To the casual college football fan, Nebraska just lost again. It’s the Big Red’s fifth straight loss, tying the 2007 Huskers for the most consecutive losses since the 1957 Huskers lost six in a row.
To anybody who watched the game, this ain’t Mike Riley’s program anymore.
Scott Frost’s Huskers know how to block and tackle. They know how to run the dadgummed ball.
Unfortunately, they still know how to turn the ball over and commit bad penalties. That, by itself, pretty much explains why the Huskers lost again.
But man, was this different than what we saw last season. And frankly, it’s night and day different from what we’ve seen the last few years from Nebraska football. You have to figure that some of the mistakes we saw the Huskers made can be cleaned up in future weeks. It was, after all, week one with a true freshman quarterback. Not everything that was wrong is corrected.
But dammit, we saw progress. A helluva lot of progress. It’s a reason to be optimistic about where things are going. Nebraska football isn’t back. But it is at least fun to watch now.
With that, here’s the report card. As always, your feedback is welcome in the comments.
QB: It only took two plays to see how Nebraska upgraded at quarterback this offseason, as Adrian Martinez ran for 18 yards on his first carry. Martinez showed the same sleight of hand on the zone read that the previous quarterback named Martinez had. Unfortunately, Adrian also showed the same knack for mind-boggling turnovers that plagued Taylor and made him a controversial star. That’s not to condemn Adrian in my eyes; it is, after all, just one game. But Adrian showed great touch at times on his passes, especially that 57 yard dime he threw to J.D. Spielman in the third quarter. More of that and less of the YOLO wild throw after being sacked (which could have been a Pick-Six, had Martinez’s knee not hit the ground first), and we’ll have something special under center. Well, that’s if his knee injury isn’t severe. Grade: B- because of the turnovers; he’ll get better.
I-Back: Pick your preference: the speedy Maurice Washington, the powerful Devine Ozigbo, or the flashy Greg Bell. All three had their moments, especially Bell’s 45 yard burst in the second quarter. 35 carries for 198 yards is a pretty good reboot for the Husker ground game. Only demerit is the costly turnover on the opening drive. Grade: B-
Wide Receivers: My biggest takeaways were the catches that weren’t made: Stanley Morgan’s drop in the end zone that ended up bouncing around and nearly picked off and J.D. Spielman’s drop of Andrew Bunch’s first pass. Make that catch, and Colorado has to wait longer to get the ball back. Maybe until next season’s game in Boulder. Yes, they played OK, but they could have been better. Grade: B-
Offensive Line: Wow, oh wow, oh wow. What a difference competent coaching and development makes here. I’m of the mindset that Mike Cavanaugh might be the worst assistant coach to serve at Nebraska in the last 55 years. The turnaround up front in this game is nothing but remarkable, as the line was getting a consistent push. Outstanding work, Greg Austin. Grade: A
Defensive Line: Of course, Zach Duval needs to get a lot of credit as well, because the defensive line also showed amazing improvement. 3.5 sacks from the linemen in the first game after the team only managed 14 last season. And in the second and third quarters, the Buffs were held to -5 yards rushing on 19 carries. Yeah, that’s improvement. Grade: A-
Linebackers: Pick a linebacker, any linebacker. Dedrick Young’s nine tackle performance, with two for a loss, would normally be a good week for any linebacker. It was the worst (sarcasm intended, folks) of the starters. Mohammed Barry led with 12 tackles, while Luke Gifford had 11 with three for a loss. And Tyrin Ferguson could be this staff’s latest Shaquem Griffin discovery. Ferguson spent the last three seasons buried on Mike Riley’s depth chart, only to put up 10 tackles in his first game of freedom. Love, love, love what I saw here. (2.5 sacks, eight tackles for loss, three quarterback hurries.) Grade: A-
Secondary: With all of those good grades, how the heck did Nebraska lose this game? Well, it comes down to Colorado receiver Laviska Shenult, who made it look at times like the nearest Husker defensive back was in LaVista. Saw some really good things from UCF transfer Tre Neal and Dicaprio Bootle. Aaron Williams had a strong game, recovering from a shoulder injury suffered in the spring game. Junior Lamar Alexander still seems to be struggling out there; he might have to be a long term project out there. Antonio Reed had a better game than he’ll be remembered for. My first thought when I saw his play was that he was trying to get the ball; it wasn’t until I got home that I saw a good replay. A killer mistake, to be sure...but Nebraska had plenty of opportunities to lock this game up before that and failed to do so. Grade: D-
Special Teams: With so much change in the program, you shouldn’t be terribly surprised that special teams were a bit weak. Four of Nebraska’s first five kick returns either lost yardage or had a penalty. Add in a missed field goal, and it was a subpar effort. Grade: D
Overall: C+ It’s still a loss, and Nebraska isn’t anywhere close to being “back”. But with 565 yards of offense and seven sacks on defense in game one, progress is clear and irrefutable. For the first time in nearly two years, Nebraska football was fun again. It’s probably going to be a roller coaster ride, though, while we work out the kinks of bad turnovers and penalties.
How would you grade the Huskers for their performance against Colorado?
This poll is closed
A - Amazing reversal from last season
B - But for a few mistakes, Nebraska would have won this game easily.
C - A lot of good, but still too much bad.
D - Disappointed by letting this one slip away.
F - Another ‘effin loss.
Elsewhere in College Football
B1G: D- Other than Penn State, it was a rough day. Purdue soiled their own bed against a MAC opponent, while Northwestern lost to the Dookies at home. Minnesota narrowly averted overtime against Fresno. I went to bed thinking that Michigan State could hold a 13-3 lead against Arizona State in the fourth quarter, but nooooooo. One highlight: Indiana did have a nice win against Virginia.
Kansas: C+ Kansas DIDN’T lose to a MAC school this year. Yay Beakers.
State of Florida: D Central Florida still looks like the best football program in the state. Miami did blast 1-AA Savannah State, while Florida State trailed Samford almost all night long. Florida got trucked at home by Kentucky, who hadn’t beat the Gators since the Reagan administration.
(Trivia note for you: Almost as old as that streak was Colorado kicker James Stefanou, who was six months old when Florida won the first game in that 31 game winning streak against Kentucky. Yes, the guy who hooked two field goal attempts wide left on Saturday.)