The big news of the day wasn't so much the Huskers performance, but rather Bo Pelini's ambulance ride after halftime. Pelini was released from the hospital shortly after the game with the "fine" diagnosis. (Of course, for Pelini, "fine" can mean anything between "nothing wrong" and "nothing that will keep him in the hospital", so Husker fans will have to wait to see if there are any longer-term concerns.)
Oh, the game itself, you ask? It was a good bounceback performance for Nebraska. In the second half, we saw a lockdown performance on defense, holding a team that was averaging over 600 yards a game to just 89 down the stretch. Only a few offensive miscues kept it from being a great finish to the day. It still was a solid finish, and considering the dumpster fire that the Big Ten is turning out to be, that's a big positive sign. Nebraska is absolutely in contention to win the conference this year. Michigan seems to have issues outside of Denard Robinson. Notre Dame confirmed Michigan State continues to have major problems on offense, and the Spartan defense might be a touch overrated. Ohio State is 3-0 against lackluster competition and struggles to find anybody to contribute on offense other than Braxton Miller. Wisconsin easily could be 0-3 at this point.
So when you consider that Nebraska's biggest problem is defense, and that Bo Pelini is the head coach, I still like Nebraska's chances to get something figured out this season. Nebraska might have the best group of offensive skill players in the conference; that might be the edge that the Huskers have this season. After the jump, the report card for the Huskers performance against Arkansas State.QB: 13 of 14 for 180 yards and two touchdowns. On the stat sheet, another great performance by Martinez. Remember that talk about completing 70% of his passes? After three games, Martinez is at 70.9%. He's 14th in the country in passing efficiency at 173.4. For comparison sake, Denard Robinson is 44th at 148.7, Matt Barkley is 48th at 148.0, and Landry Jones is 54th at 142.2. So Martinez is doing pretty well in the passing game. But it wasn't a perfect performance; that incompletion almost was an interception. He had two fumbles while being sacked, though the first one was a crushing blindside from a missed block. So that's going to drop his grade a bit to a B+.
RB: Rex who? Ameer Abdullah has performed more than admirably in replacing Burkhead. He's eighth nationally in rushing with 367 yards on the season. 167 yards on 30 carries is a pretty darn good performance. Only question on the day is whether he actually touched that punt that he officially muffed or not. Braylon Heard also looked pretty good carrying the ball as well. Imani Cross looked like THE MAN on that 44 yard run up the middle; he doesn't appear to have a third gear, but he's definitely got four-wheel drive going through the hole. Mike Marrow had a better game blocking, but fumbled on his only carry. Grade: A-
WR: It's easy to rave about Kenny Bell; he's got the complete package: hands, speed, and runs the right routes. He's got a chemistry with Taylor Martinez. Quincy Enunwa is a physical force on the field, and it takes more than one guy to bring him down, as Arkansas State learned. Kyler Reed is a mismatch over the middle, so all is great, right? Well, Ben Cotton missed a block and Taylor Martinez got blindsided. The resulting fumble ended up in the end zone for the Red Wolves only touchdown. That warrants a demerit. Grade: B
OL: Decent run blocking, but I still see issues in pass protection. Arkansas State couldn't exploit this, but B1G teams will. I'd really like to see somebody else step up on the line and get greater rotation. Justin Jackson was better on his deep snaps this week: Grade: C+
DL: That 3-4 defense that was discussed the last week was nothing more than moving Eric Martin around to create a quasi 3-3-5 at times. Freeing up Martin to make plays certainly provided a spark. I don't think Chase Rome was missed much, but I would have liked to see more out of the freshmen this week. Maybe next week. Grade: C
LB: Zaire Anderson was pretty quiet until the third quarter when he nailed Ryan Aplin for no gain on third and short; I dare say that Alonzo Whaley wouldn't make that play. All day, Nebraska still had trouble when Arkansas State sprinted wide, but it wasn't as as bad as it was against UCLA, for what it's worth. The interesting wrinkle I saw was bringing Sean Fisher in to back up Will Compton at times at middle linebacker. Grade: C
Secondary: Arkansas State typically didn't challenge the Huskers very deep, and when they did, it usually didn't work out well. Daimion Stafford went with the big hit on Saturday; that works against Arkansas State, but I worry about trying that against B1G offenses. P. J. Smith had a big day: leading the Huskers in tackles with two tackles for loss and adding in a nice leaping interception to snuff an early Red Wolves drive. Grade: B
Overall: B- Improved performance, to be sure...but a few too many mistakes in the second half.
Elsewhere in College Football
Big XII: C Texas gave up 31 points to Ole Miss. TCU didn't exactly impress against Kansas. Kansas State and Baylor struggled for much of the evening with inferior opponents. Frankly, Texas Tech and Iowa State probably had the best performances for our old friends.
Co LOL rado: 0 0h my g00dness...just when you thing the Puffies can't get any worse, they do just that.
Michigan State: D- The defense may be a touch overrated, and the offense is as expected: struggling. And now we have to deal with the inevitable "N0TRE DAME IZ BACK!!!11!" line for the next week.
Louisiana Monroe: A+ The SEC picked the wrong schools for expansion.
Arkansas: 0 The B1G may not be good, but at least nobody is as bad as the Razorbacks.
State of Arkansas: F Outscored 94-13 this week.
Iowa: C- The Squawkeyes defy AIRBHG for another week against a 1-AA opponent