In the end, the Jimmies and the Joes finally won out.
A furious fourth quarter comeback gave Husker fans something to truly say “hip hip hooray” for after a long month. Some people want to point to this as a turning point in what has been a disappointing season to this point. That could be true.
But only if it truly turns out to be a turning point.
There were some things that Nebraska did better in the fourth quarter against Purdue on offense than they did in the first three quarters. Not coincidentally, they were things that worked better in the second half against Ohio State.
Early in the season, I saw that one of the staff members of a competing online service (I don’t remember who) comment that Tanner Lee felt more “comfortable” working under center. It may have been true in early or even mid-September.
It’s not true anymore. In the fourth quarter against Purdue, Lee lined up under center seven times and in the shotgun 19 times. We all know how that turned out. Nebraska ran a little more shotgun in the second half against Ohio State, and while you couldn’t exactly say it was good, you could say it sucked less.
In the Wisconsin game report card, I noted that the jumbo “max protect” formations simply aren’t working. The idea is to add additional protection and blocking for the ground game - but these formations also drag more defenders down into the box. That means the people who struggle with blocking (our offensive line and tight ends) have even more people they need to block, which means the likelihood of a blown assignment increases.
Even worse, these formations only give Tanner Lee one or two targets in the passing game. Arguably, Lee has been Nebraska’s best offensive weapon in October; give him a chance to turn things around.
If this coaching staff starts trotting out multiple tight ends and trying to run power unsuccessfully yet again next week against Northwestern, then we’ll know that this wasn’t a turning point after all.
With that, it’s on to the report card by position; as always, your comments are welcome!
Quarterback: Tanner Lee’s excellence in the fourth quarter seemed to overshadow a rather pedestrian first half for Lee, in the eyes of many. Early on, he was off target quite a bit. That being said, it’s hard (if not impossible) to overpraise Lee’s fourth quarter clutch performance. 64% passing, 431 yards, two touchdowns and, most importantly, no turnovers, is pretty darn impressive. Grade: A
I-Back: Devine Ozigbo was completely ineffective in the rushing game, though he didn’t really have much help from his offensive line or offensive coordinator. He whiffed on more than one blocks in pass protection. Mikale Wilbon looked better than Ozigbo on his limited touches; you have to assume that his ankle is still limiting him. Enter Jaylin Bradley, the freshman from Bellevue, who looks ready for a bigger role. Grade: D
Wide Receivers: Nebraska’s top line receivers (Stanley Morgan, De’Mornay Pierson-El and J.D. Spielman) were just fine...but the dropoff behind them is, well, noticable. Tight end Tyler Hoppes had a great game catching the ball, but the blocking was suspect. Especially when he (and the other tight ends) kept signalling to other receivers where to block. Grade: B
Offensive Line: This one was a huge step backwards, as guard Tanner Farmer and center Michael Decker both exited with injuries. Redshirt freshman Matt Farniok played better at right guard than Cole Conrad did at center. Left tackle Nick Gates continues to regress under Mike Cavanaugh’s tutelage; did you know he was third-team all-Big Ten as a freshman? Grade: F
Defensive Line: I thought the line played OK; I saw flashes from Mick Stoltenberg and the Davis twins. Grade: B-
Linebackers: Fairly quiet game for the backers, who really missed Luke Gifford. Marcus Newby might have kept Nebraska in the game by stuffing Richie Worship for a two yard loss on second and goal in the third quarter. If Purdue had gone up 21-9, I’m not sure Nebraska could still have still won the game. Grade: C-
Secondary: When Lamar Jackson turns out to be the best cornerback in the game, you know the Huskers aren’t playing well at all. Truth to be told, Dicaprio Bootle was the victim of a bad call by the officials.
Just taking a look at the NCAA rule book during the break. pic.twitter.com/bjVIT13Buc— Michael Bruntz (@michaelbruntz) October 29, 2017
The referees tried to explain that the pass wasn’t all that “high or deep”; that’s an explanation that does not compute. It was a 25 yard pass by a punter who had two 26 yard punts earlier in the game.
That fake punt. I'm not sure Bootle even knew what was happening. pic.twitter.com/Cph82yc9cS— Derek Peterson (@DrPetey15) October 29, 2017
Game Management: Coaching clusterfools continue to hurt this team. Nebraska wasted a timeout early in the fourth quarter by requesting a review of a Purdue incomplete pass, hoping that it would be ruled a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. It wasn’t even close, and that allowed Purdue to burn another 30-35 seconds of game clock on their second-to-last possession. Likewise, the decision to substitute out Tyjon Lindsey with :30 left in the game forced the official to hold play (with the clock running) so that Purdue had a chance to substitute. That wasted 6-7 seconds more at a crucial junction of the game. Grade: F
Overall: C- Celebrate every win, but Nebraska can’t continue to be outcoached and outexecuted by teams that have less talent than them.
Grade the Huskers performance against Purdue
This poll is closed
A - Ain’t no hot seat in Lincoln any more
B - Big Red Getting Better. It’s a Big Win.
C - Cornhuskers problems aren’t fixed, but it’s an improvement.
D - Don’t think the Huskers can pull enough rabbits out of their hat to be bowl elegible.
F - Effff it. It was effin’ Purdue.
Elsewhere in College Football
Iowa State: A X’s and O’s matter, folks. X’s and O’s matter. It’s not always the Jimmies and the Joes
Florida: F The Gators have officially
jumped dumped the shark.
It only took Florida 6 months to fire Jim McElwain after humping a shark naked. pic.twitter.com/Wvm704dVck— Dirty Sports (@TheDirtySports) October 29, 2017
Penn State First Half: A+ CFP, here they come.
Penn State Second Half: F DERP.