A thing of beauty it was not, but a win is a win... and five of them are enough to claim the Big XII North championship trophy (or bedpan, as the Omaha World-Herald's Tom Shatel called it). And in a one-game conference championship game, it doesn't matter what your resume says. Just ask Texas in 1996, Texas A&M in 1998, Colorado in 2001, Kansas State in 2003, or Oklahoma in 2007; they all knocked teams out of the BCS title game in upsets that range from shocking (1996, 2003) to almost expected (2001 and 2007). So it doesn't matter how you get there, it just matters what you do when you get there.
That being said, there's still the need to grade yesterday's performance and prepare for Colorado on a short week. The Huskers have plenty of things to continue to work on; needless to say, I'm going to grade this performance harder than the Journal-Star's Brian Rosenthal.QB: It was a "glass half-empty/full" performance depending on your perspective. He ran harder and more decisively than in any game to date, and managed the game fairly well overall. On the downside, his interception was a bad decision. His underthrows on some deep balls were a good conservative decision in my opinion. Throw the ball too far, and it's a loud noisy incompletion. Throw it a little short and let Niles Paul jump up and outmuscle the coverage for the ball; that's a battle he'll win most of the time. Take the likely 50 yard gain, or get greedy and go for the 70 yard killshot? This season, take the 50 yarder. My grade: B
IB: Oh it was so nice seeing Rex Burkhead back out on the field, but early on, he was used primarily as a decoy. Then they gave him the ball and the Wildcats came hard on the blitz and nailed him in the backfield. Roy Helu ran hard but likewise had trouble at times finding room. Helu could have kept a third quarter drive alive by catching a pass before turning upfield. Grade: B
WR: Niles Paul continues to step up his game, frequently as the only receiver in the game. We saw the other receivers play more than in the past few weeks, but other than a nice Brandon Kinnie catch, weren't very productive. And the lack of running room outside indicates the downfield blocking continues to be an issue. Nice to see Mike McNeill healthy enough to contribute. Grade: C
OL: At times it seemed there was more running room inside than outside; I credit that to the line play. Too many times, though, safeties burst through a gap unblocked to blow up a play, especially on that 14 yard sack of Zac Lee. Grade: B-
DL: Another quarterback with some mobility caused some issues with an aggressive pass rush. But when the game was on the line, Ndamukong Suh stepped up like the great players do. Why don't people even want to consider him for the Heisman Trophy. Mel Kiper says what everybody knows deep down inside: "Suh is the best player in college football." So what's the criteria for the Heisman Trophy anyway? "The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work." From my admittedly biased perspective, there is no other candidate even remotely close to Mr. Suh to meeting that criteria. Husker fans: VOTE now, VOTE tomorrow, then VOTE once (and only once) each and every day for the next two weeks. Grade: B+
LB: Some flashes of good play, but then a Wildcat would break open over the middle on a crossing pattern all alone. By the end of the game, Nebraska was playing quarters coverage...except rather than replace a defensive lineman, they removed the linebacker. True that was based mostly in part on K-State's need to dent the end zone twice in the waning minute, but it actually seemed to improve the defense. Grade: C-
Secondary: Last October, many Husker fans shook our head and yelled obscenities towards Larry Asante. Now look at him now; he's playing ferocious. This week, another two turnovers including the play of the day, forcing Keithen Valentine to cough up the football to keep the Wildcats out of the end zone. Even without Alfonzo Dennard, this group did well for the most part yesterday. Grade A
Special Teams: Again, normally I don't grade them but this week, they merit special attention. Adi Kunalic did an outstanding job on kickoffs, making sure Brandon Banks couldn't get going. I don't know how else to explain it, but Ndamukong Suh and his mates on the defensive line must be forcing kickers to change their routine. How else can you explain all of the missed kicks, even when Suh doesn't get his mitts on the ball? Another two misses yesterday. And finally, Alex Henery. First, it was a 45 yarder that bounced and seemingly turned right inside the five, as if Henery was controlling the ball with a remote control, going out at the 1. Then there was that 61 yard bomb that took another right turn, going out at the three yard line. Are you kidding me? Grade: A+
Overall Grade: B- It's a win, and a championship...but this team still can do a lot better to put it all together. If they do so, you never know what might happen.
Elsewhere in College Football
Oklahoma: F I've taken heat about propping up the Sooners in their 4 previous losses...but yesterday, they were taken behind the woodshed and then some.
Nike: F Somebody... Please enact a federal law banning Nike from the uniform business. My goodness, but those new "Pro-Combat" uniforms can be summarized in four letters: U G L Y. Remember, these are the idiots who have made Oregon the laughingstock of college football. Nebraska needs to sign a lifetime contract with adidas rather than risk letting Nike anywhere near the Husker athletic complex. Maybe the fabric is an improvement, but Herb Tarlek could design a better looking uniform than the Swoosh Crew.
LSU Clock Management: 0 Was Les Miles even paying attention there at the end of the game?
Taylor Nick: A+ Earlier this year, Texas Tech quarterback Taylor Potts seemed to lose the confidence of his teammates, and was replaced by Stephen Sheffield. The Blackshirts took Sheffield out, and Potts alternated with Seth Doege in recent weeks. This week, Potts reinvented himself as "Nick" and proceeded to burn the Sooners all afternoon.
Missouri 2nd half: A+ A few weeks ago, the Tigers were sleep walking through the 2nd half. Now they're sleepwalking through the first half and busting the game open down the stretch.