While Nebraska dominated Minnesota in the first half, I think that was more "Minnesota's that bad" than "Nebraska's that good." Truth be told, the Huskers played well at times. For one thing, we saw fewer defensive breakdowns than we had in any other game this season. Bo Pelini thought he saw the defense turn the corner during the bye week, and progress seemed to be made in that respect. But how much can we gauge in a victory against Minnesota?
So here's this week's report card. As always, your comments and feedback below are always welcome. If you aren't already a member of the CornNation, just click on the link on the right side of the page.QB: Taylor Martinez had another nice game both running and passing the ball. Passes were generally on target, even if the completion percentage didn't reflect that (more on that later). The biggest downside were two errant pitches. One bounced off of Aaron Green's hands and out of bounds for an incredibly lucky first down. The other was recovered by Rex Burkhead to salvage a field goal attempt. Brion Carnes played most of the fourth quarter, but mostly handed the ball off. So we still haven't seen anything to justify the call for more playing time for Carnes. Grade: B-
RB: Rex Burkhead does what Rex Burkhead does. Grind away, turning 3-4 yard gains into 7-10 yard gains...and sometimes even more. He's not a game breaker, but he's a defense breaker as he pounds away. 23 times for 117 yards, to be exact. Best of all for this game, Burkhead left about midway through the third quarter, allowing the freshmen I-backs to get 20 carries. Best of all was Braylon Heard's 22 yard gain late in the game. Grade: A-
WR: Tim Marlowe gave us a highlight reel one-handed catch. But drops were a problem. On the opening drive after halftime, Kenny Bell,Marlowe, and Jamal Turner each dropped deep throws that were all catchable. Tim Beck tried it three straight times, hoping for one of his receivers to make the catch...and Nebraska ended up settling for a long field goal attempt that Brett Maher missed. Kenny Bell showed us his speed on the reverse, though I'd like to see Jamal Turner try one. And the biggest mystery of the game: Kyler Reed spent the whole game on the sideline. Grade: C
OL: Early on, the offensive line got dominated in pass rush situations. Martinez get nailed once while throwing the ball away, resulting in a floating pass that could have been easily intercepted. But the line made adjustments and did a decent job overpowering the Gophers. But on third and short, sometimes the line didn't get the push the Huskers needed. Grade: B-
DL: I would have loved to see more pressure and more on the stat sheet from the line. But for the most part, everybody played their assignments. Chase Rome got a tongue-lashing from Bo Pelini for his cheap shot on Austin Cassidy's touchdown return. Quoted the World-Herald: "We don't play that way." Amen, Bo. Grade: B-
LB: Another ho-hum performance for Lavonte David; 6 tackles, one for a loss. Sometimes we take the guy for granted. Same thing for Will Compton, who only had two tackles but generally seemed to be in position. We sometimes forget he's the key to the whole defense. Solid B again.
Secondary: I'll call out Lance Thorell, who got the start as the "peso" linebacker and nearly picked off a pass. Not sure whether this strategy will work against the more talented teams the rest of the season, but it worked against the Gophers. Stanley Jean-Baptiste appeared to play pretty well for someone who was a wide receiver a month earlier. And Austin Cassidy was the man in the right spot when MarQueis Gray decided to get fumblefingers. I'm not sure who blew the coverage on the flea-flicker: Alfonzo Dennard or Daimion Stafford, so I'm not sure who to give a demerit to. All told, a decent performance. Grade: B
Overall: B- This might be considered a tough grade, but let's not forget the competition either. Too many offensive mistakes, especially in the second half.
Elsewhere in College Football
ABC/ESPN: F All I have to say is WTF are you doing? Once the Nebraska game ended at 5:30, I expected we'd get the conclusion of one of the other games. Nope...we just got highlights. Then, I flipped back from Wisconsin/Michigan State later that evening, only to find Washington/Stanford instead of Oklahoma/Texas Tech. OK, eventually I realize that there is a weather delay, so fine. Except ABC never switched us back to the Oklahoma/Tech game once it began! Sure, it was nice to eventually carry the Sooner game on ESPN2, but c'mon.
Sooner fans: F I don't have issues with evacuating during a storm. Or deciding to stay someplace safe afterwards. But calling it "Season Over" after a bad game???
Michigan State/Wisconsin: A+ I'm not going to denigrate either team for putting on one heck of an entertaining game last night. Instant classic...and the final play is almost assuredly a lock for "Play of the Year" at the ESPY's. If it doesn't win, I really want to see the play that does win it, because it'll have to be a doozy. While Fox probably wants a rematch in Indianapolis, my homer instincts take precedence.
Illinois: F Zook, zook, zook, zook, zook....
Stanford and LSU: A+ Yikes.
Kansas: F Ohhh, Turner....