First, a disclosure: I'm one of those "run the ball" guys; not because I dislike the pass, but rather because I believe that's the strength of Nebraska's personnel. That doesn't mean "never pass" but rather "run to set up the pass." And frankly, I saw Nebraska's offense falling into bad habits against Wyoming, though in the end, Nebraska did end up with a sizable margin of victory.
Of course, most of the credit for the final score goes to the defense, or maybe to be more accurate: Wyoming's own offensive incompetence. It was 24-17 at the start of the fourth quarter until the Cowboys went on a string of four turnovers in their next nine offensive plays. Some of them were forced by the Blackshirts, though at least one was simply a careless unforced error, on a errant screen pass that was ruled a fumbled lateral.
So although the final margin of victory was refreshingly large, it wasn't necessarily an indication of how close the game was during the first three quarters. That being said, Nebraska missed opportunities to lock the game up much sooner.
Dominating the fourth quarter is all well and good, but it won't do much good next week if Oregon flies all over Lincoln in the first three quarters. With that, here's this week's report card...and as always, your comments are always welcome.
QB: Let's set that interception aside for a moment and look at the good; primarily, the emergence of the screen game. That's a good safety outlet for Armstrong to check down to against stiffer competition. And if it weren't for some awful penalties on blocks, Armstrong easily could have topped 400 yards through the air. As for that interception, well, not only was it an awful decision to throw the ball into coverage, it was also an awful choice to throw on first and goal from the five yard line. I mean, wasn't this one of the lessons that of 2015? Grade: B+
I-Back: It'll be interesting to see how the coaches grade this out; personally, I thought Terrell Newby outplayed Devine Ozigbo. Newby seemed more efficient in getting outside of the cluttered middle on his limited carries, while Ozigbo ended up in the cluttered middle. But in fairness, it's hard for any I-back to get into any sort of rhythm when they only combine for 12 carries in the first three quarters. Grade: C
Receivers: Brandon Reilly had a couple of the bigger plays of the day, though one ended up being overturned by instant replay. From what I gathered on Twitter, people watching at home didn't see the replay that HuskerVision found, showing the ball slipping onto the ground. After that replay was shown, both teams started heading back even before the officials announced the play was overturned. Alonzo Moore continues developing very nicely under Keith Williams' tutelage; his 63 yard catch was really nifty. Moore and Jordan Westerkamp both topped the 100 yard mark. The biggest negative of the day? Cethan Carter's ill-advised illegal block in the back, negating a 36 yard touchdown catch by Terrell Newby. Grade: A-
Offensive Line: Not the greatest day up front, to be sure, though Wyoming's plan to shut down the running game probably had the biggest effect on it. Nick Gates' second quarter unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was probably the biggest negative takeaway. Grade: C+
Defensive Line: I continue to be very impressed by John Parrella's group, considering their lack of experience going into the season. The Davis twins had a great game: Carlos with five tackles and Khalil had two tackles for loss. Ross Dzuris had the smart play of the game in not assuming the screen pass wasn't, in fact, a fumbled lateral. OK, the competition goes up a wee bit from here, but it's a good start. Grade: A
Linebacker: Josh Banderas had a big game swallowing up Brian Hill, while Michael Rose-Ivey seems to be excelling in his pass defender role. This platooning system could face a severe test this week against Oregon's up-tempo attack. We'll see how well this works, though Mark Banker and Trent Bray should be more than familiar with what the Ducks are going to do. Grade: B
Secondary: It's hard to complain too much when they come up with five interceptions, but there was some lousy coverage early on.
The kind of coverage that has to have Oregon licking it's chops. Not sure what Gerry is supposed to do here. pic.twitter.com/RHqZVLQ670— Mike'l Severe (@MikelSevere) September 11, 2016
For me, it was a mixed bag that leaves me a little apprehensive for this Saturday against the Ducks. Pack your lunch pail, because I suspect this Saturday's game should be all-WAC. Plan for a four-hour game if you are setting up your DVR. Grade: B
Unspecial Teams: Nebraska's punt return game didn't get any better this week, and it won't unless somebody blocks for whoever is back fielding these punts. Caleb Lightbourn's freshman mistake would be easier to dismiss if it weren't yet another example of Nebraska's unspecial teams fails.
More Unspecial Teams: Huskers only had nine men to defend on Wyoming's final PAT attempt: pic.twitter.com/c4G978ZPcH— Husker Mike (@Husker_Mike) September 11, 2016
Oh, and in case you think I'm just being picky, there's Wyoming on the power play for their final extra point try. Grade: D-
Overall: B- Can't wait until the fourth quarter to get untracked this week, men.
Elsewhere in College Football
Louisville: A Only Nebraska fans will hear the name "Lamar Jackson" and not think of the 'Ville's Heisman candidate.
Iowa: A That's how you handle your little brother.
LSU: D How do you know you have quarterback problems? When you have to turn to a guy that got benched at Purdue. That's how.
Ohio: B Frank Solich is still undefeated against Kansas. The Bobcats racked up 359 total yards in the first half against the Jayhawks.