Nebraska's defensive line has been incredible most of the season, but against Kansas they looked somewhat pedestrian. Nebraska managed only one sack, that on a corner blitz where Prince Amukmara chased down Todd Reesing who was rolling to the opposite side of the field. The defensive line unit managed only 3.5 tackles for loss, with five total for the team.
Strategically, Kansas did a couple things very well to neutralize Nebraska's defensive line. They double and triple-teamed the best defensive lineman in the nation for most of the game. They also ran a fair number of misdirection plays, having Reesing roll in the opposite direction of the offensive line blocking. On those plays the defensive line doesn't have much choice but to go in the direction of the offense, as that's the point of misdirection - to disguise the play by moving the offense in one direction while the ball goes in another.
Kansas tried a couple of plays early with a single blocker against Ndamukong Suh, but his upfield push was too strong for tackle-converted-to guard Jeff Spikes. (Last week Husker fans were told a freshman would be getting his first start against Suh. Apparently Mark Mangino isn't that crazy.) Given that result, Suh was double-teamed and triple-teamed for the rest of the game. Normally Jared Crick would benefit from the extra blockers handling Suh, but in this game Crick was frequently caught up in KU's blocking scheme. Carl Pelini called some line stunts in an attempt to cross up the blocking, but the Huskers were burned by them on a few occasions.
That's not to say the defensive line didn't have some great plays. Kansas was limited in the number of downfield passes they could throw. When they tried to develop longer passing routes, Reesing was frequently pressured into bad throws. Kansas had one play where their receiver had gotten behind Nebraska's defensive backs, but the ball was dropped.
Dezmon Briscoe's biggest gain of the day came on a short pass where Briscoe spun around and ran past two Husker defenders who had taken bad angles on the play. Those are the kind of plays Briscoe can make. Reesing's biggest gain came on a 17-yard quarterback draw when he barely escaped the grasp of a defensive lineman. Other than Reesing's draw, the longest ground gain was by running back Toben Opurum for a mere six yards. That's not anywhere near suck territory.
The most impressive defensive line play of the day came when Barry Turner tracked down Dezmon Briscoe on a reverse, running him to the sideline for a one-yard loss. Turner showed impressive speed on the play and kept the angle of pursuit to his advantage. Turner ended up with four tackles, while fellow linemen Suh, Crick, Pierre Allen, and Cameron Meredith had 2.5 apiece.
To date, Nebraska has averaged 6.9 tackles for loss and 2.8 sacks per game. Kansas was successful in eliminating negative plays, largely due to Reesing's ability to scramble and find just enough room on his draw plays. The Jayhawks made the best of Briscoe's ability to make plays and Kerry Meier's ability to catch anything thrown at him.
Overall, it wasn't a bad game for the defensive line, we just didn't see the bone-crushing tackles that we've become accustomed to this season. Don't worry about it too much - Kansas State quarterback Grant Gregory isn't nearly as mobile as Todd Reesing, and the Wildcats only have one big playmaker in speedy receiver Brandon Banks.
Count on seeing a Husker defensive line back in form this weekend. Contain the Wildcat ground game, get some sacks, and everything should be good.