Ndamukong Suh - Suuuuuuuuuuuuuuhperman! It's time to talk about this guy as one of the best defensive lineman in Nebraska history, and he's approaching Rich Glover territory at the nose (yeah, he's that good). Dude is a beast of a human being, he has incredible agility, and he can get anywhere on the field because he never stops. He gets stronger as the game goes on. And he's a smart cookie. He has an amazing way of demonstrating both his perceptive and athletic abilities during a single play. Blaine Gabbert was the victim of many of these feats, but two in particular stand out. Early in the game, Suh broke through the interior of the line and latched on to Gabbert, executing his patented QB throwdown technique and twisting Gabbo's ankle in the process (he limped the rest of the game). And of course, there was Suh's interception on the first play after the long touchdown pass to Niles Paul, an act of foresight, instinct, and athletic supremacy. In retrospect, I feel that this was the most important play in the entire comeback. Listen, I haven't had this much fun watching a Husker since Eric Crouch. And, by the way, you know what Eric Crouch has, don't you?
Niles Paul - That's it. I don't care anymore about what he did in the preseason. This Paul is a baller. Forget about the muffed punts and the holding penalty for now. Niles Paul stepped up and made two big plays in the 4th quarter, when the Huskers absolutely had to have them to make a game of it, with the entire receiving corps in the midst of their biggest disappearing act of the year (and that's saying something). First, he torched freshman DB Robert Steeples on a post route, hauled in Zac Lee's finest pass of the game, and easily outran safety Jarrell Harrison, who had to come from the other side when Jasper Simmons bit on a short route. The touchdown snapped Husker fans and players alike out of a vicious stupor, and it seemed to flip a switch on the Nebraska sideline. Paul's next play carried a bit larger degree of difficulty. He worked around Kevin Rutland's outside shoulder and got airborne just in time to snare another Lee spiral before the oncoming safety could interfere. Once the Huskers took the lead with that play, it was all but over. No matter what happens in his career, Niles Paul will always have last night in Columbia. Just please stop catching every punt.
The cornerbacks - Getting pressure from the front four helped, but this group was the other big factor in shutting down Mizzou's passing game. Prince Amukamara, Dejon Gomes, and Alfonzo Dennard all have the speed and instincts to stick with burners like Danario Alexander, and they have the timing to make plays on seemingly-open receivers. Support in the run game was excellent as well, including clutch TFLs from Gomes and Dennard to help salt away the win. Unfortunately, the one thing they don't have is receiving skills (no major suprise), with Gomes the only one who could hang onto a pass. Prince dropped an easy pick, and he committed a face mask penalty, but he also looked like the best player of the bunch. Inconsistent in the past, I loved seeing him on top of his game in a tough environment. But credit really goes to the entire unit, and even Larry Asante and the safeties, for effective pass prevention against a play-making offense.
Zac Lee - Who does he remind you of with those crazy antics? I was thinking The Riddler. He's a very weird dude, and I mean that in the best way. Would I mean that in a good way if he'd lost? You know, probably not. Yes, I talked about wanting Cody Green in, maybe just for a series, maybe just try to run a little option. Was it madness? Frustration? Would it really work? No, it probably wouldn't. But that's how bad Zac Lee was for three wet, depressing quarters. It was a worse performance than Lee submitted at Virginia Tech. This was not a Bud Foster defense. This was just Lee missing open receivers, on short throws even, and he was also non-existent as a runner. But then, late in the game, when all seemed lost and Green was on the doorstep, a receiver got separation, a safety jumped an underneath route, and Zac Lee found it in him to make the throw of his life. And then, what do you know? He made the throw of his life again a few plays later. Then he found his tight end under pressure to seal the deal, and he stood facing the Husker sideline, posed, with his arms stretched wide, his jubilation radiating outward through all of Husker Nation. Those throws from Zac Lee, plus a big play from a very big man, are what won a crucial road game on a miserable night in Misery.