Aside from a couple hiccups in the second half, Saturday felt like "the good ole days". Overmatched opponent visits Memorial Stadium. Nebraska jumps on them early and often in all three phases of the game. Playing time was spread around in the fourth quarter. It proved to be a nice bounce back game for the Cornhuskers. Now there's one more tune-up before B1G play and Bucky the Badger visits Lincoln. But let's take one more look at Saturday's game and rewind three plays we liked and three we didn't care for as much.
3 Good Plays
Offense: Out of many to choose from, I have to take you back to about 9:30 left in the second quarter. After a nice drive, Nebraska had 1st and 10 at the Arkansas St. 25 and lined up in the I-formation. Kenny Bell runs a ten yard slant; Taylor Martinez hits him in stride. Bell does the rest with his speed and elusiveness and reaches the endzone. When guys like Kenny Bell get the ball in space, this is a very dangerous offense. Bell is a playmaker. I wish we could see more of this out of Jamal Turner. This play put Nebraska firmly in control of the game, 21-3.
Defense: Aww, now those were the Blackshirts! They flew around. They were faster and crisper with their tackling. Yeah, it was Arkansas State, but they had a three year starting QB who was the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year last year. This play may not be the obvious, but it stood out to me. Arkansas St. had a 3rd and 2 near their 30 with 5:30 to go in the third quarter. They run a swing pass to the right flat and it looks like it will go for a first down until #8, Zaire Anderson displayed his athleticism and closing speed and made a nice open field tackle to force a fourth down. It was an encouraging sign. Unfortunately, the phantom-foot touch was the next play off the punt. (honorable mention: 4th and 4, Eric Martin comes screaming off the defensive end and gets the sack and fumble recovery)
Special Teams: This is the typical workman-like day we expect out of Nebraska's special teams, and Brett Maher in particular. I'm gonna cheat here and put down Maher's two booming punts as the good special teams plays we liked. He punted twice for an average of 57.5 yards per punt, effectively flipping the field position both times. Nebraska needs this dependable weapon moving forward into conference play.
3 Not So Good Plays
Offense: With the game under control at 28-3 with 10:00 to go in the 3rd quarter, Nebraska had the ball at its own 10. Ben Cotton gets beat around the left end and Taylor Martinez gets blindsided, sacked, and fumbled into the endzone. All of a sudden it's 28-10. Whether it is our tackles or tight ends, our offense has a penchant for getting beat off the ends at the snap of the ball.
Defense: This was probably the most difficult "not-so-good play" to come up with. The defense was really solid and didn't allow any huge plays. Of course, Arkansas State's game plan was dink-and-dunk, but missed tackles were few and far between. One relapse the Blackshirts had was at the beginning of the 2nd quarter, Arkansas St. came out with a quick wide receiver screen for twelve yards followed by a swing pass in the flat to their running back for another twelve yards. Two plays later, out of play action, they hit a sixteen yard flag route deep into Nebraska territory. The Red Wolves had the Blackshirts on their heels for these plays, but they soon stiffened and forced a field goal.
Special Teams: Yes, it was a phantom-foot touch, but all the same, Ameer Abdullah has to get out of the way and wave his teammates away, too. With 5:30 left in the 3rd quarter, the Blackshirts force a punt off the aforementioned Zaire Anderson stop. Instead of getting the ball around the 30 yard line, the referees determined the punt skidded off Abdullah's foot. It was a peculiar call; not one Nebraska or Arkansas State player reacted to it as if it hit off his foot. Even after replay showed the ball was a few inches away from his foot, they still gave it to Arkansas St. Regardless, special teams turnovers are killers, and Nebraska can't afford these types of slip-ups when conference play starts.