Before the game against the Jaguars of South Alabama, we posed a few questions. This game was a feel-good cupcake win, as it should be. No McNeese or South Dakota State challenges. The down side? Some of my questions may not have been answered as thoroughly as I wanted...
Will the run game shift out of neutral and will we see one of the backs break out of the pack?
Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes! Reigning Big Ten co-player of the week Terrell Newby appears to be "the guy" as he rushed for 198 yards/3 touchdowns, and clearly got the nod from the coaches as the lead back. The spin move by Imani Cross was pretty sweet too - he made the most of his one carry.
Of course, all the cries about the rotation we heard after the BYU game (Pick someone! Running backs need to get into a rythm!) quickly turned to "Why didn't we rotate more guys and get them experience?" And "Why risk injury to our top back by running him 200 yards against a Sun Belt team?"
Will special teams regroup?
Hmmm, well, I guess so. There was still a rather inexcusable error when two players with the same number lined up together for an extra point try.
There were no kick or punt returns but Drew Brown did make both of his field goal attempts (25 and 44 yards). Tyson Broekemeier was serviceable as a punter; 3 punts for 104 yards (just under 35 yard average). I am glad that his work in this area allowed Sam Foltz to heal another week and be ready for Miami. Better that than to press Foltz back into service against a team that was not a serious challenge to the Huskers.
Best news of all....we are one week closer to having DPE back.
Which part of the defense will make the biggest jump from Week 1 to Week 2?
I am not sure any one group stood out but there were individuals at each level of the defense that got their chances to shine.
For the linebackers, seeing Michael Rose-Ivey back on the field was awesome. He picked up right where he left off - slamming ball carriers to the ground with impunity. However, his LB mates, Banderas and Young were sidelined. Luke Gifford and Chris Weber played well, and got some valuable reps. Full evaluation of this group's progress might have to wait until we get all three starters on the field at Miami (crossing fingers that happens).
The d-line really did not stand out. In this game it really should have. To be fair, I got the impression that South Alabama was not eager to try and run much up the middle - so maybe I am being a bit harsh. I would have liked to see them look a little more overpowering against this level of competition before I give them the nod as the "answer" to this question.
In Freedom Akinmoladun's first start at DE (in place of the injured Gangwish) he registered two tackles - both for losses. He also added two quarterback hurries. Not earth-shattering, but pretty good considering the kid is a redshirt freshman who switched from tight end only recently.
Then there is the secondary. Jonathan Rose had a nice first game back after his suspension, but there were a few too many big plays given up by this group. Banker has said in interviews since this game that he did not change things up to avoid more big plays when he could have (I can't find the article now - hopefully I am remembering that correctly). ....Something about learning to play the technique and not relying on help.
Let's hope his tough-love approach pays dividends this weekend and as we get into conference play.
In summary, I probably did not learn as much as I had hoped from this game except that this Husker team is capable of handling a cupcake the way they should. That might be enough for now...cough... McNeese....cough. What are your thoughts? Did I miss something? Did you have different answers? Tell me in the comments!