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Report Card: Northwestern Wildcats 34, Huskers 31

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Ten is a nasty number for the Huskers, in more than one way.

Nebraska v Northwestern Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

Ten.

Six times on Saturday, Northwestern faced a third and ten situation. Four times, the chains moved, with two fourth down conversions.

A ten yard touchdown return of an Adrian Martinez fumble after being sacked.

And ten straight losses for Nebraska, a streak that began last November against these same Wildcats.

Yes, the rest of the college football world is laughing at Nebraska’s situation. And rightfully so. If it were Alabama, Ohio State or Southern Cal in this situation, I’d guarantee you that Nebraska fans would be chuckling and guffawing like everyone else. So there’s no point in getting indignant about it.

There will be dumb takes all around about Nebraska’s problems. Some will try blaming the fans or the sellout streak. USA Today had the dumbest take of all in bringing up firing Scott Frost. (After all, if it hasn’t worked in six games, it’ll never work. Right? Duhhhhhhhhh.) That’ll generate clicks and banner ad impressions, but doesn’t add to the dialog or the debate over what’s actually wrong with Nebraska.

Truth be told, Nebraska IS better than last season. Mostly on offense, where true freshman Adrian Martinez is far outperforming “NFL Prospect” (LOL) Tanner Lee. It’s on the other side of the ball where progress isn’t all that evident. Linebackers appear to be a little better, but the secondary continues to be a huge issue.

Or is it? I’m not saying the secondary has been playing OK or anything; it’s a huge problem this season. But we’re not giving our opposition any credit. I just checked the NCAA’s passing stats this season, and here’s a few names we remember from the top 20 in completion percentage.

2018 NCAA Completion Percentage (through October 13, 2018)

Quarterback School Percentage
Quarterback School Percentage
2. Steven Montez Colorado 75.20%
4. Kaleb Barker Troy 73.00%
15. Shea Patterson Michigan 68.80%
17. David Blough Purdue 68.20%

Factor in that we had concerns about the secondary even before the season began, you can see where things have gone off the rails this season. Yes, penalties have hurt. Nebraska’s offense has been inconsistent. But the secondary is where games have been lost this season. And it’s not all the secondary’s fault.

So here we go with the report card. As always, your feedback are always welcome in the comments.

Quarterback: Martinez didn’t play horribly, but his two turnovers in regulations didn’t help Nebraska’s cause, especially in a game that ended up in overtime. No doubt he’s Nebraska’s best quarterback in many years, but he’s still raw and learning what to do. Or in the case of yesterday, what not to do. Grade: B-

I-Back: Just keep giving Devine Ozigbo the ball; 26 touchdes for 192 yards and three touchdowns is something to work with. Not to take anything from Maurice Washington (who was johnny-on-the-spot to recover that fumbled snap), but you hate to see Ozigbo not on the field. Perhaps Washington could line up next to Ozigbo in that “Duck-R” spot that J.D. Spielman has been frequently in. That’s not a call to take Spielman off the field, but rather to get Nebraska’s best playmakers as many touches as possible. Grade: A

Wide Receivers: We all know what J.D. and Stanley Morgan can do...but this week, we saw Mike Williams and Bryan Reimers join with Kade Warner in making some plays. Grade: B+

Offensive Line: After a few rough weeks, I thought the line did an OK job Saturday...save for a couple of bad snaps, one that turned out to be the nail in Nebraska’s coffin. Grade: C+

Defensive Line: In order to get any pressure on NW quarterback Clayton Thorson, Nebraska had to send in lots of help...which exposed the secondary. Carlos Davis has to play smarter; that 15 yard roughing penalty was completely unnecessary, and triggered that 99 yard drive that tied the game. Grade: D

Linebackers: Luke Gifford had a big game, and Mohammed Barry was solid as well. And to be honest, Dedrick Young had his moments out there as well. Grade: B-

Secondary: A handful of plays aside, the secondary had an awful game. Northwestern’s receivers were like a Denny’s. Yeah, they’re usually mediocre, but always open. We knew this was going to be a struggle this year, and will probably be a big focus in recruiting. Grade: F

Special Teams: Caleb Lightbourn had the inexcusable kickoff out of bounds, while Barrett Pickering doinked his first field goal attempt. But, hey... only one penalty on punt returns. Grade: D+

Coaching: I’m not upset at all about not going for it on 4th and inches; NU didn’t convert a 3rd and 1 the play before. You don’t want to give Northwestern a short field like that. What I was upset about was the decision to take a knee with nine seconds left in the fourth quarter. Yes, it’s a long shot...but it’s a free shot. Throw a long pass, and see what happens. Lots of decisions to second guess. Grade: D

Overall: D In summary... sigh. I see Nebraska getting closer each week, but after a demoralizing loss like this, I worry that some could start giving up. That could lead to a 2017 finish if some just throw in the towel.

Poll

How would you grade the Huskers for their performance against Northwestern?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    A - Count von Count says "TEN! Ten unbelievable losses in a row! AHH AH AH!"
    (44 votes)
  • 6%
    B - But for some boneheaded decisions...
    (53 votes)
  • 39%
    C - Could have won, but didn’t...
    (303 votes)
  • 29%
    D - Dadgummit...another disappointing loss.
    (228 votes)
  • 18%
    F - F*** this. Fire someone fast.
    (146 votes)
774 votes total Vote Now

Elsewhere in College Football

Michigan: A The last few weeks, I’m not so sure that Michigan isn’t the best team in the Big Ten. They throttled Wisconsin at their own game.

UCLA: A Chip Kelly gives us hope that eventually good coaches can get their team away from the banana peel.

Penn State: D I’ve thought that the Nittany Lions have been somewhat overrated this season. Their loss to Sparty fits that.

Colorado: D Welcome back to reality, Buffies.