Last week we talked about things that needed to happen for Nebraska to win against USC.
Pressure on the quarterback
Nebraska got some defensive pressure, but not enough to keep John David Booty from making mincemeat of our cornerbacks when the opportunity arose. USC did an excellent job of neutralizing the pass rush by doing two things well; throwing quick-drop short passes and receiver screens to the outside, and rolling Booty out of the pocket. Booty was 25 of 36 with three touchdowns and most importantly, zero interceptions. This is not a quarterback who showed signs of being rattled.
Control the tempo
We didn't attempt a single deep ball in the first half. Why we couldn't run at least one play-action pass and find Herian or Purify deep is beyond me. I understand the idea of moving the clock and keeping the game close, but when you don't attempt to stretch the defense, you give them the chance to unload on the running game, which USC did.
While I watched the game, I was disgusted with the toss sweep plays we ran on third and short. Poor choice against a very fast defense, and USC stuffed these in the second half. Going back and looking at the game later, it was clear why we were running the sweeps. Most attempts inside were stuffed. We were not going to gain even two yards by running up the middle. We really missed Kurt Mann's experience.
I was surprised that Cody Glenn didn't see the field - it would have been nice to see what he could have gotten on the third and short calls to the inside. This is supposed to be Glenn's strength, and why he wasn't used - it'd be nice to know.
I've seen comments on other blogs that imply Callahan kept the game plan simple in the first half, giving USC nothing for adjustments. A little bit of over-analysis there, but I do wonder if Callahan gets so caught up in strategerizing that the strategy becomes more important than the results on the field.
The Booty sack and fumble play where the ball was picked up by USC and run for a first down was indicative of luck in this game - 90% favoring USC. Nebraska's defense had a shot at three interceptions, but didn't get any, even though the miss by Grixby would have been a sure touchdown.
Ultimately it wasn't luck that killed our shot at beating USC. It was silly mistakes. Nunn fielded a punt on the three. Lucky's fumble was a gift-wrapped touchdown for USC - how's that for irony? A holding call killed a drive that would have given Nebraska some points; a missed block on a third down screen play that would have sprung Lucky for a first down - the list can go on.
Kenny Wilson. Tackled. Again. Arrggh!
In the End
I'm tired of the phrase "pounding the rock". "Pounding the rock" should be used if your average is over four yards a carry. At that point, you're routinely getting to third and short, and should convert over 50% of your attempts. Nebraska's offensive line at this point isn't good enough to use the phrase, unless we're going to talk about pummeling inferior opponents.
Most Nebraskans will look at this game as a positive step in our "resurgence". Others have commented that we were "competitive" which is similar to saying "she's nice" when you want to describe a blind date to someone that's asking. I am having problems feeling good about this game even after waiting a day to post this, so we'll just move on to Troy.
Troy is the team that took Florida State deep into the fourth quarter before FSU wore them down and won. If we're going to increase our ranking, we need to put Troy away by halftime. Maybe we'll do that by "pounding the rock"!!?
P.S. In the game day thread, I'd mentioned that nasty storms were coming. The storm went north of us - tornadoes hit Rogers, Minnesota, killing a 10 year old girl when a house collapsed, and destroying 95 homes. Say a prayer for her family today, please, it only takes a minute.