Maybe it was just me, but the vibe around Memorial Stadium Saturday just seemed . . . different. For an 11 am kickoff, the traffic on the highways and the sidewalks was much less than usual. Outside the stadium, it seemed there were hundreds of tickets available on the sidewalk, and when I got in midway through the Sam Foltz dedication, the stadium might have only been about a third full. By kickoff, the stadium seemed full-er, but it seemed there were empty seats everywhere. I had an extra ticket for my son, and there was no problem squeezing an extra person into our row - even with everybody bundled up for the cold. From what I saw and heard, my experience was not uncommon; quite a few empty seats, but the stadium looked full since everyone just spread out a bit more.
I think that malaise translated into the game itself. I thought Nebraska didn’t play badly, but considering that Maryland had been outscored 121-6 the last two weeks, I didn’t expect much of a challenge. Especially once it was revealed that the Terrapins were going to start their fourth-string quarterback, a true freshman who hadn’t played since some mop-up duty Labor Day weekend against Howard.
The switchup caught Nebraska by surprise, but after that opening drive, Maryland’s offense wasn’t going anywhere until Nebraska forgot to tackle in the fourth quarter. That meant that all Ryker Fyfe had to do was not screw up, and that’s precisely what he did. It was a "good enough" performance that saw Nebraska get back to the "nine wins" level. Whether or not you think nine wins is "good enough" or not, we can all agree that nine wins beats the heck out of six on the season.
Especially when there are (at least) two more games left to play. So we’ll gladly take it.
QB: Yeah, it was better than Fyfe’s last start, but that’s not saying much. Fyfe had a game plan this week that he could succeed with, and for the most part, he did. Some of his throws weren’t exactly the most ideal; several could have been intercepted. But against Maryland, they either fell incomplete (not bad) or turned into big catches (hello, Jordan Westerkamp!). And Fyfe even took off running a couple of times, showing that Danny Langsdorf is going to remain open to keeping the quarterback ground game an option in a post-Tommy Armstrong world. Grade: B
I-Back: I thought Terrell Newby had a decent game, all things considered. Would have liked to see him top 100 yards in his final home game, though. That might have been why he stayed in the game late. I was surprised to see how much Tre Bryant played in this game, considering how ineffective he had been most of the season. But considering how porous Maryland’s run defense had been this season, it might have been the perfect opportunity to give him some carries. I would have loved to see Mikale Wilbon get some carries, but dropping two screen passes probably scuttled his chances for more work. Grade: B
Wide Receiver: The seniors went out in style, especially Jordan Westerkamp. From my north end zone seats, I really didn’t get a good view of Westerkamp’s touchdown catch as the stands blocked my view of the back of the end zone. Thank you Twitter!
Brandon Reilly also made a couple of really good catches, and even got a jet sweep to produce a good gain. Grade: A
Offensive Line: Early on, Maryland stacked the box which meant the issues in the run game couldn’t be blamed entirely on the line. But as Fyfe opened up the passing game, the running game really didn’t get untracked all that well. And by the fourth quarter, the line was losing one-on-one battles. That was the opposite of what we’d seen all this season. Grade: C
Defensive Line: FREEDOM! He finally shook off the uncalled holding calls and got a couple of sacks. Ross Dzuris added one as well as Max Bortenschlager became the latest in a line of ineffective Maryland backup quarterbacks. Grade: A
Linebacker: Josh Banderas and Michael Rose-Ivey were the two leading tacklers and pretty much shut down Maryland’s run game. Grade: A
Secondary: At the end of the third quarter, I was about ready to give the secondary a solid A, and maybe an A+ if someone could have held onto an interception. But then D.J. Moore made the Blackshirts look like the 2015 edition for one play.
I’m going to forgive Kevin Maurice and Logan Rath for failing to corral a speedy wide receiver, but the secondary looked kind of silly. I was thinking about dropping them all the way to a B, but then I looked at the stats, and saw things like this:
Nebraska CB Joshua Kalu had two pass breakups and allowed only 1.3 yards per target in the Cornhuskers' 28-7 win against Maryland. pic.twitter.com/IHl57C5X9u— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) November 20, 2016
So I’m splitting the difference. Grade: A-
Unspecial Teams: I suppose it’s only fitting that Sam Foltz’s buddy Spencer Lindsay got a chance to kick on senior day, but you hate the fact that it was because Drew Brown may have suffered a concussion on the opening kickoff. Lindsay’s chance to kick his first field goal was spoiled by yet another Bruce Read failure. Check out this alignment and guess who’s coming to dinner unblocked.
Here are your screenshots. Count em up. pic.twitter.com/KgGsJ4szzM— Jack Mitchell (@JackMitchellLNK) November 19, 2016
Caleb Lightbourne’s first couple of punts sucked, but his last three (54, 49 and 51 yards) sure made up for it. The true freshman was supposed to redshirt this season and instead has had to fill the biggest shoes around, without a lot of support up front. The specialists get steak, the rest get store-brand mostly-filler-and-variety-meat hot dogs on stale buns from the dollar store clearance rack. (Check ‘em before you bite in.) Grade: C-
Overall: B+ Really good senior day performance could have been special, if not for one busted play.
Elsewhere in College Football
Texas: F Check please.
Iowa State: A+ Oh. My. Goodness. Paul Rhoads may be not be there anymore, but he still would be SO PROUD!
Rutgers: 0 How bad is it? This:
Rutgers was out-gained by Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State 2,258 to 382.— Matt Brown (@MattBrownCFB) November 20, 2016
Rutgers scoring margin against Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Penn State: 224-0https://t.co/YVgXnoedq2— SB✯Nation CFB (@SBNationCFB) November 20, 2016