LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 22: A Nebraska Cornhusker fan uses a sign to express her feeling about having running back Rex Burkhead #22 back in action for the Nebraska Cornhuskers during their game against the Idaho State Bengals at Memorial Stadium on September 22, 2012 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
It's Wisconsin week! It's B1G play week! It's black helmet week! The next eight games will be filled with intrigue and unpredictability. But before we move forward into the meat of the schedule, let's look back at a few plays we liked and didn't like last Saturday. I echo other scribes and writers when I say Idaho State was probably the biggest mismatch Memorial Stadium has seen in a long time. But our Cornhuskers did exactly as they should have done: they took care of business.
Three Good Plays
Offense: We liked the Kenny Bell shovel pass, the Quincy Enumwa post, every play Rex Burkhead got his hands on the ball, and any of the smooth Braylon Heard runs (his running style reminds me of Marcus Allen: deceptively fast and quick, slashing, runs upright yet hardly ever takes a clean hit), but we caught a glimpse of the future with about 8:00 to go in the 4th quarter. Idaho State was beat down, I know, but after a nice drive the Cornhuskers came out in the I-formation with true freshman fullback Andy Janovich and true freshman tailback Imani Cross. Left guard Jake Cotton pulled and pancaked a Bengal, Janovich stuck his guy, and Cross made some nifty moves and used some nice power to rumble 20 yards for a touchdown. Let's hope we'll be seeing that for the next 3-4 years.
Defense: Ciante Evans' pick-6 was nice, but we gotta talk about Eric Martin. He destroyed any and all offensive lineman between him and the quarterback. At the 10:25 mark in the 1st quarter, the first possession for Idaho State after Rex's big run, Eric Martin screamed off the end and nailed the quarterback at about the same time their tackle came out of his stance. On their next possession, about 7:15 to go in the 1st quarter, Eric Martin just abused their right tackle with a bull rush which led to Baker Steinkuhler tracking down the quarterback with a good hustle play. Finally, on the very next play, Nebraska runs a stunt and Eric Martin blasts through the ‘A' gap between their center and left guard. Although he was blatantly held, he still out muscled them for the sack. The Blackshirts really need him to provide this lethal pass rush for conference play. It's a dimension of the Blackshirts that's been lacking the past couple years.
Special Teams: I thought about trying to come up with some obscure special teams block or play, but it still comes back to Ameer Abdullah. He is special on special teams and the return game. At the 12:30 mark of the 3rd quarter, Ameer takes the rugby-style punt off the bounce, and 81 yards of jukes, cuts, and speed later, he found the endzone. Wouldn't it be nice to get a couple of those in conference play? At the very least, it could change the punting strategy of our future foes which could result in better field position.
Offense: With 7:00 left in the 2nd quarter, immediately following a holding call on Cole Pensick, Taylor Martinez was forced out of the pocket and eventually sacked. Ameer Abdullah didn't get to the rush end in time and was beat in pass protection; Andrew Rodriguez didn't stay with his block from the right tackle position, and it turned into one of the ugliest plays of the game for the Cornhusker offense. Getting beat by a pass rush off the edge is a concern for this offense and needs to be addressed soon.
Defense: I tried to rewatch the entire game to find some defensive breakdowns, but the game was too big of a mismatch so I decided to go with the touchdown by Idaho State. With 12:30 left in the 4th quarter the Bengals put a little drive together and reached the Nebraska 28. Their receiver ran a skinny post, and though true freshman Charles Jackson had decent coverage, he wasn't in a position to make a play, neither was safety Harvey Jackson. Alonzo Whaley came close to sacking the quarterback and delivered a nice hit after he threw it. It prevented a shutout, but probably provided a nice memory for their backup quarterback C.J. Reyes and receiver Luke Austin.
Special Teams: It was bad enough when the first drive of the game stalled, but Brett Maher piled on by missing short from 51 yards. I'm not sure if Maher has his confidence back. We are going to need him in conference play. It's a nice comfort to have when you can count on three points anytime you reach the opponent's 35 yard line.