No matter what we thought earlier this season, we've found that the 2009 edition of Nebraska football plays ugly football. But you know what? For the most part, it's been successful. Combine a defense that might be one of the best in the country at times with an oefense that, well, doesn't seem to get in the way, and you've got a nine-win team. Combine the two, and you've got a glass half-full team that actually has done better than that on the ledger. But at times, you have to wonder how much smoke and mirrors is going on here, keeping this team on target for a division championship.
As always, your comments and feedback are encouraged.QB: When Zac Lee left the game with a twisted ankle, you had to wonder how the team would respond. Could Cody Green give the team a spark by depending on his physical talents without the pre-game jitters? He came in for two plays, but after two somewhat irrelevant carries, returned to the bench once Lee got treatment. Lee had several bullet throws that were perfectly placed to convert key third downs. On the downside, there was almost no running room for Lee as the Buffs blitzed hard and often. Many people will criticize Lee's draw play on 3rd and long, but on that play, CU went from 8-9 men in the box to only 6. Grade: C
IB: Roy Helu looked tired, and his fumble could have been a game changer. Enter Rex Burkhead, who sparked the Huskers in the 4th quarter to seal the win on that 80 yard drive. But ohh, that missed block that resulted in a sack of Lee. Grade: C+
WR: Helloooooo Ben Cotton, who came up with a nifty touchdown catch. Niles Paul caught a couple of bullets as well. But somebody on the perimeter needed to account for Cha'pelle Brown, who was closing out his career with a Buffalo Chip on his shoulder. Grade: C-
OL: Loved to see the line grind things out in the 4th quarter, but I wish it didn't take that long to get the power game going. Too little protection of Lee, though that might be more on the perimeter again. Grade: C-
DL: Pretty quiet game from the d-line, though Ndamukong Suh did make his presence known in the 4th quarter. But too much running room for Rodney Stewart. And no sacks of Tyler Hansen, after he'd been sacked 31 times in the last month and a half? For shame. Grade: D+
LB: Phillip Dillard led the team with 8 tackles, but Sean Fisher and Will Compton showed a lot of rust out there. Those guys are young, and they'll learn. But not a great grade. Grade: D+
Secondary: Bo Pelini won't be pleased with the touchdown on the last play of the game, or the 269 yards passing. But he had to like the interceptions by Matt O'Hanlon, Dejon Gomes, and Prince Amukamara. Larry Asante is bringing a physical presence to the secondary, and I'm starting to wonder if his reputation is leading to his personal foul penalty. I'd have to see more replays of it because the one saw looked like it was hardly necessitated a flag. Maybe an end-zone view would change my opinion. Grade: B-
Special Teams: All Alex Henery does is tilt the field and help this squad play the field possession game to perfection. Even when he messes up and kicks it a little too hard, Colorado was so intimidated that they fielded the punt at the goal line anyway rather than take a chance on it going out of bounds. And frankly, I'm becoming convinced that field goal kickers are altering their placekicking to avoid Ndamukong Suh. How else can you explain all of the missed field goals by Husker opponents this season? And finally...Niles Paul breaking a long punt return. The only way to grade this is A+.
Overall: C- Thank goodness this performance was against the worst team in the North. It was their bowl game, and NU escaped with a win. They'll have to upgrade their game significantly this next week to have a chance; fortunately, we know this team can play much better than they did Friday afternoon.
Elsewhere in College Football
USC/UCLA Sportsmanship: F Skippy started it by using his timeouts when USC took a knee with 51 seconds left and a two score lead. Pete Carroll upped the ante by throwing a deep ball. Then Skippy's boys took offense and left their sideline. No matter what colors you wear in LA...you should be red with embarassment.
Kansas: F What a way to choke away your season with some completely brain-dead Callahan-esque playcalling in the final three minutes. And thus ends the Mark Mangino era in Lawrence. Who'da thunk that this season, it would be Mangino being the Big XII coach to be fired?
Oklahoma: A Now THAT'S the Sooner squad I was voting top 20 all season. Problem is that they don't play nearly this well when they leave the friendly confines of Owen Field.
Ohio: A Congratulations to Frank Solich on a 9 win season and a MAC Championship game berth.