In the aftermath of last week’s Ohio State disaster, Mike Riley lamented Nebraska’s running game, which hasn’t been as productive in recent weeks as it was at the start of the season.
"I think the No. 1 thing we need to do is establish two identity runs that we can repeat better throughout the ballgame that look good," Riley said. "Sometimes when you're not doing well, you jump around a little bit."
Nebraska’s commitment to the running game in 2016 is one of the biggest factor’s in the Huskers winning record this season. Certainly last season’s lack of commitment to running the ball was a huge factor in a losing 2015 season. But after saying that during the week, Nebraska’s ground attack went AWOL in the first half against Minnesota: 14 passes, 8 runs. Add in yet more absurdity with Nebraska’s Unspecial Teams, and you’ve got a 17-10 deficit at halftime.
In the second half, the coaches changed their strategy. 24 runs, 14 passes. Add in another fourth quarter push, and the Huskers won 24-17. People can try all they want to try and explain it away ("short passes are just like runs" or "you can’t run until you are ahead"), but the fact remains that Nebraska is more successful when they run the ball on offense than when they pass the ball.
As always, your comments are welcome below.
QB: I suspected that after Tommy Armstrong reappeared on the sideline last week, he’d be ready to go for Minnesota. And there he was, back and working his usual magic. Yes, he almost threw a bad interception. But he made plays time and time again with his arm and his feet. That hamstring injury looks serious, but when Tommy Armstrong says he’ll play next week, I believe him. Grade: B+
I-Back: In the first half, it was almost another incomplete grade as Terrell Newby only touched the ball twice. The split back set with Mikale Wilbon and Tre Bryant did work well for a couple of passing plays, as Langsdorf caught Minnesota napping by throwing to Bryant (who usually blocks in this formation), who was wide open. But let’s not get overexcited; Bryant still has only gained one yard rushing on six carries in B1G conference games. Terrell Newby continues to run hard and separate from the other I-backs. Grade: B+
Wide Receivers: Not big numbers, but some clutch catches from Jordan Westerkamp and Alonzo Moore to keep drives alive. De’Mornay Pierson-El showed some nifty moves and some serious yards-after-catch, but also had two penalties. Speaking of penalties, Cethan Carter’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty could have been game changing, were it not for the Williams’ tip-drill-interception to seal the victory. Not sure what he did to draw the flag; perhaps it was something he said. Grade: B
Offensive Line: Nice seeing Jerald Foster back on the field, though he did show some rust out there. Dylan Utter had a really rough night at center, though, getting bowled over more than once. Grade: B-
Defensive Line: After an awful night against Ohio State, the defensive line broke through and stuffed the Minnesota rushing attack what was averaging 210 yards a game to just 85, 31 of which came on one run. Kevin Maurice and Mick Stoltenberg were both playing huge up the middle. Could have used a little more of a pass rush, though. Grade: A-
Linebacker: Josh Banderas and Michael Rose-Ivey bounced back as well from a really rough outing against Ohio State. Dedrick Young really isn’t healthy enough to play; not sure why he’d come in on a passing down in the first place, as that’s the weak part of his game when he’s 100%. Grade: B+
Secondary: #LockdownU was having a relatively rougher night, but Aaron and Kieron Williams did make the game-sealing play with the interception. Aaron Williams eleven tackles tied for the team lead. Grade: B-
Unspecial Teams: Once again, we’re left to wonder just what Bruce Read actually does as Nebraska’s special teams once again turned into a disadvantage. Having 12 men on the field for a Gopher punt extended Minnesota’s first drive of the game and eventually led to 7-0 deficit. The negative two yard punt isn’t necessarily Read’s fault, but it’s another failure in that aspect of the game. How much longer will Mike Riley cover for the failures in special teams? Here’s what Bruce Read said when he arrived in Lincoln.
"The thing that Mike grinds me on is to be super efficient and to be organized," said Read. "He feels we can do it in less time…I think we are very efficient in what we do."
Organized and efficient are two terms that nobody can say applies to Nebraska’s special teams the last two seasons. Grade: D-
Overall: B- Solid win that keeps Nebraska mathematically alive in the Big Ten’s west division. A more realistic goal probably is a New Years’ Day bowl, which would be a heck of a bounce back season for the Huskers.
Elsewhere in College Football
Michigan, Clempson & Washington F Not sure how much I blame them; I wouldn’t want to play Alabama either this season.
UNLV: A Barney got the better of Bohl in triple overtime.
Central Florida: A The Fightin’ Frosties are bowl eligible.
Oregon: 0 Will Phil Knight be calling Scott back home?