does breaking a stretch play. If nothing else, getting that on tape was important to give the folks in Columbia something to worry about.
- PARTY LIKE IT'S 1962: NU's throwback uniforms with the curly-Q numbers weren't just cool. They were wicked cool. They were unbelievably cool. They were Nebraska-has-to-do-that-again-very-soon cool. Nebraska is all about tradition, and anything that can bring tradition to life like that needs to be done again, and again, and again.

THE BAD ...
- THE YELLOW STUFF: While improving, Nebraska still cannot shake an abundance of penalties, particularly on the offensive line. Head coach Bo Pelini wanted a focus on execution in the game against Louisiana. While there was improvement, there's still an issue to work on.
- TICK, TICK: Nebraska's clock management is now a cause celeb for 'Husker Nation. The crowd has taken to counting down the play clock if it gets under eight and the ball isn't snapped. But what's disturbing is one play where it appeared that the crowd's countdown actually got Zac Lee's attention and forced a time out.
- INJURIES: NU's secondary took a big injury hit with Ricky Thenarse, Larry Asante, and Prince Amukamura all having knocks during the game. It appears that Asante and Amukamura will be OK in time for Missouri (thank you, 10-day layoff), but that Thenarse will miss some significant time. Given the spread-em-out offense Missouri runs, Nebraska needs all the secondary depth they can get. Asking young, inexperienced guys to step in to a hostile atmosphere like in Columbia and perform against the defending Big XII North champions should make 'Husker Fan nervous.

... AND THE CELEBRATION.
Let's just get it out of the way. Nebraska did a GREAT job honoring its' 300th consecutive sellout. Having the guys from the '62 team come out of the tunnel, having the Bobfather's family honored, wearing the throwback gear, and the video tribute after the game was simply phenomenal. And it was a nice touch to have messages from Frank Solich, Barry Alvarez, and others. It was particularly nice to see the response Solich got from the crowd. I have to admit, though, I never thought I would see the day when a Nebraska crowd would applaud Barry Switzer. Strange times, these.

THE BIG PICTURE.
The non-conference season is over, so it's time to step back and assess. Yes, NU won the Sun Belt Conference championship - I'm sure no one has made that joke before. But what you can take from the Sun Belt games was that Nebraska did what good teams are supposed to do against minnows - they throttled them by a combined 142-12. The Virginia Tech near miss looks even better after the Hokies embarassed Miami on the same field a week later. But don't forget that we've had false dawns before. Solich's NU team was a Jamaal Lord interception away from knocking off Texas. Bill Callahan had Texas on the ropes twice, including in Austin during the dreaded 2007 campaign. Near misses are great for moral victories, but NU has to cash in and start winning games like those to really get a solid footing. So far, Pelini's best win is the Gator Bowl against Clemson. That's solid, but NU has to convert some of the upcoming opportunities this season to avoid the danger of regression.

THE NEXT GAME: Nebraska (-2) at Missouri. Nebraska's first opportunity for redemption, and possibly to break the streak of losses to ranked teams, comes October 08 in Columbia. Missouri has looked inconsistent in getting to 4-0, struggling against some pretty poor opponents. Even their best win, against Illinois, is looking less and less impressive as Illinois nosedives their way through the 2009 campaign. This game is also the red-letter game on Nebraska's calendar. At the Football 202 I attended this summer, I was astounded how many references the staff and team made to the Missouri game last year. I think NU will be incredibly focused and prepared to play a smart, physical game against the Tigers. If the table has ever been set for a coming-out party for Pelini's NU squad, on national television, this is it. Interesting that the line is Nebraska by two, even with the game being in Columbia. I don't mind laying those points at all. Take Nebraska, give the points.
FEARLESS FORECAST: Nebraska 38, Missouri 20.

Louisiana @ Nebraska photo album:
http://picasaweb.google.com/patrickrunge/LouisianaNebraska?feat=directlink

GBR, baby.

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