If you love old-fashioned defense, you had to love last night's Nebraska-Oklahoma game. Neither offense was able to get untracked, and it became a battle between defenses. One team tried to be the aggressor on offense, and the other one played a little bit of rope-a-dope. And in the end, it was the team that made fewer mistakes and forced more mistakes that won the game. Both teams are in the top 15 nationally in most defensive categories, so in that light, it's not surprising that we watched that battle unfold under the lights in Lincoln.
QB: Last night's game called for a game manager, not an inexperienced playmaker. Oklahoma sent out an inexperienced playmaker... who threw five picks. Facing a stout defense with your own stout defense, it came down to a battle of who made the least number of mistakes. Early on, I thought that would give Oklahoma an edge because Landry Jones had a little more experience than Cody Green. But after sensing that while Green hadn't made a mistake, he didn't give you the comfort level that wasn't going to happen. Enter Zac Lee, who threw the game winning touchdown pass. He did most everything that he was asked to do, which wasn't much. Could Green have made a game changing play? Absolutely. Could he have made a game changing mistake? Almost certanly, and once Nebraska got into position to win the game, that's a risk Bo Pelini and Shawn Watson couldn't take. Grade: C
IB: I offer Nebraska's biggest, if not only, offensive weapon: Roy Helu. Since Helu injured his shoulder late against Missouri four weeks ago, Nebraska's offense has sputtered. Helu finally felt comfortable and came up with a huge game. He also played smart, staying inbounds to keep the clock running rather than take a chance of going out of bounds and stopping the clock. My only criticism of Helu was an ineffective block that led to a sack of Lee. I still don't think his shoulder is 100%. Grade: A
WR: Nebraska went with double tight ends all night and typically only Niles Paul at receiver. Occasionally Brandon Kinnie or Khiry Cooper came in for fullback Tyler Legate, but the only receiver to catch a pass was Kinnie. The name of the game last night was blocking for the I-backs. Would have liked to see Nebraska try to stretch the field more to open up the running game, but I certainly understand why...and have no complaints about the results. Grade: C-
OL: The Sooners stacked the line and made it very difficult to get the line in flow. Some early penalties by the line didn't help Green in the early going. But every so often, the line created a seam up front to allow Helu to burst into the open. Grade: B-
DL: Ho hum...another Ndamukong Suh blocked field goal. I just don't see what the fuss is all about. Well, people who stare at the stat sheet might consider last night to be a ho-hum performance for the defensive line, but the those who watched the game know how disruptive the line was. Grade: A
LB: Since the Huskers lined up in dime coverage almost all night, this was all Phillip Dillard. And what a night: an interception, a 13 yard sack, and the unenviable task of trying to cover DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown. Grade: A+
Secondary: Larry Asante may have had one of the biggest hits of the game, blasting Adron Tennell to force an incompletion and knocking Tennell to the sideline for much of the game. Ironically, it was Asante who would eventually leave the game with a concussion. Alfonzo Dennard is becoming a star in pass coverage. Then, we get to last night's heroes. Matt O'Hanlon goes out and exorcises the ghosts of a blown coverage at Virginia Tech. 12 tackles and THREE interceptions. And some people still doubt this kid? For shame. I think they're the same idiots that used to criticize Barrett Ruud and Scott Shanle. And then there's Prince Amukamara, who broke up two passes and had the crucial interception that set up Nebraska's touchdown. Nebraska's shut-down corner; you throw at him at your own risk. Grade: A+
Coaching: The defense was ready to play, but the Shawn Watson took the gamble to play ultra-conservative. The play of the Blackshirts made that the correct decision in the end, but it was a risky gamble since playing not to lose is typically not a winning strategy. But considering the Huskers offensive futility the last few weeks, it was the correct decision. Grade: A
Overall: A Oklahoma has lost four games this season: One point losses to a pretty good BYU team and ranked Miami. Three points to Texas. And now, seven points to the Huskers.
Elsewhere in College Football
Iowa: D The fantasy of Iowa being in the BCS mix finally came to an end. Sadly, it took an injury toto burst that balloon.
Missouri: F Somebody send out the ski patrol; Missouri's defense got lost in the Flatirons around Boulder at halftime last week and haven't been seen since.
Notre Dame: F Here's a suggestion on priorities. Start winning games of national prominence, then worry about things like the BCS and Heisman. Then you don't look quite so silly when you fail.