Oh, what a frustrating game for Nebraska fans. On one hand, you can say that Nebraska was just a handful of plays from taking a commanding lead over South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl. The blocked extra point, the Ameer Abdullah fumble, and the Taylor Martinez interception just before halftime turned a possible 24-7 Nebraska lead into the reality of a 16-13 deficit to the Gamecocks. But that diminishes the fact that South Carolina made those plays to keep themselves not only in the game, but give them the halftime lead.
And it really diminishes the fact that South Carolina absolutely dominated the Huskers on both sides of the ball in the fourth quarter. So let's not gloss over the fact that South Carolina won the game; they outplayed Nebraska. But let's also dismiss the idea that SEC talent overwhelmed Nebraska; this is a game that Nebraska could have won. And frankly from Husker fans perspective, should have won. (South Carolina fans will, of course, disagree on that point. As well they should. It's a homer statement.)
As always, your comments and feedback always welcome.QB: It didn't take long for the Taylor Martinez haters to crawl out from under their rock after this game. Martinez didn't have a great game (witness the interception, plus the awful screen pass he chucked early in the third quarter)....but he ran the ball fairly well. How about that zone read where he showed some B1G-time speed? Nice option pitches, and most of his throws were on target. There really were more drops by the receivers than bad throws. Could he have done more to avoid those sacks in the fourth quarter? Maybe, but Nebraska was in desperation mode and the offensive line was a mere speed bump by that time. Let's make it clear: Martinez was far from the biggest problem on the field for the Huskers in Orlando. Grade: B-
RB: Rex Burkhead had another workman like, consistent performance for the first three quarters...but then the offensive line folded and pretty much took Burkhead out of the game. How consistent? It wasn't until his one carry in the fourth quarter that Burkhead lost yardage. Ameer Abdullah did score a touchdown, but didn't hang onto the ball deep in the red zone. Abdullah was also the intended receiver on the interception near the end of the half; hard to tell from the lack of ESPN replays whether Abdullah or Martinez was in the wrong there. Grade: B-
WR: Kenny Bell was a bright spot for the Huskers in this game. Nice reverse, and showed South Carolina some ess-e-cee speed on the opening touchdown of the game. Ben Cotton also made a nice catch to keep a drive alive. But Kyler Reed and Brandon Kinnie dropped passes that really should have been caught. Grade: B-
OL: In the first half, the offensive line did an outstanding job blocking a stout South Carolina defensive line. Lots of running room. But as the third quarter unfolded, the line melted down. I took Yoshi Hardrick's name in vain multiple times as the penalties started to mount. Perhaps the injury he suffered early in the third quarter had something to do with it; if so, then Nebraska really should have pulled him sooner. As the game wore on, the line play went from bad to worse to non-existent. Non-existent is a 0...and wipes out anything good that was done earlier. Grade: F
DL: I wasn't as disappointed in the play of the front four as some folks were. Nebraska was trying to contain to try and keep Connor Shaw contained. It was a mixed bag; some nice coverage sacks and Shaw didn't really gain much yardage until late. But it wasn't a great performance either. All told, I would have liked to have seen more aggressive play, but I understand why they were doing what they did. Grade: C+
LB: Oh, how we'll miss Lavonte David. Another performance that I wish we could remember as being under better circumstances. Two sacks of Shaw. Numerous plays to lead the team in tackles. Some might point out that he let Kenny Miles score untouched at the start of the fourth quarter, but he was picked by the tight end. Great play call to neutralize Nebraska's playmaker. Will Compton did find himself out of position a couple of times, though. Grade: A-
Secondary: Solid coverage most of the first three quarters, leading to coverage sacks. But Nebraska's failure to properly defend the Hail Mary cost Nebraska the lead at the end of the first half. Alfonzo Dennard did a good job of covering Alshon Jeffery until he got into that third quarter skirmish. Dennard was rightly ejected. I do disagree with ESPN's viewpoint that Jeffery was the bigger loss. South Carolina could put another receiver in, but the Blackshirt secondary could hardly replace Dennard. (Antonio Bell, really?) Ciante Evans got lit up in the fourth quarter as well. Grade: D-
Special Teams: Blocked PAT, missed field goal. Blech. Grade: D
Overall: D Would have, could have, should have been higher. Much higher.
Elsewhere in College Football
Nebraska Media: F Jon nailed it yesterday. The media was trolling fans Monday, trying to instigate a controversy. Why? Simple...get attention and spark discussion. Maybe plant something that'll get traction after the game, such as Bo Pelini is out of control. I particularly loved that analogy. Tell me again how Bo's argument with the refs caused all of those penalties earlier in the game? Yeah. Right. Or guys like KOZN's Matt Schick who didn't even wait for the halftime interview to begin criticizing Pelini for it. Yes, Matt, you had your Bitter game on. Listen, the media shouldn't hold back from criticizing or analyzing the program. That's your job. But have some substance behind what you are doing. Stop going for the cheap, easy shot.
B1G: D Well, that's better than last year's bowl performance. That's not saying much.
ESPN: 0 I used to think FSN was bad, but ESPN frankly isn't much better. Was ESPN's replay machine broken? The ESPN producer seemed more interested in showing crowd shots or scenic views of the Magic Kingdom than the game. We didn't see a replay of the blocked extra point until mid-way through the fourth quarter. Even the normally reliable Joe Tessitore lost focus after a face mask penalty negated a Nebraska punt. Perhaps ESPN should have thought twice about sending Tessitore to San Diego to call a motorcycle jump on New Years Eve, then flying him back to Orlando for a bowl game 36 hours later.
And don't get me started on what you've done to New Years Day. Only 6 bowls, and one is on ESPNU? No wonder NBC and the NHL get good ratings for the Winter Classic.
Oregon's Uniforms: F The metallic helmets will look awesome on a bookshelf. They have no place on a football field with their shiny reflections in the sun. And those darker green numbers on dark green uniforms? Thank goodness Nebraska is an addidas school.
Stanford: D You don't play for a field goal. Play to win the game.
Matt Millen: I'm making up a word for your grade: Bahahahahahahahaha.