It was a tale of two halves, each quite a bit different. Nebraska trailed at halftime, and unlike past games against Northwestern, you couldn't say that Nebraska had outplayed the Wildcats. In fact, it was just the opposite.
But the second half was something completely different as Nebraska dominated Northwestern on both sides of the ball. Northwestern only gained 28 yards of total offense; quarterback Trevor Siemian actually was a net negative in offensive yards after you subtracted out sacks from his meager passing numbers.
So we'll split the grades for this one, because it's tough to do this otherwise. As always, provide your thoughts in the comments.
QB: In the first half, it was much of the same for Tommy Armstrong: locking onto receivers and looking a little indecisive at times. He did break out of his slump on that drive just before halftime, though. I do have to wonder how a quarterback who can look so good throwing the deep ball struggles so mightily with hitting short passes. 1st half grade: C; 2nd half grade: A Overall: B
I-Back: It was much the same as it was in the Michigan State game in the first half; Ameer Abdullah simply couldn't get to the second level because of the lack of blocking. In the second half, the game opened up and Abdullah could start doing Abdullah-things again when he was able to get into space. 1st half: B-; 2nd half: A. Overall: B+
Receivers: Kenny Bell made a couple of nice catches early, but then got a brief case of the dropsies. Some weren't his fault, but others hit him dead in the hands. Jordan Westerkamp didn't have a big day catching the ball, but his contributions were noted out there. Alonzo Moore continues to frustrate fans who can see his talent and wonder when it'll all come together. But the star of the game was De'Mornay Pierson-El, who's now learned enough of the offense to stay on the field. We know he can run. We know he can catch. And if you didn't know he was a high school quarterback, you know he can throw. Hello Wildcat Quarterback! 1st half: C+; 2nd half: B+. Overall: B
Offensive Line: Except for Jake Cotton staying upright when he was in the game, the first half seemed like a rerun of the Michigan State game. But then we saw Ryne Reeves, Chongo Kondolo, and Givens Price give the offensive line a huge shot of adrenaline. Or maybe it was simply some decent blocking. By the time Rutgers arrives in town, look for a shakeup on the depth chart. 1st half: F; 2nd half: A-. Overall: C
Defensive Line: Randy Gregory and Vincent Valentine were playing hurt, while Maliek Collins was simply being mugged out there. So the hero of the game was none other than Kevin Williams, who turned on the aggression with 3 sacks in the second half. 1st half: C-; 2nd half: A-. Overall: B-
Linebacker: Trevor Roach was having a manic-depressive day. In the first quarter, he was all over the place, racking up seven tackles, but in the second quarter, was completely lost. Maybe he got too far ahead of himself and started improvising and straying from the system. It's rare for a team's leading tackler to spend most of the game benched, but Roach pulled it off this week. Zaire Anderson was outstanding in pass coverage, and Josh Banderas seemed to settle down and play more within himself after Roach was pulled. 1st quarter: A-; 2nd quarter: F; 2nd half: B+. Overall: B-.
Secondary: Big receivers like Dan Vitale and Kyle Prater were an impossible task for NU's secondary to cover, so that put them behind the gun. But that doesn't explain the poor coverage on Miles Shuler or the poor run support in the first half. Grade: 1st half: D+, 2nd half: B+. Overall: C+
Coaching: Normally we don't go here, but I can't help but give Bo Pelini and his staff some kudos for Nebraska's halftime adjustments. The critics like to go off on Pelini for a lack of adjustments, but you can't say that this week. Woo boy, you can't say that this week. The only major criticism was burning a timeout defensively and wiping out a sack, but the reality of the situation is that it gave Nebraska's defensive line an extra legal hit on Siemian. And that made a difference as the game swung out of Northwestern's control in the second half. And let's not forget how Tim Beck got Pierson-El ready to contribue on offense. 1st half: B-; 2nd half: A. Overall: B+
Overall: B- With more of the second half effort, Nebraska will be headed back to Indianapolis. More of the first half effort, we'll be hearing the catcalls for new coaches and a new quarterback. I think most of us know what they want to see.
Elsewhere in College Football
Oklahoma State: 0 Talk about dropping a turd in the Big XII punchbowl.
Missouri Offense: F 119 yards of offense and seven first downs aren't going to cut it...
Missouri Special Teams: A+ ...unless you have a guy like Marcus Murphy returning a kickoff and punt for a touchdown ...
Missouri Defense: A+ ...and you get two defensive scores as well. OK, it was against Florida, but still...
Texas A&M: F Remember when people were impressed by how the Aggies manhandled South Carolina in the season opener? Now we know just how bad the Gamecocks are.
Purdue: B I'm going to the "moral victory" card here, but Austin Appleby gives Purdue fans a reason to believe. They're going to win some games this season.
Illinois: A On that same note, any week that Illinois doesn't embarass themselves is a good one for an Illini fan.