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The Morning After: Southern Miss

It's our Sunday morning roundup of what was said and tweeted after yesterday's win over the Golden Eagles.

David McGee

Tom Shatel, Omaha World-Herald: One thing is never in doubt - these Huskers are anything but boring.

Tom Osborne spoiled us, of course, with the most consistent winning college football has ever seen. Now, Memorial Stadium is a fun house where Hail Marys happen and Ameer Abdullah runs through 10 defenders to beat McNeese State.

Hey, the bottom line is Nebraska beat Southern Mississippi 36-28 on a gorgeous Saturday for an accelerated heart rate. Victory never goes out of style.

This one was never in doubt, except for when it was, when the 22-0 lead had become a nail-biter, when the hero kicker who made five field goals had his last one tipped and Southern Miss was in position to try a Hail Mary, but the clock ran out because the Eagles had used a timeout before a kickoff.

The truth you can believe is that Nebraska is 2-2 and this week nobody is saying the Huskers could be 4-0. They are every bit of that 2-2 team.

This is a team of fighters, except during the lapses. This is an offense with firepower, except when it stumbles. This is a defense that can play physical and tackle and cover, except when it doesn’t.

Brandon Vogel, Hail Varsity: With these Huskers, it's important to read to the end.

Can Nebraska win the Big Ten West? Sure, but it will have to play better than it did against Southern Mississippi on Saturday. Better than it did in September in general, really.

Maybe a lot better, maybe just a little better – depending on what, exactly, gets better – but definitely better. Of course, that’s every team’s quest at the end of September; fix the mistakes, deal with the injuries, reevaluate the plan, keep teaching, keep coaching, keep playing, keep getting better.

Coaches all talk like that because it’s really the only way forward. This was Mike Riley’s version of that following the Huskers’ 36-28 win over the Golden Eagles.

"I told the team, we have to be pleased with winning the game," he said. "We can always look at all of the stuff that we will do, just like we did it in the two games we have lost. We’ve won a couple of games and we have lost a couple of really close games, and now we are entering into [conference play]. We’ve been through a lot of different situations, which I hope will be very good learning for us as you stack your experiences up and hopefully get better."

Steve Sipple, Lincoln Journal-Star: Disaster averted, but Banker grasping for answers.

I know this: Nebraska fans' teeth-gnashing began before they exited the stadium. This is a proud fan base. It knows good football. It knows not to read too much into NU's glitzy rushing numbers against Southern Miss — 39 carries for 242 yards (6.2 per carry). Going 3-for-8 on touchdowns when reaching the red zone is one sign all is not well in the run game.

But defense is the main issue for Nebraska. The Blackshirts too often were getting beat over the top and on wheel routes in the flat. They tackled poorly. They still have trouble getting pressure on the quarterback unless they blitz. They're not creating many turnovers (six for the season).

To be fair, injuries are taking a toll. Banker said it was a rough week of practice. Veterans Michael Rose-Ivey and Josh Banderas are sidelined with groin injuries. They were expected to lead the linebacker crew. Tackle Vincent Valentine (ankle) and end Jack Gangwish (elbow) are on the mend. Safeties Nate Gerry and Aaron Williams missed ample practice time this week with the flu.

"We didn't have any continuity," Banker said. "But don't blame what transpired on that because we played pretty good football in the first half, and it was pretty ugly in the second half."

If defenders were becoming frustrated, well, Banker has no patience for that.

"I'd tell them to get their head out of their ass and let's go, we have a ballgame," he said. "There's no time to be down now."

Jason Munz, Hattiesburg AmericanEagles wonder what could have been.

They say hindsight is 20-20, and after the way things transpired at Memorial Stadium for the Golden Eagles, third-year head coach Todd Monken is a firm believer in it.

In particular, Monken referenced an incompletion on third-and-3 at Southern Miss’ 39-yard line in the fourth quarter with Nebraska squarely on its heels. Mullens’ throw to Mike Thomas was off-target, sending the punt team on the field. The Golden Eagles called for a fake punt that didn’t work, and the Cornhuskers eventually scored off the turnover-on-downs to make it a 36-22 game.

"There are plays like that," Monken said. "Where the ball was thrown low and we don’t make the catch. If we catch it, hey, we get a first down, we’re only down 8, who knows?"

Dirk Chatelain, Omaha World-Herald: As Husker fullback Andy Janovich rumbles, the old-schoolers roar

On a day when so many other things went wrong for Nebraska, Janovich stirred Memorial Stadium into a frenzy. The senior fullback gave fans a taste of the glorious past — and coaches a potential glimpse of the future.

Chew on this: In 40 career games prior to Southern Miss, Janovich had 35 total yards on six touches. On six touches Saturday, he produced 121.

His 25-yard dash in the second quarter ignited Milt Tenopir in the press box — "Fullback trap! I saw them working on that the other day." The sideline went nuts, too, receiver Brandon Reilly said.

"I knew he’d break it," Reilly said. "One guy’s not going to bring him down. Ever. I would never, never get in his way. I would never."

Forgive Southern Miss defenders if they were a little surprised. A Husker fullback hadn’t carried the ball in three years. Three. Years. In the past decade, Nebraska fullbacks had recorded 16 carries. Total.

Janovich’s only prior carries came in garbage time against Idaho State in 2012. Back then, he looked capable of following the great tradition of Husker fullbacks. Then he disappeared from the offense, a victim of the spread offense era.

"It’s a dinosaur," offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said of the fullback position. "It’s a dying breed."

"They’re hard to find because no one uses them, even in high school. ... But we continue to look for them and we want to keep it alive in our system."