Saturday's Nebraska game against Indiana was one for the people who spend the money to sit in the stands instead of watching on television from home. Thanks to Clemson/North Carolina State going to overtime, ABC didn't show much of the first quarter of the Husker game. ESPN3 turned out to be a huge fail for me. I did eventually find the game on ESPN2 (thanks to a message from our own Brian Towle), though ESPN2 cut over to a studio show instead of showing Nebraska's second drive. Eventually I worked my way back to ABC, guessing that the game was heading back to the broadcast network. And sure enough, after getting a few more commercials in, we were treated to the tail-end of a replay of Brandon Reilly's circus catch.
A couple of minutes later, Chris Jones' pick-six interception made it 17-0 Huskers, and it looked like the Huskers were going to cruise the rest of the afternoon. Except it didn't happen; once the Huskers appeared on ABC, the Nebraska offense disappeared. Injuries on the offensive line probably were at the core, though give credit to Indiana's stout defense. Defense had been an afterthought in Indiana during Kevin Wilson's tenure, but the Hoosiers are quickly developing a salty defense. It might not show much in the standings, playing in the meat grinder that's the Big Ten east's division, but it should help the Hoosiers get to a bowl game in 2016.
I've been a critic of Mark Banker during his tenure in Lincoln, but it's hard to criticize the Blackshirts performance in this game. This might have been the best game for the Nebraska defense in two or three years. (Gator Bowl against Georgia, perhaps?)
As always, your comments are welcome below. Now onto the grades:
QB: Tommy Armstrong's numbers were pretty ugly. 38% passing, two interceptions, 36 yards rushing. Too many YOLO bombs that sometimes worked (72 yard touchdown to Stanley Morgan) and more often failed. Granted, Armstrong was running for his life most of the day, which explains the disjointed nature of Nebraska's game. Maybe my thoughts would be a little different had I seen more than a couple of plays on Nebraska's first two drives...but I have to grade on what I was able to actually see. Grade: D+
I-Back: The much maligned Terrell Newby quieted his critics with another impressive performance, rushing for 102 yards. And those yards weren't easy. Devine Ozigbo only made a brief appearance due to injury, while Tre Bryant was completely ineffective, averaging just seven inches a carry on the day. I have to assume that Mikale Wilbon was still injured and unable to play. Grade: A-
Wide Receiver: No doubt Nebraska missed Jordan Westerkamp, who always seemed to find a way to get open and give Armstrong an option to look for. From what I saw, Brandon Reilly's circus catch is going to be a season highlight. (Thanks ABC.) Stanley Morgan's move in triple coverage was probably the play of the game for the Huskers. Underrated was tight end Sam Cotton's three catches. This might be considered blasphemous by some, but I think Cotton is playing better this season than Cethan Carter. Grade: B+
Offensive Line: David Knevel only lasted one play, and then center Dylan Utter and left tackle Nick Gates were both hampered by injuries. So it shouldn't be a surprise that the line didn't have their best game In fact, it was probably closer to their worst game. But when Nebraska needed a foot on fourth down in the closing minutes, they got it. Grade: D
Defensive Line: Statistically, it was a pretty quiet day for the defensive line. But frankly, from what I saw (and what others saw on Twitter), there sure appeared to be some missed holding calls. At the very least, they cleared the way for some big plays from the linebackers. Grade: B
Linebackers: Josh Banderas had one of his good days, leading the team in tackles; most of the afternoon, it looked like he was playing downhill. Michael Rose-Ivey might have stopped Indiana's last touchdown for a loss if it wasn't for getting blocked in the back. All told, it was a pretty decent game. Grade: B
Secondary: Wow. The whole secondary played their best game in the Riley/Banker era, and frankly, I can't single anybody out. Nathan Gerry: sniffing out runs despite being under the weather. Chris Jones and Aaron Williams: huge interceptions. Kieron Williams: Almost an interception. Joshua Kalu: good coverage. Solid, solid, solid. Grade: A
Unspecial Teams: Here we go again. Another punt is blocked, and it was a cluster-eff right from the start. Indiana came straight up the middle to expose a poorly designed alignment, leaving the three protectors to block five guys. It didn't help that only one guy actually threw a block. Add in a long punt return, and Nebraska's net punting average is now the worst in the nation. Grade: D-
Overall: C+ While the defense came awfully close to giving us an "A" performance, the offense struggled once ABC picked up the broadcast.
Elsewhere in College Football
Wisconsin B+ Gave the Buckeyes their best test so far this season. Others will drop you out of the Top Ten...but I won't.
Colorado A Somehow, the Buffies are relevant again in college football.
Iowa D- Apparently losing to the Hawkeyes by 14 points is now a firable offense.
Houston D+ Barely alive for a "Big Six" bowl bid. Barely.
Tennessee F Sometimes you push your luck a little too far...