Report Card: Huskers 42, Fresno State 29

Brandon Kinnie has gone from being a playmaker last season to a liability in the first two games of 2011. Fortunately, if Kinnie can't get his game back in sync, there are plenty of backups that Nebraska can depend on to make plays, as we found out against Fresno State. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)

It was anything but a thing of beauty. In the first half, the Nebraska offense was stuck in neutral for the most part, except for a couple of long runs by Taylor Martinez.  In the second half, Nebraska's young players made some big plays, but the Blackshirts wore down and couldn't stop Bulldog running back Robbie Rouse. Rouse was usually three or four yards downfield before the Huskers first contact. That's an ominous sign with a trip to Wisconsin scheduled in just three weeks.

Teams are supposed to make their biggest improvements between week one and week two. Fresno State clearly did that, but Nebraska didn't. Is that improvement just delayed, or is this just what Nebraska's got this season. Two weeks is too early to draw much of a conclusion, but so far, the evidence isn't terribly compelling.

With that, here's our report card for the week. As always, your feedback is always welcome below:

QB: In the first half, Taylor Martinez really struggled.  Two interceptions and two fumbles turned out extremely lucky for Nebraska, as Fresno never took an offensive snap after each. Late in the first half, Martinez started throwing deep and found open receivers for big gains, and ended up with some glossy statistical numbers.  (385 yards of offense.) But it was another uneven performance overall for the sophomore. He's got to work on ball security when running the ball. But he showed better touch on his deep throws than he has previously.  Grade: C+

RB: Rex Burkhead finally got untracked midway through the fourth quarter, but was mostly a non-factor prior to that. I don't think that's on Burkhead primarily.  Ameer Abdullah wowed the fans once again with his return skills. Oh so very impressive.  Grade: B-

WR: I don't know what has happened to Brandon Kinnie, but whatever it's a shame because I thought he was headed to the NFL next season. Every pass thrown his way is an adventure as he's developed hands of stone. Fortunately for the Huskers, the youngsters are picking up the slack big-time. Quincy Enunwa saved the day with a huge strip after Martinez's first interception.  Kenny Bell and Jamal Turner stretched the field and made big catches to get the Huskers back into the game. No doubt in my mind that we've got some playmakers at the skill position, so I'm not sure what the problem is offensively.  Grade: B

OL: Well, maybe I do...and just don't want to admit it. The offensive line is still not getting enough of a push and doing enough in protection. One can argue about the defenses loading the box, but that doesn't completely explain the issue. Sometimes the line had trouble protecting Martinez when Fresno only sent four linemen on the pass rush.  Nebraska can ill afford to make these mistakes in September; heaven forbid they are happening in October.  Grade:  D-

DL: I'll give the defensive line a pass on not applying more pressure on Derek Carr. The Bulldogs were in maximum protection and were rolling him out to keep him out of harms way. But the yardage the line gave up to Rouse is inexcusable.  The Fresno line was pushing the Blackshirts three to five yards down field on a consistent basis. You don't think that Wisconsin is going to enjoy watching this tape?  And yes, I know that the referees refused to call some very blatant holding penalties, but still, Nebraska's defensive line should have been much better than that.  Grade:  D

LB: Will Compton and Lavonte David cleaned up some of the messes that the line created...but they didn't have one of their better games either.  And I'm not quite sure what to do about Sean Fisher and Justin Blatchford, other than appreciate Eric Hagg that much more.  Grade:  C

Secondary: Daimion Stafford started in place of Courtney Osborne, meaning that it was an all-new secondary compared to the end of last season. Stafford shows some promise, but it's obvious that this is becoming the weak point of the defense. Twice yesterday, a Fresno receiver broke deep and went uncovered. We haven't seen those types of mistakes in nearly two years. Other times, the secondary simply didn't make the play. Hopefully the return of Alfonzo Dennard will help solidify things back there, but I'm growing more and more concerned.  Grade: D-

Overall:  D+  How fortunate can we be to win a game with a D+ performance? Well, the ball bounced our way on turnovers for starters. Nebraska has a bunch of playmakers on the field, but can't seem to get the offense untracked. The sense of urgency just went up because Nebraska has just two more weeks to figure this out.


Elsewhere in College Football

Iowa State:  A  OK, winning the state championship of Iowa in football is kind of like winning the championship for the best country music act in Qatar. But when you are Iowa State, you take what you get. Love what Paul Rhoads does for the Cyclones.

Cy-Hawk Trophy:  F  OK, the "interim" trophy looked more like a football trophy...but it only survived about 45 seconds of the post-game celebration.  What did they make it out of? Paper mache?  I've had Iowa pork chops that were tougher that this trophy.  I can only wait with horror to see what Iowa rolls out for a 'trophy" for the Iowa-Nebraska game (presented by Fareway). Knowing the track record of the Iowegians and trophies, it's probably not going to last long anyway.

Mizery:  D  The Pinkel Factor lives.

Pac-12 Refs at the USC/Utah game:  0  It doesn't matter what grade I assign them, Larry Scott's people are going to change it to whatever they want it to be anyway.  It's pretty obvious that the Pac-12 was trying to show Texas how accommodating the Pac-12 can be.

Ohio State: D.  C'mon, Bucks.... Toledo?

Minnesota: F  Thank goodness coach Jerry Kill is improving at a Minneapolis hospital. But losing to New Mexico State one week after the Aggies got blown out by Frank Solich's Ohio squad?  Yeesh.

Michigan:  A  I'm really starting to fear that November trip to the Big House.

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