Sunday, November 29, 2009

NU Re-View: Nebraska 28, Colorado 20

THE GOOD ...
- ZACURACCY: Quarterback Zac Lee was 9-14 for 73 yards passing against Colorado, but early in the game he hit a number of difficult passes to keep Nebraska's offense moving. It's starting to look like the mid-season hiccup (although calling an eight-turnover home loss to Iowa State a hiccup seems to be selling it a bit short) had more to do with Lee's confidence than anything. A solid game against Colorado can do nothing but help.
- WELCOME BACK, REXY: Tailback Rex Burkhead put the offense on his shoulders in the second half and ground down the Buffaloes' defense. The drive of the game (and maybe the conference season) was a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive almost entirely consisting of Burkhead carries. While CU got their garbage touchdown on the last play, that drive functionally ended the game.
- ALEX MVP: Yeah, it's getting old to talk about Henery's greatness. And yes, he did miss a field goal. But Henery's punting wizardry consistently left Colorado in terrible field position and put the Blackshirts in prime position to be successful. Now that the regular season is over, my vote for team MVP would go to Alex Henery. Can you name me one player (even Big Mr. Suh) who has been consistently excellent for twelve games? Henery for Heisman!

THE BAD ...
- MORE TURTLING: It was a little bit of a concern last week, when Nebraska got up and went into ultra-conservative mode. Again, it worked for Nebraska, so it's too hard to complain. And maybe it's not a decision so much as an acknowledgment that this is the best the offense can do. But at some point in the next two games Nebraska is going to need more from its' offense, and you have to question whether the confidence will be there if (for example) your quarterback only has 14 pass attempts in a game.
- 403-217: That was the differential in total yards with Colorado having the 403. That's a lot of bending from the Blackshirts, and getting a pick-six from Matt O'Hanlon certainly didn't hurt. But once Nebraska got a lead it looked like their defensive intensity went down and let Colorado at least hang around for a while.
- A GAMBLER'S NIGHTMARE: Nebraska had the 10.5 spread covered comfortably until the last play of the game, where Tyler Hansen hit Scotty McKnight on a long and incredibly poorly defended pass to cut NU's lead to eight as time expired. Bo Pelini was incandescently upset with the lazy secondary play. I was at least a little pleased to finally get a 'Husker call against the number correct.

... AND THE FAIT ACCOMPLI.
This was possibly the strangest Nebraska game I have watched in some time. With Nebraska clinching the North title in the previous week and getting a score early, there was never a time I felt any danger. It seemed like the team felt that way as well, with a lackluster defensive performance being good enough for a win but not enough to inspire any confidence for the upcoming games.

THE BIG PICTURE.
Nebraska ends the regular season at 9-3, and was a freak loss against Iowa State away from a 10-2 season. 'Husker fans should be on cloud nine at this development, but almost none are. The struggles of the offense and the visible fraying of the defense over the last two games has put Husker Nation into at least code-yellow worry mode, if not orange. As much as a great defense is appreciated, until the offense becomes at least respectable it's hard to have BCS dreams start running through your Big Red heads.

THE NEXT GAME: Nebraska v. Texas, Big XII Championship, Dallas, Texas (line to be added). Texas had just as much of a clunker against an average Texas A&M team last weekend as Nebraska did against 3-9 Colorado. While Texas has frightening offensive weapons in Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley, they also have no running game to speak. They play great defense, however, and NU offensive coordinator Shawn Watson will have to leave the turtle shell in Lincoln if Nebraska is to stand a chance. In a game NU is given no chance to win, though, I certainly hope that NU pulls out all the stops and at least gives Lee and Co. an opportunity to shine. The Blackshirts have enough to keep the game close, but that's about it.
FEARLESS FORECAST: Texas 29, Nebraska 9

GBR, baby.

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