Nebraska Football Report Card: Huskers 59, South Dakota State Jackrabbits 20

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

The offense was close to perfect, while the defense was anything but.  Husker fans got a sneak preview of the future with freshman Tommy Armstrong's strong performance in his first action with a game on the line.  While redshirting freshman Johnny Stanton may have something to say about that, Armstrong made a strong statement that Nebraska will have a solid option at quarterback once Taylor Martinez graduates after this season.

The defense was scary bad.  Cosgrove bad.  Ohio State/Wisconsin bad.  Was this a hangover from the second half of the UCLA game?  Or is it the more Bo Pelini and his staff tinkers with things, the worse things get?  Some of the things that looked better in the first few games fell apart.  Pelini called it the worst defensive performance of the year.

It's hard to argue that point, though there are some other stinkers to compare it to. South Dakota State has a potent offense, but they are still division 1-AA.  It's getting long past time to get some answers on defense. This bye week gives Pelini a chance to figure out what his defense might be able to do, because we know what's not working.  And frankly, he's starting to run out of time.

With that, here's the report card. As always, your feedback is always welcome and encouraged in the comments.

QB: Tommy Armstrong was impressive in his first action with the game on the line. But if you are thinking that this creates a quarterback controversy, just stop right there.  South Dakota State has a potent offense, but their defense has major issues.  The Jackrabbits rank 116th out of 122 1-AA teams in pass defense.  Two weeks ago, North Dakota's quarterbacks passed for 437 yards on this same defense.  Southeastern Louisiana passed for 322 yards last week.  And let's not forget that Ron Kellogg completed eight of nine passes for 136 yards yesterday as well.  And let's not go overboard here either; Armstrong threw off his back foot quite a bit, ala freshman/sophomore Martinez did.  Neither quarterback had to go through their progressions against a porous secondary.  Grade:  A-

RB: Ameer Abdullah had a great game right from the open, with a great cutback run on the opening play.  My only concern is whether that shoulder injury is going to bother him down the line; he looked good once he returned. The rest of the backs were pretty much what we expect.  Good tough running by Imani Cross, and some nice runs by Terrell Newby.  And when Nebraska lined up in the diamond formation, all blocked well.  Grade: A

WR: Freshman tight end Cethan Carter finally got untracked with a couple of nice catches. Kenny Bell took a little too much abuse as his quarterbacks probably should have looked to somebody else on a couple of those deep balls.  Love to see Jordan Westerkamp and Alonzo Moore get into the act, though Westerkamp has to do a better job of securing the ball.  Grade:  A-

OL: Pretty much did what they needed to do.  Loved to look over occasionally and see new numbers out there getting some reps.  Grade: A

DL: Talk about taking a huge step backwards this week. The defensive line got pushed around by a 1-AA team, and that can't happen. This wasn't a talent issue; we saw some good things happen last week against UCLA.  They were out of position and outplayed, period. Not sure where Nebraska starts this week, other than move Avery Moss to the other side of the line so that he can be out there with Randy Gregory more often. Even though Gregory had a great pick-six, that doesn't affect the grade here.  A big fat F.

LB: Pelini tried just about every combination he could come up with and still nobody could stay in position or make their reads.  Or make a tackle when they had a chance. Josh Banderas, David Santos, Nathan Gerry, Zaire Anderson.  Didn't matter. Zach Zenner is going to be playing on Sundays in a couple of years...but Nebraska's defense made him look like Adrian Peterson.  Grade:  F

Secondary: Let's give out the kudos to Stanley Jean-Baptiste, who has an interception in each of the first four games of the season.  The NFL scouts are paying attention; if he keeps this up, he's going to get some money.  Coverage, though, was shaky once again.  Corey Cooper is looking fairly solid at free safety, but strong safety is becoming a mess. I liked seeing freshman Le Roy Alexander getting a second half chance at that spot. He caught my eye a couple of times, and it wasn't for the wrong reasons.  Not sure if he or Charles Jackson is the answer, but maybe Pelini and Terry Joseph need to find out over the next two weeks.  Grade: D

Overall: D+ The offense was fine, especially considering playing the backup quarterbacks.  The defense, however, was bad.  Again.  And that's what's becoming alarming.

Elsewhere in College Football

B1G:  D The Big Ten was just plain bad on Saturday.  Michigan laid another egg, this time against winless UConn. Northwestern needed defensive scores to defeat 1-AA Maine.  Indiana made Missouri look good.

Pitt/Duke:  D for lack of defense. 58-55, no overtime?  Really?  Is this Arena football?

Schedules:  F What a horrible weekend of college football.  Conferences like the Big Ten need to start scheduling a few conference games each weekend, starting with week two.  I won't push the issue with playing conference games opening weekend, but there's no reason to have a weekend like this in the middle of September.  I know why some of these games are being played:  money.  But let's spread them out so that ESPN has a better game than San Jose State at Minnesota to televise.

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