It’s hard to be such a sunny up guy when a game like last night’s Nebraska Cornhuskers win over Arkansas State had a few flaws. That being said, most if not all teams had some flaws in their opening weekend.
A few players in all three phases of the game deserve the accolades this weekend, and we’re here to hand them out.
Offensive MVP: Tre’ Bryant
There’s a lot of folks screaming for a bellcow at Running Back, SOMEONE had to be the man instead of all these by committee RB’s. Well, Reggie Davis & Mike Riley decided the sophomore from St. Louis was the guy that was going to be that. Only a few carries on the night didn’t go to Bryant, and that was to Luke McNitt and Mikale Wilbon, putting Devine Ozigbo on the milk carton.
Bryant had a career high in yards (78) already at halftime, along with the most yards by a Husker RB since Terrell Newby lit up South Alabama for 198 yards as well in 2015. Bryant also had the first 100 yard rushing game for a RB since Newby’s effort at Indiana last year. It was the first time in the Riley era that a RB also had 30+ carries. The last time that happened was with Ameer Abdullah taking the ball 35 times vs. Miami.
After the game, Bryant had a lot of love for those blocking in front of him:
“They did tremendous. They forced all of my runs and I got to the second level untouched. That’s all you can ask and I got to do the rest... Just seeing a lot of blocks coming into the picture, so I tried to step up and make cuts off of those and like I said, get to the next level untouched, that was all my receivers and my linemen.”
Honorable Mention: QB Tanner Lee
For all the hype that Nebraska’s media placed on him over the offseason, Lee didn’t disappoint. A line of 19 for 32 for 238 yards and 2 TD’s isn’t terrible by any means, but you saw room for improvement. There were balls dropped in the end zone, on 3rd down, plus balls that could have been delivered better. However, I would say that the fact that Lee’s play didn’t disappoint many was the big deal. If Tanner Lee can give Nebraska that performance in every game this coming season, the Huskers will be better off than anyone thought they would be.
Defensive MVP: LB Luke Gifford
For those hemming and hawing that no one on Bob Diaco’s crummy ass D deserved a mention, I would ask you to see how “vanilla” Diaco made his defense against Arkansas State, who kept the Huskers spread out all evening.
48 first half plays defended. 43 from base personnel. 4 plays, Nickel, 1 play Dime all on 3rd and long. Just a bizarre defensive decision.— R Kay (@UnCommonSense00) September 3, 2017
Nebraska defended 17 downs in 1st quarter, many against 11 personnel. They played base (3DL/4LB/4DB) on 15 snaps. Mismatch before snap.— R Kay (@UnCommonSense00) September 3, 2017
I’ll listen to the argument that Diaco left his base in too much vs. a team that proved they were going to spread with 4 wide, running the RB out to the flat to open throwing lanes. If it was something Diaco was gung ho on doing to not show Oregon anything, then kudos for having it almost backfire.
That being said, Gifford stepped up to the plate and helped this theory out. He led the team with 9 tackles on the game, 4 of those solo. Many of these tackles were in open space defending slot receivers, which is something I don’t think we all thought would happen throughout the game. Matter of factly, I would argue that the only time Nebraska went into nickel/dime in the 1H was in that opening drive for ArkSt, which resulted in a 3 and out.
Special Teams MVP: P Caleb Lightbourn
We’ve said all along that Lightbourn’s frosh year should be wiped from your memory bank about him. The first punt last night was a good one, but it was for naught as Blaise Taylor took it to the end zone. However, that didn’t faze Lightbourn, who kept Arkansas State having to go the length of the field. Of his 5 punts, Caleb pinned Arkansas State inside their 10 yard line 3 times. For all the hell he caught last year for bad decisions, his opener this season was pretty solid.
Honorable Mention: KR J.D. Spielman
Don’t think I’m forgetting J.D., who joined a club at Nebraska with his 99 yard TD return. Let’s watch it again!
The only thing that Spielman did was point to the sky, which the way the officiating was going last night, could have been flagged for celebrating. Even a former Husker great noticed what’s up.
.@jdspielman10 welcome to the "my first career college Touchdown was a Kick Off Return club" your membership should arrive shortly ♂️— Ameer Abdullah (@Ameerguapo) September 3, 2017
Who is your MVP of the game and why?