Let's make one thing clear right up front: South Alabama is not very good. Nebraska did what they should do with a team like that. The game never was in doubt from the start, and frankly, any criticism can easily be dismissed as nit-picking. On the other hand, not all was great in this game.
Last week, 1-AA Gardner-Webb rushed for 177 yards against South Alabama, so I expected that Nebraska should be able to rush for close to 400 yards. That wasn't in the cards, because Nebraska only rushed 37 times; it's clear that Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf prefer to throw the ball. To some extent, that's a matter of personal preference, but I will highlight a couple of scenarios where Nebraska probably should not have thrown the ball - at the end of each half.
Just before halftime, South Alabama pinned Nebraska at the NU 4 yard line with a punt. Two nifty Terrell Newby runs got the ball out to the 17 yard line with a minute left in the half. For some reason, Nebraska went hurry-up, and threw two passes which stopped the clock. South Alabama burned their final timeout after a Tommy Armstrong run to force Tyson Brokemeier to have to punt. That was a mistake, even though it actually worked out when the punt was fumbled.
At the end of the game, nine of Nebraska's final 13 snaps were pass plays. From my perspective at the end of the game, throwing the ball late in a blowout always opens up charges of running up the score. It's simply unnecessary when the game is all but over.
Penalties continue to be an issue, as the Huskers were flagged seven times for 80 yards. The Huskers are ranked 111th in the nation in penalties, and some of them are silly. Take the final penalty: an "illegal equipment" penalty for having two players wearing the same number on the final extra point try. This season, Paul Thurston has been wearing #81 on special teams play, presumably so that he can line up as a tight end. But late in the game, he switched back to #55 to play center in the late stages of the game. But on the extra point try, Kevin Maurice entered the game as a blocker on the edge...and lined up right next to Thurston. Simple little coaching error, yes...but one that you wouldn't expect to happen with a full-time special teams coordinator.
So here's this week's report card; give us your thoughts in the comments below.
QB: Honestly, this might have been Tommy Armstrong's best game so far as a Husker. He didn't really need to run the ball in this game, but he was efficient throwing the ball. Passes were crisp, decisions were usually right...though it's not like he needed to go through his progressions much against South Alabama. Ryker Fyfe probably should have, though. He probably would have looked away from Jamal Turner towards Taariq Allen instead of throwing that interception. That lowers the position grade to B+
I-Back: Not only was there more of a commitment to run the ball this week, the coaches decided to stick to one back. That might have been a bit extreme, as I would have liked the other backs to get a few more carries and limit Newby to 20 or so. Newby did fine against an overmatched defense, though I suspect some of those shorter jitterbug runs won't be as effective against better competition. I did like how Newby finished his day with that pass reception; if Nebraska wasn't so stacked at receiver, I'd like to see Newby lined up in the slot to get him the ball in space. Grade: A-
Wide Receivers: I've thought Nebraska had developed one of the finest wide receiver corps in the Big Ten the last few years, and the coaching of Keith Williams seems to have taken them up to another level. He's found a way to make Alonzo Moore more consistent catching the ball. Pick your guy; they all are playing fairly well. Grade: A
Offensive Line: No sacks and two backs averaging over 7 yards a carry. Pretty decent numbers...though, you have to expect that when you are playing a fairly undersized opponent. And frankly, I saw a few kinks that need to be worked on. For example, Dylan Utter wiffed on blocking a linebacker, though Terrell Newby wasn't fazed by it at all. Grade: B-
Defensive Line: Freedom Akinmoladun only had two tackles on the night, but they were big tackles for loss in his first start. The entire defensive line was rather quiet all night, which is concerning because this might be the worst offensive line they'll face all season. Grade: B-
Linebacker: Welcome back Michael Rose-Ivey! You've been sorely missed for last year, and he didn't show any rust getting back into the game. Luke Gifford played better this week than he did last week, and Chris Weber did OK as the emergency starter in the middle. Rose-Ivey's return more than offset the loss of Josh Banderas and Dedrick Young this week...but let's not take our chances any more. Hopefully we can get all three on the field next week in Miami. Grade: A
Secondary: Nebraska's strength on defense has suddenly become it's weakness. Mark Banker's scheme is designed to focus more on stopping the run than the pass, and offenses have found ways to exploit it. It's not all the secondary's fault, as some of these passes have been perfectly thrown. But even when they aren't perfectly thrown, the coverage isn't in position to make a play. Jonathan Rose had one of his better games as a Husker this week, and probably will get a chance to start against Miami. Daniel Davie, on the other hand, is really struggling. Grade: C-
Overall: B Nebraska wasn't really tested this week, and the results were fine. But some of the things that Nebraska go away with this week won't work next week at Miami.
Elsewhere in College Football
SEC East: D Florida and Missouri really struggled against teams that they shouldn't struggle with...while Tennessee choked one away against Oklahoma.
SEC West: D+ Well, Ole Miss didn't suck, but my, oh my, Auburn and Arkansas.
Ohio: A Five days after Marshall upset Purdue, the Fightin' Frankies took down the Herd. In two weeks, they head to Minneapolis to play the Gophers.