After Nebraska's 42-24 victory over Rutgers, I listened to Bo Pelini's post-game radio interview on the way home and sensed his disappointment. Some others in the car wondered what was up, and I tried to explain what was probably driving Pelini's reaction...mostly because I shared that assessment. Yes, Nebraska won and won fairly convincingly. But aside from the defensive line and Ameer Abdullah, the Huskers didn't play well.
Nebraska could get away with this against Rutgers. But probably not against Iowa and Minnesota. Certainly not against Wisconsin. And with Purdue looking like they may have turned a corner ever since turning to Austin Appleby at quarterback, maybe not even the Boilermakers. Speaking of which, ABC has announced that the Huskers game against Purdue will kick off at 2:30 pm and will be televised by ABC regionally.
So here's the Huskers' report card for the Rutgers game. Feel free to give us your own impressions in the comments below.
QB: I'm softening my postgame opinion after reviewing the stat sheets. Tommy Armstrong was pretty good in the first quarter, and perfect throwing the ball in the second half. That second quarter was something else entirely. I'll forgive the botched snap; that goes on the offensive line. But in that second quarter, we once again were treated to Bad Armstrong at his most horrid. Locking into receivers and throwing into coverage. Even if his receiver were already out of bounds. So I'll give him a really good grade for the first quarter and the second half...and a big zero for that second quarter. On a percentage basis, that puts him in the low 70's...which translates to a D+ on most grading scales.
I-Back: Ameer Abdullah had a whale of a game, and the most important takeaway is that he MADE yardage out of holes that nobody else could. So we'll grade him separately, because there was a huge difference in how Abdullah ran and how backups Imani Cross and Terrell Newby ran. I do have to give Newby credit for pouncing on that bungled snap in the second quarter. Interesting to note that Newby entered the game long before Cross did. Nebraska hasn't updated the depth chart in a month, but the evidence indicates that Newby is now ahead of Cross. Grade: Abdullah A+; Cross/Newby C.
WR: Congratulations to Kenny Bell, who is now Nebraska's all-time leader in catches. Ever since Bell was a freshman, I figured that, barring injury, he'd finish his career on top the Nebraska receiving charts. Both he and Jordan Westerkamp, who might have a chance to break Bell's record in a couple of years, had fine days. Abdullah doesn't break those long runs without downfield blocking by the receivers. Alonzo Moore had a couple of drops, but those really should go onto Armstrong for missing the throw than on Moore. And hey, did we see Armstrong throw to a tight end? Yay to Sam Cotton for a nice catch! Grade: A-
OL: Yeesh, was this a problem. Not a lot of push from the line, and five penalties on the day. Even worse were repeated bad snaps. Last week, the backups looked like they were the answer. This week, they were part of the problem. Maybe it's Givens Price, who missed this week's game with an injury, who is the answer. Time is running out on figuring this out, because things start to get serious in November. Grade: D
DL: If you would have told me a couple of weeks ago that Vincent Valentine would be hampered by an elbow injury, I'd have been very concerned. Not so much now, as Kevin Williams has stepped up huge. He's earned his Blackshirt. Maliek Collins and Williams teamed up to make life very painful for Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova. And in the second half, Randy Gregory made life painful for Chris Laviano, Nova's replacement. Smart move by Laviano to turtle as he felt Gregory approaching; Rutgers doesn't need to find out how good their third string quarterback is. Grade: A
LB: Zaire Anderson had a nice day in coverage, but David Santos clearly isn't 100%, as his feeble attempt to cover Leonte Carroo showed. He sure could have used some help from somebody down field. And more than once, somebody fell asleep in the second half to lead to some long gains. Grade: B-
Secondary: If Nebraska still used film, the staff would wear out the projector showing all of the failures on that 71 yard Carroo touchdown catch. Nate Gerry was the man on the spot once again to make an interception. But does anybody else notice that Corey Cooper seems a little off this season? Also, just what the heck was going through Josh Mitchell's mind on that blocked field goal return? My first thought on the replay was that he was stripped, but after looking at it again, I swear he was thinking he was Jamelle Holieway. And he's... not. Grade: C
Special Teams: On kickoffs, I think we're starting to miss Mauro Bondi, as Drew Brown seems to be in a bit of a funk. Or maybe he's getting worn out a bit. Nice to see Spencer Lindsay show decent leg, though the coverage on his last kick left a lot to be desired. Brown missed a field goal while Sam Foltz didn't get a good punt off from out of his own end zone. If not for Ameer Abdullah's kickoff return (which he almost botched by initially thinking he was still in the endzone), it would have been an awful day on special teams. Grade: C-
Overall: C+ It was a win, but it's a win that probably raised more questions than it solved.
Elsewhere in College Football
Michigan: F When the most offensive thing you do is drive a spear into your opponent's grass field, well.... And Brady Hoke is "not completely aware?" Looks like Hoke is already planning to put his house up for sale in December.
Someone mentioned to Hoke that a UM player planted a "spear" before the game. Hoke says he’s aware, but not "fully aware."— Joshua Henschke (@JoshuaHenschke) October 25, 2014
Texas Tech: F When you let TCU set a Big XII single game scoring record, you've got problems. Hey ladies...does Kliff Kingsbury have a better future in modeling or coaching?
Illinois: A The "Who will replace Tim Beckman?" talk goes on hold for a week.
Wisconsin: A+ Is that a defense emerging in Mad-town?
Kansas State: A What is it about Burnt Orange that sparks such dominance? Nebraska fans really would like to know.