For 50 minutes, it was exactly what we hoped that we wouldn't see again from a Nebraska team. On both sides of the ball, Nebraska was being beaten - and badly. Then, almost as if to be an afterthought, Nebraska finally started to get some offense going. And just like at Michigan State last season, Nebraska crawled out of the hole they had dug themselves into. Miami didn't help their cause with a couple of targeting penalties, and then just like that, Nebraska had somehow tied a game that most people had given up on.
But alas, it was all for naught as Tommy Armstrong made a mistake on the opening play of overtime in underthrowing Taariq Allen. The interception squashed any chance that Nebraska had to actually win this game - but let's be totally honest here...the only reason this game even made it to overtime was the play of Tommy Armstrong. His numbers were awful, but that's because for much of the afternoon, Armstrong was doing it all by himself. Dropped passes and penalties weren't his fault, but it reflected badly on Armstrong's stats.
In the fourth quarter, with the game seemingly out of reach, I started thinking about the report card and how bad the grades were going to be. Well, those grades require a bit of adjustment to account for the comeback. A bit, because you can't ignore how Nebraska fell so far behind in the first place. It's a game that leaves fans of both teams unhappy: Nebraska's, because the Huskers lost, and Miami, because somehow this game ended up in overtime.
So here's the report card; give us your thoughts in the comments below.
QB: Just how bad would this game have been without Tommy Armstrong? It's not his fault that his receivers were dropping passes...or that when he would hit a key pass, it would get wiped out by a penalty. And while he didn't run the ball much, some of his runs were crucial - especially on that third quarter touchdown drive. That 18 yard option run on third and 15? Tommie Frazier couldn't have run it much better. Would Armstrong like to have that overtime pass back? Yes, but if not for Armstrong, the game never gets to overtime. Grade: A-
I-Back: Some of those slow developing Terrell Newby runs that worked last week didn't work this week. Still, the running game was effective at times - and would have been more effective than any of those third and short passes plays that we've seen. Newby had his issues in pass protection today, which raises the question of where Mikael Wilbon was. Wilbon has looked really good in spot duty this season, and when the offense was lethargic today, could have provided a spark that the offense needed. Some say that Wilbon doesn't pass protect well, but when Newby was struggling in those situations, why not give Wilbon a carry? Grade: B-
Receivers: This grade was heading towards a D or worse early on. Lane Hovey set the tone for the day with two drops. Cethan Carter returned from suspension by showing his hands of stone as well. Stanley Morgan had a freshman moment just before halftime that eliminated a scoring chance. But the big three of Jordan Westerkamp, Brandon Reilly and Morgan stepped up huge in that fourth quarter. That's great...but desperation plays don't make up for poor play early. Grade: C-
Offensive Line: Ryne Reeves shotgun snaps were almost always high. I counted six penalties on the offensive line. Alex Lewis alone had 33 yards of penalties in the game. Pass protection was, well, mostly awful. But hey, we're not substituting on the offensive line because, you know, cohesion.
A word on Alex Lewis. His final penalty didn't lose the game for Nebraska. It didn't help the cause any, but chances are that Miami was still going to get at least a field goal attempt. In fact, I'd argue that his other two penalties (which wiped out completed passes for first downs) were worse. Football is a team game, and Nebraska lost because the whole team (sans Tommy Armstrong, IMHO) played badly the first 50 minutes of the game. Grade: D+
Defensive Line: I don't know if it's coaching, scheme or what, but the defensive line has been a disappointment all season long. Maliek Collins seems to disappear for long stretches, and of the defensive ends, only reserve Freedom Akinmoladun seems to be making any plays. And against Miami, the line was pushed around - a lot. For most of the day, Miami was playing a seven-on-seven drill offensively, because Brad Kaaya never was pressured - except when Mark Banker sent the house. (Which in turn, ensured that receivers were even more wide open.) Grade: D-
Linebackers: Remember all that talk about how well Nebraska tackled against South Alabama? Well, Xavier Johnson is not a good proxy for Joseph Yearby, and so what we previously saw was simply a mirage. Dedrick Young in pass coverage on a receiver isn't going to work, but he did look better in run coverage. Is Josh Banderas really healthy? He looked slow, though Miami's speed may have had more to do with that. Speaking of groin issues, Michael Rose-Ivey left the game in the second half with what was called a groin injury. Get well soon; we really need you back. Grade: D+
Secondary: Is it safe to say that Daniel Davie isn't meshing well with the new defensive scheme? It's just not working out. Granted, the entire secondary is struggling, but Davie has been the most prominent player having issues. Inserting Chris Jones and Jonathan Rose helped, but it's also a schematic thing. Miami's Brad Kaaya noted that the Hurricanes studied a lot of Oregon State film to identify it's weaknesses, and boy, did they ever find them. Grade: F
Overall: D+ Yay for the comeback, but that doesn't forgive 50 minutes of truly offensive, mostly inept football. Nebraska is 1-2 for the first time since the Reagan administration, and ranks four spots from the very bottom of college football in penalties.
Elsewhere in College Football
Iowa B-. Congratulations on being 3-0...but let's put it in perspective. A 17 point victory over 1-AA Illinois State. 14 points in the final two minutes to beat 1-2 Iowa State. And a last second victory over Pitt, who beat Bo Pelini's Youngstown State team by 8 points. If you are touting Iowa as the Big Ten West division leader...well, maybe you should stop sniffing the correction fluid.
Illinois F Derp.
Rutgers 0 The rain in Happy Valley did nothing to extinguish the raging dumpster fire that is Rutgers football.
Alabama C You'd think that with all of his recruiting acumen, he'd find a quarterback somewhere.