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Report Card: Huskers 55, Fresno State Bulldogs 19

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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Did you stay up until the very end? Or did you decide to head off to bed once you became comfortable with the Huskers lead?  Or maybe you just recorded the game on your DVR and watched it on Sunday morning.  (Or maybe you live in Iowa and had to use your VCR to record the game.)

Some Husker fans were worried about this game.  For some people, it was last week's narrow escape against McNeese State. For others, it was the environment: road game, late at night, and in oppressive heat.  And some weren't familiar with Fresno State and didn't realize that this year's Fresno State is but a shadow of last years.  (Those people really need to check out our opponent previews.)  Fresno had been drubbed by both Southern Cal and Utah to open the season, and Nebraska did no different either.

The score is what I expected, the stats were what I expected.  What I was disappointed in was some lack of consistency in keeping drives alive in the first half. The second half was better, though even then, there weren't any long drives. Mostly because Fresno State really isn't a very good team this year.

With that in mind, here's our report card. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below:

QB: It was Tommy Armstrong's best game as a Nebraska quarterback. He ran the ball well, and made some big plays in the passing game. But he had difficulty sustaining drives much of the night, and one key reason is that he chooses to force the ball downfield to covered receivers when Ameer Abdullah is wide open in the flat as a check-down option.

It's clear that Armstrong has improved tremendously in his ball security this season, and that's improved his game. Mike Welch of 93.7 the Ticket radio in Lincoln tweeted an impressive comparison of Big Ten quarterbacks that shows that Armstrong might be the B1G's best:

Problem is that when you look at completion percentage, Armstrong might be the Big Ten's worst quarterback. Indiana's Nate Sudfeld is completing 71% of his passes, and most of the other quarterbacks are over 60%.  Ohio State's J.T. Barrett and Northwestern's Trevor Siemian are at 59%.

Tommy Armstrong's completion percentage is up to 53%.

Those missed opportunities really hurt Nebraska against McNeese State.  Against Fresno, it didn't really hurt as much as it kept the game from being an even bigger blowout.  Grade:  B-

I-Back: Ameer Abdullah started red-hot, but as the game evolved, Fresno State dumped an ice-box challenge on him to seriously cool him off. Still rushed for 110 yards, though. Fresno copied a page out of the McNeese State playbook by coming hard on the run blitz to keep Abduallah bottled up. This is where Armstrong could really help this offense. As long as Armstrong keeps floating around just above the 50% completion percentage, defenses will be more than willing to shut down the run.  Imani Cross got his usual three carries, but made it spectacular with a 62 yard burst.  Like Abdullah's touchdown, the Bulldogs crashed the line on the play, leaving both Abdullah and Cross with an open field once they got to the second level.  Grade:  B

WR: Kenny Bell looked pretty close to 100%, though he didn't play much in the second half. No reason to. Thanks to the Wake Forest game running long, we never really got a good look at Jordan Westerkamp's 70 yard touchdown.  His second catch for 15 yards in the second half was pretty good. Nice to see tight ends Sam Cotton and Cethan Carter finally get involved in the passing game.  Those guys are underutilized weapons.  And hello sophomore walk-on Lane Hovey, who looked pretty good in garbage time.  Grade: B+

OL: It's not fair to pin all of the issues in the running game on the line, but the line isn't completely blameless either. It also doesn't help when Jake Cotton gets a false start penalty or Mark Pelini gets flagged for holding. Yes, it was a hot night, and we saw a fair amount of substituting. We'd just like to see the line do just a bit more.  Grade: C+

DL: My take is that the defensive line played really, really well under the circumstances. Vincent Valentine had four tackles - three for a loss. Randy Gregory started slow, likely due to losing a bit of conditioning because of injury in the heat as well as an upset stomach...but certainly made his presence known when he was in the game. Greg McMullen looked good, and freshman Marcus Newby looked unblockable in passing situations.  Grade: A

LB: Josh Banderas made a few plays early, but since Nebraska spent most of the game in dime defense, Zaire Anderson and David Santos weren't on the field much.  We'll get to Santos a little later. Grade: B-

Secondary: Josh Mitchell did get beaten a few times by Josh Harper (son of Husker legend Willie), but he also made a few plays. Harper will be playing on Sundays in 2015, so that shouldn't be overly concerning. Did you like Joshua Kalu out there?  I really did, despite a couple instances where the true freshman wasn't exactly in the right position.  (I'll write those off as freshman mistakes.) I also liked Daniel Davie and Jonathan Rose at times as well.  Nate Gerry didn't have a good night, and sucked got out of position on Brian Burrell's 66 yard run.  The secondary had to step up against Fresno, and for the most part, they did OK.  Grade:  B-

Special Teams: Drew Brown mishit his first field goal on the road, but made up for it with two more. Sam Foltz was solid punting as well.  De'Mornay Pierson-El has suddenly become a game-changer in the punt return game; what was a huge liability is now becoming a strength.  Buuuuut David Santos.  I mean, what the heck was David Santos doing out there on that pooch punt?  I went back and watched it a few times, and here's what I think was going on. First of all, remember that Fresno didn't line up in a punt formation, but rather in shotgun.  It was quarterback Brian Burrell who punted, with Santos lined up in coverage.  At the snap, the outside guys raced downfield, and Santos turned his back to Burrell to cover a receiver.  So I'm not sure at what point Santos realized it was a punt, and not a pass play.  In fact, after the play, Santos starts making a kicking motion as if to ask "was that a punt?"  But here's the thing... why the heck did he spike the ball backwards? The ball had hit the ground, so if it was a pass, it was already incomplete.  And if it was a punt, that made it a live ball that Fresno could have recovered in the end zone. Easy to laugh about it afterwards, but it certainly was a WTF moment out there.  We'll drop this to an A- for the five net points from special teams.

Overall:  B Dominant result on the scoreboard, but if you watched the game, you know that Nebraska was capable of more out there.

Elsewhere in College Football

CBS Sports Network: C  I understand why we missed the Huskers' opening possession; can't cut away from a game in progress...though it would be nice to be able to switch part of the country.  I would love to have seen more replays than that single field-level shot of Westerkamp's big play though.  The production quality of the broadcast actually was pretty good; I really loved how they went split screen to show us replays with both teams running a hurry up.  That's a great innovation.  But considering that Carter Blackburn and Aaron Taylor both have worked for ESPN/ABC, they were painful to listen to at times.  (It's not MAC Neese State, guys.)

Update from CN community member cheeseandcorn: Turns out it's actually pronounced MACK-neese. You learn something new everyday.  So the CBS guys got it right after all...

Iowa:  F  I'll put this simply:  LOL.

Purdue: B  For one half, the Boilers were looking like they were turning the program completely around.  There's a sign of optimism that we simply hadn't seen as of yet.

Indiana: F  Doesn't matter how good your offense is when the defense is that breathtakingly bad.

Illinois: D- Time to hold the phone on Wes Lunt, who was exposed against real competition.

Michigan:  B  Did the Weasels finally find a running back in Derrick Green?  Maybe, as it came in #MACtion...

Minnesota:  0  Jerry Kill's program is one that can't beat you unless you beat yourself, it appears.

Jerry Neuheisel: A+  Way to make the old man proud.

We may not be fans of Skippy, but since it was against Texas, we're fine with it.

Southern Cal:  D   Derp.