Well, that wasn't what we expected. Or hoped. Bo Pelini pretty much summed up the afternoon in his post-game press conference:
At the end of the day, we got outcoached, we got out played, and like I said before, we were lucky to win the football game.
So while it's a win, it's a hollow win because McNeese State had no business even being in the game. It shouldn't have taken an amazing run like Ameer Abdullah's to win the game with only 20 seconds left in regulation. So that becomes the baseline that we grade this game on. It's not going to be pretty.
QB: Tommy Armstrong's performance reminded me a lot of Jamaal Lord's performance in 2002 against McNeese State. Ran the ball really, really well, but also really, really struggled with throwing the ball. Receivers really bailed out Armstrong at times, but there's no excuse for receivers to have to constantly dive for balls when they are wide open. Hit them in stride, and they can keep running. McNeese State dared Nebraska to throw, and Armstrong did throw. Just not well at all. Once again, Armstrong was stuck at a 51% completion rate. And that interception really reversed the momentum of the game. That's not going to cut it. And if Armstrong doesn't start to show major improvement with his passing soon, it may be time to give Ryker Fyfe some meaningful snaps when the game is on the line. Grade: F
RB: McNeese State made it a point to shut down Ameer Abdullah, and while he got loose a few times, he also was hounded in the backfield far too often. But in that critical moment of the game, Abdullah found a way to break six tackles and avoid two more to win the game. Sadly, it was to get the win against McNeese State. That run alone ups Abdullah's grade to a B-.
WR: Kenny Bell left the game during the second drive of the game with a groin injury and didn't return. Jamal Turner looked like he was about ready to return to his sophomore year form until he blew his Achilles midway through the second quarter. In came Taariq Allen, who did his darndest to try and lasso some of Armstrong's errant throws. Allen easily could have had a 100 yard receiving day if Armstrong was even remotely on-target with his passing. Jordan Westerkamp had several really nice catches, including a one-hander to get on the highlight reels. His most important play might have been that devastating block he threw on Abdullah's heroic touchdown. Overall, it's a B for the receivers.
OL: McNeese State ranked 68th in division 1-AA in rushing defense, so Nebraska should have been able to run at will on the Cowboys. As we know, that didn't happen. Even worse were several penalties, including two by senior Jake Cotton that killed scoring opportunities in the second half. No other way to grade this: a big fat F that almost should be a zero.
DL: Personally, I didn't think the defensive line played that poorly. Greg McMullen had a decent day IMHO with 9 tackles. The interior tackles were OK as well, though I would have liked to have seen fewer holes up the middle for Kelvin Bennett. Grade: C+
LB: Josh Banderas snuck onto the stat sheet with 10 tackles, though it wasn't terribly noticable just watching the game emerge. A bigger issue to me was the number of times that Bennett was able to go out for a pass and not be covered. Fortunately, he dropped several easy catches that could have made the game even uglier. Grade: D+
Secondary: Pass defense left a little to be desired at times, especially in that fourth quarter. But Nate Gerry was rock solid all day long on run support, and his blitzing late in the fourth quarter were directly responsible for McNeese State having to settle for a game tying field goal instead of taking a lead. Also nice to see true freshman Josh Kalu make some plays late in the game. He's going to be good. Grade: B
Special Teams: On a day when Nebraska really sucked, special teams were something that worked well. Sam Foltz had his best day punting, averaging over 51 yards a kick and putting four inside the 20 yard line. De'Mornay Pierson-El has grabbed a hold of the punt return job and gives us hope that something good can emerge there. And maybe we should see more of Ameer Abdullah running back kickoffs as well. I think it's time to take him off the punt block team, though. Grade: A
Overall: F We saw a few good things, but the bottom line is that Nebraska didn't play well at all. It was a game Nebraska should have won handily...and they didn't. The grade has to reflect that.
Elsewhere in College Football
Michigan: F Outgain Notre Dame in total yardage, yet manage to lose 31-0?
Ohio State: F Quarterback J.T. Barrett was a true feast-or-famine guy. He was either making an amazingly good play or an amazingly bad one. Sadly, the bad ones outnumbered the good ones by a 3-1 margin.
Michigan State: D+ In the first half, Sparty looked like national championship contenders. In the second, they became the punch line for more jokes about the B1G.
Purdue: 0 Are the Boilermakers even trying?
Iowa: F The Hawkeyes simply can't run the ball.
Fresno State: F Three scores in second half garbage time made the score seem closer than it really was. Utah had their way with the Bulldogs right from the opening play and raced to a 45-7 lead late in the third quarter.
Florida Atlantic: 0 I wonder what delusions the Owls will have this week. The game was called midway through the fourth quarter due to lightning, thus meaning that the game seemed closer than Florida Atlantic's season opener against Nebraska. It wasn't.