After the last-second loss to Texas in the Big XII Championship game, Nebraska could have chosen two different paths. Fold in bitter disappointment, or resolve to get better and never put themselves in that position again.
And like in 1994, Nebraska chose to resolve to get better. And man, oh man, did they get better. Not perfect, mind you. But better all across the board, sending a message that Nebraska football is ready to put the decade of the "Uh oh's" behind them. Nebraska isn't back ... yet ... but coming on hard and strong. How long until Western Kentucky travels to Lincoln? I think this entire program: coaches, players, and fans... can hardly wait.
As always, your comments and opinions are always welcomed.
QB: Whether the announcement that Cody Green would see action was an acknowledgment of Green's progress or a message to Zac Lee, it seemed to have the exact opposite effect than what we expected. Zac Lee ran hard, and well. He committed to the run, and even showed a couple of moves out there. He was in command of this offense, making plays all night. He wasn't perfect, mind you; he missed opportunities at times, especially when Ndamukong Suh was wide open in the end zone. And that's with a torn elbow tendon. Meanwhile, Green still looks awkward at best throwing the ball; he's starting to remind me of Jammal Lord at quarterback. Here's my prediction: barring another injury, Zac Lee will be the starter next season. Grade: B+
RB: Roy Helu made another cameo appearance in a bowl game before leaving with a knee injury, according to the World-Herald. In stepped Rex Burkhead, who did just about everything. Solid running the ball, and even played quarterback out of the Wildcat formation. We didn't see him throw the ball, but that's probably in his wheelhouse next season. I really liked the formation where Burkhead motioned into the backfield in an offset Pistol formation, creating a quasi-wishbone formation, but with a quarterback lined up where the fullback normally would. Grade: A-
WR: Curenski Gilleylen finally got back onto the field in the game...but spent most of his time on the field unable to stay upright. I'm not going to write anybody off, but playing time is only going to get harder to find in the future. Niles Paul proved he's a big play receiver once again...but he's got to keep his head. With the offense opening up, Mike McNeill was freed up to catch some passes; that's an addition to this team. Grade: B+
OL: Mike Smith's ears are probably still burning after his false start penalty...but otherwise, this unit played fine. The participation report indicates only Mike Caputo and Andy Christensen came in as reserves, so these guys played pretty much the whole way. I think that'll change next year with some of the freshmen they redshirted. Grade: B
DL: Thanks for everything Ndamukong Suh. He showed quite a bit of heart by refusing to be substituted as Arizona tried to get on the board in garbage time. All told, this group owned the Arizona offensive line. Remember that "team meeting" they held over Nick Foles? Grade: A
LB: Yeah, it was a lot of nickel and dime, but Phillip Dillard led the team in tackles. Grade: A
Secondary: You had to be listening to the radio coverage to know Matt O'Hanlon made yet another interception. Bo Pelini says he'll play on Sundays next year; I believe him. The secondary had great coverage all game long as Foles had to throw the ball away all night long before finally getting benched. Grade: A+
Coaching: Bo Pelini had this team ready to play, even before ESPN started the broadcast. Shawn Watson showed he can be creative when he's got players healthy enough to try it. Grade: A+
Overall: A Absolutely solid performance, dominating another ranked team.
Elsewhere in College Football
Missouri: F My goodness, did the Tigers get sunk by Navy...and it wasn't even close. They had no clue how to defend the option game, and the Tiger offense played Bill Callahan-stubborn. Is David Yost a relative of Kevin Cosgrove? Navy lines up only two defensive linemen, and the Tigers stay in shotgun with Derrick Washington split out wide?
Iowa State: B Congratulations on a win, though one has to ask whether it's a real bowl game if it's televised on a niche network that isn't available in most homes in the country. So I've got to go off of highlights and the wrapup to give them a grade. But a bowl game after what the 'Clones went through last season is a great accomplishment.
Big MAC: A I've given the Big Ten a lot of grief in recent years for poor showings in bowl games. Well, I'll give the Big Ten credit for a strong start to the bowl season. Ohio State shocked me by keeping up with Oregon today.
Pac Ten: F Should have seen this coming when UCLA struggled to beat Temple in the EagleBank Bowl.
SEC: C Florida is cleaning up the stink left by their conference brethren.
Cincinnati: F A lot of people felt Hawai'i was the biggest fraud to ever get a BCS invitation. Until tonight. I understand the Urban Meyer situation has Florida extra motivated, but my goodness.
Bowl Game Schedulers: F Only FIVE games on New Years? Come on, are you ceding New Years Day to the NHL? The Winter Classic between the Bruins and Flyers from Fenway was more compelling than some of those early games, other than the soup that the Citrus Bowl was played in/on.