Each week at CornNation, I grade the performance of the Huskers by position. At times, I've been known as a contrarian when it comes to Nebraska football. Sometimes right, sometimes wrong. But judging from what others have written and said, it looks like this week is going to be one of those contrarian weeks.
Like nearly every Husker fan, I was truly excited by the start of the game. I mean, how could you not? But as we got into the second quarter, the euphoria wore off as the offense and defense both started to languish. At halftime, I definitely wasn't impressed with the overall performance of the Big Red. In the second half, the offense played a little better, but the defense played a little worse. It's easy to dismiss these concerns in a 49-10 victory, but I'm looking at it in perspective. Western Kentucky has now lost 21 straight games, and on my report card, a 39 point victory over the Hilltoppers isn't worth more than a 33 point victory over Arizona.
As always, your opinions are always welcome in the comments.QB: What can I add about Taylor Martinez running the ball that hasn't already been said? We haven't seen that kind of game-breaking ability at the quarterback position since Eric Crouch. But let's remember the opponent: Western Kentucky, who has lost 21 straight games and has never defeated a 1-A school. And while Martinez looked good throwing the ball on short routes, he looked lost throwing the ball on medium routes. In the second quarter, three straight drives resulted in punts, and in the third quarter, he threw an out pass to Niles Paul that most any Big XII defense would intercept and score easily on. So I'm not jumping on the bandwagon just yet. Especially when Cody Green put up a much more consistent performance. Since it's Martinez's first action as a college athlete, you've got to like the potential Martinez offers. Grade: B-
RB: The game plan didn't provide the backs a lot of opportunities. Roy Helu would not be denied on his touchdown run, and Rex Burkhead looked good running and catching the ball. Dontrayevous Robinson was fairly ineffective on his four carries, but Austin Jones showed some impressive speed on his touchdown run. (It was nice to see how happy his teammates were afterwards.) Grade: B+
WR: Brandon Kinnie showed great hands on a couple of Martinez's less accurate tosses. Niles Paul continued his play from last season: a great catch and some nifty punt returns on the positive side. On the negative side, a fumble and a dropped pass (that he at least tried to recover, just in case.) Grade: B
OL: With an overmatched opponent, it was tough for me to really evaluate their play too much. What I liked was seeing the depth on the line and having to double check just who all was in the game and where. Jermarcus Hardrick seemed to take the most snaps at left tackle, but I did catch Jeremiah Sirles late in the game at right tackle. I wonder if that's going to be something we'll see a lot more of later this season. All in all, considering that Nebraska just had six linemen available last November, it's a refreshing development. Grade: B
DL: Generally speaking, I liked what Baker Steinkuhler did up the middle, and I thought Jared Crick got a little penetration. But the ends didn't make much of an impact, especially after Cameron Meredith left the game. Grade: C+
LB: Lavonte David seemed to be all over the place, trying to make plays even if he wasn't always in the right spot. Alonzo Whaley also flew around the field, but sometimes seemed to be out of position. I wouldn't be surprised if Mathew May or Eric Martin see more time this week, especially when coaches look at how Bobby Rainey got free so many times. Grade: B-
Secondary: Quiet night for this bunch. I was somewhat surprised to see Rickey Thenarse get the start at safety. Dejon Gomes made sense to get the start at the other safety spot; he's too good of a player to keep on the bench until it's time to go to a dime defense. See his strip of Rainey at the goal line; we've seen that before at Kansas last season. Grade: C+
Overall Grade: B- I saw a some very good things at times, but way too many plays that weren't so good or even downright bad. That could be expected for a first game, but this game should have gotten out of hand much earlier than it did.
Elsewhere in College Football:
Kansas: F I guess there's no where else to go but up from here, Turner.
Missouri: C- I missed most of the game, and what little I did see looked a lot like Mizzou's bowl game against Navy. If the Zooker can do that to Pinkel, other coaches are going to pay attention.
Oklahoma: D- Utah Frickin' State? For shame.
Ole Miss: F The Rebels shouldn't have been surprised by this one; Jacksonville State challenged Georgia Tech and Florida State last season. But still...
Florida: Offense F, Defense A. 25 yards of offense through 3 quarters?