You have to believe that throughout the Big XII and Big Ten regions, the snickering and guffawing had to be epidemic around halftime. The Huskers trailed Ohio State 20-6, just one week after getting blasted by Wisconsin. Is Nebraska going to jump conferences again? Maybe the Big East is more Nebraska's speed. Mountain West? What about the MAC or Sun Belt?
But faster than a Tweet, momentum swung in favor of the Huskers. Lavonte David stripped the ball from Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller on one series, and on the next, Miller suffered an ankle injury and was replaced by the immobile Joe Bauserman. The Husker offense started to get untracked just as the Buckeyes got high-centered. And thus ensued the greatest comeback in Nebraska football history. That mark didn't sound right, but I was reminded that Nebraska has been so good for the last 50 years, comebacks were rare. Furthermore, prior to Devaney, comebacks were so rare because the team was so bad.
All this makes this week's report card a little tough. As well as the Huskers finished, the play in the game was poor initially. So where possible, I'll show the distinctions. As always, your comments are always welcome.
QB: Taylor Martinez came out and gave his critics in class, on Twitter, and in the Omaha World-Herald a huge "F-you" where it belongs: on the field. His passes were crisp, he checked down to Rex Burkhead all night long, and he handled the ball well except for one play. He was poised all night long, and he was smart with the ball. Needing to scramble for three yards, he twice gained four. His one mistake? Overthrowing Kyler Reed badly near the end of the first half, resulting in an interception and a late field goal for the Buckeyes. But blame for that has to be shared with Tim Beck for calling the play in the first place. First half: B, Second half: A. Overall: A-
RB: Rex Burkhead ran hard all night long...but couldn't get untracked in the first half. I was surprised to see him with only 10 yards rushing at halftime. But Nebraska pounding away and wore down the Buckeyes, leading to a huge fourth quarter for Burkhead. First half: B-, Second half: A+. Overall: A-
WR: Each game, Kenny Bell impresses me more and more each week. He made a difficult catch of a Martinez misfire look fairly easy. Brandon Kinnie got himself open when Martinez was scrambling for his life. Quincy Enunwa pulled in a huge touchdown catch as well. For those people who think that Martinez should be limited in the number of throws, may I remind you that there are some weapons here to utilize? The key isn't limiting the throws, but rather being balanced. First half: B, Second half: A. Overall: B+
OL: It's hard to criticize the offensive line going up against a stout Buckeye defense, but production was quite disappointing early on. But add in some adjustments and commitment to wear down the Buckeyes led to eventual success. First half: C. Second half: A+++. Overall: B+
DL: Nebraska tried all sorts of lineups and formations to try and counter the Buckeyes up front. And for the most part, I thought they were fairly effective the whole game in rushing situations. But time and time again, they lost contain on Braxton Miller. First half: B. Second half: A-. Overall: B+
LB: Early on, I saw the linebackers out of position sometimes, and other times, not finishing the play with poor tackling. Lavonte David got carried a few times in the first half. But then David stepped up with two plays of the game: the strip, then running down Carlos Hyde for a three yard loss at the start of the fourth quarter. First half: C+, Second half: A+. Overall: B+
Secondary: Time and time again, we saw breakdowns in coverage and players out of position in the first half. Carlos Hyde's 63 yard touchdown run looked like something out of the Kevin Cosgrove era as the secondary was nowhere to be seen. Miscues by Ciante Evans and Aaron Green led to Ohio State's final touchdown and a 27-6 lead that chased a few fans to the exits. Memorial Stadium was awfully quiet at that point. Enter former receiver Stanley Jean-Baptiste at corner, and suddenly the defense became a whole lot more stout, and actually started to resemble the Blackshirts once again. First half: F, Second half: A-. Overall: C
Overall: B. In the second half, we saw flashes of what Nebraska football could be like. But hopefully we don't have to sit through another first half like that again.
Elsewhere in College Football
Oklahoma: A+ Don't forget about the Sooners. Through the first half of the season, a four-team playoff between LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin looks awfully compelling to watch.
Boise State: A+ OK, I haven't forgotten about you either.
Kansas: F Oh, Turner...
People who sit in the row in front of me: F for leaving after Ohio State took a 27-6 lead. Thanks for the extra leg room. Hope the traffic was light, and you made it home in time to see the end of the game. Your absence was greatly appreciated!