Well, there it is. A victory over a ranked opponent. A very good victory; something to be really happy about. It is good...but it’s not great. Yeah, I know. I’m being a "Debbie Downer" on this, but I’m still going to point out a few things of concern here.
Oregon rushed for 336 yards, and All-American candidate Royce Freeman only touched the ball five times before leaving with an injury. Yes, the Ducks are potent offensively, and were going to get some yards...but after that injury, not nearly that many. Likewise, I think Nebraska could have put up bigger yards offensively against the Ducks defense. They certainly could have done a better job of taking advantage of Oregon’s slow substitutions on defense.
Yes, that’s getting particular. It was a good game, and more importantly, a good win over a good opponent. But there’s also nothing wrong with saying that Nebraska could have played better.
With that, here’s this week’s report card. As always, your comments are welcome below!
QB: Warrior. Tommy Armstrong is never going to be Peyton Manning or Tom Brady with the laser-accurate arm. But he does have a decent arm and great mobility...and more importantly, just wills his way through dehydration and cramps. He’s getting IV’s on the sideline and guzzling any liquid they can get into his system, and he’s back out there. Grade: A
I-Back: The rushing numbers didn’t look very good in the first half because the Ducks were stacking the middle, perhaps recognizing that the Huskers might try to exploit the weaknesses Oregon showed the week prior. But Terrell Newby found good yardage on sweeps out of the shotgun...and the coaches wisely exploited that in the second half. Newby didn’t touch the ball again, unfortunately, but Devine Ozigbo started pummelling the Ducks around the edge to turn the game around. After his second fumble in two games, Tre Bryant looks like he may see less playing time. We did see Mikale Wilbon get some snaps with the game on the line; hopefully he can get the ball next week. He didn’t do a very good job of falling on the incomplete lateral, but he was one of the first guys downfield to try and stop the fumble return. Grade: B+
WR: I’d argue that Jordan Westerkamp’s catch on 4th and nine was the biggest play of the game. If he doesn’t make that catch, Nebraska probably doesn’t win the game. Another solid performance for the receivers, with a hat tip to Bryan Reimers for his first career catch. Cethan Carter led with five catches, but his multiple drops of catchable balls stood out more to me. (And no, I’m not including his attempt to truck the south end zone grandstands as one of the drops.) Grade: B
Offensive Line: The Ducks weren’t known to be all that stout up front, and they held their end of the deal. Grade: B+
Defensive Line: All throughout the defense, it was a mixed bag. Some good play, some not so good. Considering the opponent, it’s unrealistic to expect too much. I thought both defensive ends were OK, but the defensive tackles were pretty much taken out of play by the design of the Oregon offense once Freeman left the game. Grade: B-
Linebackers: The defensive player of the game to me was Michael Rose-Ivey, who led the linebackers with 6. He was all over the field, showing an incredible instinct for the ball. I would have named him player of the game even if he hadn’t made the final stop of the game to seal the victory. But on the other hand, there was Josh Banderas who missed a bunch of tackles. Worst example? Banderas had both arms around Kani Benoit on that 4th and one run, but couldn’t wrap him up. That was a 38 yard, seven point blown tackle. Ouch. Grade: B+
Secondary: This was a tough assignment: covering an all-conference receiver along with an Olympic track star. Add in a mobile quarterback and a couple of speedsters pressed into service, and you’ve got quite a challenge. And actually, they handled it fairly well. More than a handful of misplays, but Prukop was held to half of his average passing yards. More importantly, Oregon’s streak of at least one touchdown pass in a game ended. It started on September 4, 2010 and ended in Lincoln. Grade: B+
Special Teams: Oregon’s fetish for the two point conversion burned them once again.
Oregon is 9-of-28 on 2-point conversions since 2013.— Samuel McKewon (@swmckewonOWH) September 18, 2016
Mark Helfrich needs someone to have that "dude, you're wrong" convo with him.
Both teams scored five touchdowns, but Oregon only converted one extra point attempt. The Nebraska special teams improved, thanks to the return of De’Mornay Pierson-El, who shrug off kick catch interference and jetted for 45 yards. Caleb Lightbourn finally got his big leg unleashed in the second half. I can’t help but wonder if #27 didn’t give that punt that ended up at the two yard line a little bit of an assist.
But it wouldn’t be a Bruce Read game without a screwup, and Jordan Nelson provided that by muffing a kickoff return. Grade B-
Overall: B+ Big, big victory to be sure. But there more than enough things that weren’t quite right to keep this grade from being higher, all things considered.
Elsewhere in College Football
Louisville A+ Holy moley. The other Lamar Jackson is yet another example of how great athletes in college football at the quarterback position are changing the game of football.
Ohio State A+ I wondered whether only having six returning starters would hurt the Buckeyes in 2016. The answer: don’t be ridiculous.
Northwestern B Congratulations on your first victory of the season.
The State of Iowa F The three division 1 institutions went 0-3 this weekend, though in fairness, Iowa State’s loss to TCU probably should have been expected since it was the only opponent the state faced from division 1-A.
Darren Rovell F We fixed your map for you.