Not since the end of the Bill Callahan clusterfool has there been a weekly report card like this. Sure, the Huskers had their clunkers here and there, but nothing quite like this. Some would argue that since Nebraska won, you can't grade them poorly. But then by that same logic, you can't grade the Huskers well when they play well, but come up a little short on the scoreboard against upper-tier competition. Another argument could be made that this might be the only week Nebraska could put forth this effort and still come away with the win, but I belive the lack of respect for the opponent (by both players and fans) was a root cause of the outcome.
So this one isn't pretty. Every team will cough up a hairball or two each season when they don't play their best. Husker fans should hope that this week was exactly that. I think we've seen that this team is capable of much more than we saw against South Dakota State. As always, your feedback is always welcome. If you aren't yet a member of CornNation, please sign up (it's free!) and join the conversation.
RB: Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead seemed to do the best they could do under the circumstances. When backs need to break tackles before they get out of the backfield, you know the primary problem is elsewhere. Still, the coaches felt they could have made better decisions yesterday. Grade: C+
WR: This one is a toughie. Mike McNeill and Kyler Reed had nice long catches, and Brandon Kinnie is becoming the new go-to receiver. But Tim Marlowe and Niles Paul had several miscues. And on more than one occasion, a missed block on the perimeter kept the running backs from gaining positive yardage. I think Ted Gilmore got fed up with the mistakes and freely substituted to find someone -- anyone -- who could step forward and not screw up. I'm not sure he found anybody. Grade: D+
OL: You'd think that Nebraska's offensive line could simply lean on and impose their will on the 1-AA Jackrabbits. Think again. At various times, I watched both Jermarcus Hardrick and Jeremiah Siriles get beaten badly. Grade: D
DL: Throughout the game, I was most disappointed in the performance of the defensive line. They seemed to get pushed around quite a bit. But then in the postgame interviews, Bo Pelini mentioned the defensive line played ok, but it was the linebackers that were the problem. Well, he knows better than me...so I'm giving them a C.
LB: Lavonte David racked up 19 tackles...good right? Well, Pelini indicated that he wasn't always in the right place or making the right play. That comment really illustrated to me the problem with the defense. With Will Compton still out with a broken foot, Pelini doesn't trust the linebackers. He's always looking to move Dejon Gomes up and go with a dime package, but there's a huge problem with that. Nebraska's dime package is vulnerable to the run. You saw it last November with Tobren Opurum of Kansas, and this season with Western Kentucky's Bobby Rainey and Washington's Chris Polk. The solution is to only go to the dime in obvious passing situations, but time and time again, Pelini chooses to go dime. Why? He's simply not comfortable with the linebacker play in the base peso defense, except when he knows that the offense will run the ball. And against South Dakota State, he chose to go even more with dime coverage after Eric Martin left the game. So how should I grade this? Well, I'm going with a D-.
Secondary: Other than not being able to stop the run in the dime, the secondary played ok. Alfonzo Dennard came up with a big interception at the goal line to thwart one of the Jackrabbits' drives. P.J. Smith added an interception on fourth down that he would have been better off dropping. Grade: C
Overall: It was a win...but against a 1-AA team, Nebraska should have been capable of doing so much more than they did. It's a win, but an ugly win that grades out at a D.
Elsewhere in College Football
Texas F A month into the season, and you still don't really know what your offense does well. The Longhorns had hoped to be able to run the ball...and can't. Meanwhile, Skippy and the Bruins came in and blew you out on your home field.
Oklahoma D+ Not sure how good Cincinatti is, but I don't think this was "Good Oklahoma"...but it wasn't exactly "Bad Oklahoma"
Kansas State C- Their game against Central Florida was delayed an hour and a half by a severe thunderstorm. But their offense decided to wait an extra hour and a half just to make sure it was safe.
Missouri A Last week, it took until the final minute to seize the game from San Diego State. Against Miami of Ohio, it took Carl Gettis eight seconds to put the Tigers up and in control. (Hmm.... maybe Big XII teams should swear off scheduling teams with the initials SDSU...)
Athletic Directors F If someone told you that you needed to skip one weekend of the football season for some reason (work, family, whatever)...this was the weekend to skip. The only really compelling matchup was Alabama vs. Arkansas, and the number of relatively interesting games was even shorter. With television networks seeming to have more and more control over college football, it won't be long before the networks start pushing schools to stagger their body bag games so that there are a few more choices of game to televise.