The Narrative was starting to become tough to dispute. What was this Narrative? It’s the idea that Nebraska was stuck in a “four-win” purgatory and was basically still the same program that Mike Riley torpedoed. Four wins in 2017. Four wins in 2018, and not predicted to win again this season.
The old notion of you are what your record says you are is tough to counter, even when you are more competitive, for the most part. Point to close losses against Purdue and Indiana, and the rebuttal points to Ohio State.
How do you break that narrative? Well, 54-7 over Maryland goes a long way; it was Maryland’s third worst loss of the season. (Penn State and Ohio State each beat the Terrapins by 59 points.)
And what made it more impressive was that Nebraska left an awful lot of points on the field - and on the bench and back in Lincoln. Receivers Wan’Dale Robinson and Kanawai Noa didn’t even the trip; Dedrick Mills and J.D. Spielman were limited due to the apparent effects of stomach flu. (Frost told BTN after the game that things were coming out “both sides” of both players.) Mills didn’t play in the second half, while Spielman exited in the third quarter.
As for points left on the field, the Huskers reached the Maryland 11 yard line FOUR times to settle for field goals. Turn those into touchdowns, and it’s a seventy-burger. Oh, and there was also an interception on the goal line as well.
Meanwhile, the Blackshirts played their best game of the year, holding Maryland to 206 yards of total offense. 58 of that came on Maryland’s final offensive play, a 58 yard Javon Leake run against Nebraska’s third-stringers with just over three minutes to play.
OK, how did this same Maryland team score 63 points with 650 yards of offense against Syracuse in week two? Well, first of all, Syracuse is bad (much like everybody in the ACC not named Clemson) and two, quarterback Josh Jackson was healthy. This week, Nebraska knocked three Maryland quarterbacks out of the game with various injuries. Two of them were already banged up, but perhaps if true freshman Lance Legendre could have lasted more than seven plays, the game might have been a bit different.
It’s unlikely he would have made 47 points difference in this one though. Quite frankly, this week, we saw the Nebraska team that some people (myself included) thought could win the Big Ten west this season. We only saw it one other time, against a Northern Illinois team that one could argue is just about as bad as Maryland is this season.
So with that, it’s on with this week’s report card. Keep in mind that from my perspective, Nebraska left an awful lot of points on the board, so while the game was a huge blowout, I hardly believe Nebraska played to their fullest capabilities this week. So I suspect we’ll see some contrary opinions in the comments; feel free to argue that I’m grading too lenient or way too harshly this week.
QB: You’d think after the offense put up 54 points and 531 yards, Adrian Martinez had a great game. Except it wasn’t. Good, yes. Martinez ran the ball really well, but threw a few passes that he shouldn’t have. One was intercepted, one was kind of sketchy to J.D. Spielman who was surrounded by four defensive backs, and the last was nearly intercepted twice before Spielman came away with the highlight reel touchdown catch. Meanwhile, Luke McCaffrey showed no rust or limitations despite just returning to full speed in practice a couple of days ago. He’s going to be a fun weapon in Nebraska’s offense next season because he showed in this game that he can be a dynamic Kordell Stewart-like weapon lining up all over the field. Oh, and it looks like he’s a pretty good quarterback as well. Grade: B+
I-Back: You wouldn’t know that Dedrick Mills was suffering from the stomach flu early in the game; he was running through the Terrapins like everything he ate was flowing through his digestive tract earlier in the week. (Ewwwww.) It was a good week to get Rahmir Johnson a heavy workload; he looks like he needs more time in the weight room, but you can see he could become a speed weapon on the outside down the line. Inside the tackles, he’s not there yet. This game was the ideal week to get him some reps, considering both the opponent and Nebraska’s depth at the position. Grade: B
Receivers: When Jack Stoll missed the block on Nebraska’s opening play, I thought the Huskers were heading for yet another “one of those days” as Spielman was hung out to dry on that swing pass. But Spielman gave no indication of his illness during the game, other than perhaps the bobbled punt. Best play of the game to me, though, was tight end Austin Allen’s fingertips reception of a first quarter pass to put the Huskers in the red zone. Grade: B+
Offensive Line: Very clean game for the NU offensive line this week with some huge holes early in the game. Great to get the reserves some snaps this week and ensure that everyone will be rested and ready on the short week. Grade: A
Defensive Line: I thought the tone for this game was set up front with the Davis twins combining for 3.5 sacks on the day. The Terrapins never got their ground game started and the cast of characters Maryland tried at quarterback never were able to find any sort of rhythm. Grade: A
Linebackers: Collin Miller rebounded from an off-game against Wisconsin to lead the way in tackles with six. Mo Barry had a couple of solid plays early in pass coverage to set the tone in Maryland’s passing game. Grade: A-
Secondary: Dicaprio Bootle set the tone on the very first play, forcing a Javon Leake fumble into the hands of Marquel Dismuke. About the only thing the secondary didn’t do was pull in one of the passes they got their hands on. Grade: A
Special Team: Props to the walkon kickers who joined the football program after the injury bug hit the kickers early this season. They’ll have some memories for their family to share as both were solid. They might be needed next week, as Iowa would be more the happy to turn Black Friday into a field goal festival. But can we PLEASE stop trying to return kickoffs? It seems a no-brainer to take the ball at the 25 than to keep trying to break something and getting the ball at the 16. Speaking of kickoffs, considering our issues with kickoffs this season, let’s just keep pooching the kickoff. We should be able to cover those, and unless opponents start putting receivers or running backs as the up-backs, you just might be able to get another turnover. Grade: B
Overall: B+ Yes, it was a huge victory sparked by going plus-3 on turnovers. The defense played extremely well; the offense was fine. Yes, Maryland was an awful team this weekend, but Nebraska did what good teams do to bad teams. Give us another similar effort on Black Friday, and the Huskers might be headed to the Bronx for the holidays.
How would you grade the Huskers for their 54-7 victory over Maryland
This poll is closed
A - Amazed at the margin of victory
B - Beat up a bad team
C - Could have won by even more
D - Doesn’t matter...season was blown weeks ago.
Elsewhere in College Football
Arizona State A Is anybody still laughing at Arizona State for hiring Herm Edwards?
Florida International A Hire a Miami legend as head coach, then play the Hurricanes on the site of the original Orange Bowl stadium?