In 2017, Nebraska went 4-8. Despite looking better as the season ended, Nebraska went 4-8 in 2018.
As much as it pains me to say, Nebraska looked like a 4-8 team yet again in the 2019 season opener.
That’s not to say that there weren’t areas where Nebraska looked significantly improved, such as the secondary, (Cam Taylor! Cam Taylor! Cam Taylor!) but the Husker offense was anemic, at best.
Putrid might be a better term. Two touchdowns and only 276 yards from the offense? That might be grudgingly acceptable against a top ten opponent; it’s not against a team that’s considered to be in the bottom ten.
Now, week one isn’t the time to hit the panic button. Several teams struggled in their season openers this weekend. It is a win; something that Nebraska couldn’t do until October last season. But by the same manner, this game didn’t validate the Huskers top 25 ranking.
For those of you new to Corn Nation, after each football game, I grade the performance of each position. Feel free to agree or disagree with the grade in the comments; you can also vote your own overall team grade in the poll as well.
QB: All things considered (weather and competition), this was Adrian Martinez’s worst game as a Husker. He just never grew comfortable with his offensive line (not that anybody could blame him) or the anemic running game, and he pressed. He missed wide open receivers, and a better secondary would have made at least three interceptions. He’s a better quarterback than what he showed in this game. He knows it too, which also says a lot, Grade: D
I-Back: Suffice it to say that Dedrick Mills didn’t live up to the preseason hype in this game, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry and a fumble. That being said, Mills didn’t have a lot of help because there simply wasn’t any running room to work with. Maurice Washington emerged after his first half suspension and looked better; he’s a back that can create his own holes. I do wonder if he had been available in the first half, whether that would have helped the offense be a bit less disjointed. Grade: C-
Wide Receiver: Nebraska really wanted to get the ball to Wan-dale Robinson, and while he looked pretty good, he didn’t have the “Rondale” wow factor that the hype train seemed to promise. I’d love to see what can be done with Robinson and Washington lined up as split-backs. The tight ends seemed to be the bigger focus of this week’s stripped down gameplan; while Frost won’t admit it it, clearly Nebraska was counting on athletic ability alone to win this week. For the most part, the receivers delivered. Grade: B-
Offensive Line: Whether it was nerves or what, redshirt freshman Cam Jurgens had a first half to forget in his first college game. Bad snaps discombobulated his quarterback, and seemed to also affect his blocking as well. Actually, Nebraska’s entire interior line couldn’t generate any sort of push. That being said, South Alabama’s defensive line appeared to be their strength going into the season. In his postgame comments, Scott Frost felt it was more of an effort issue than an ability issue; he made it clear that the offense has been much better earlier in preseason practice. For this team’s sake, I hope he’s right. Grade: F
Defensive Line: If you need proof that this game wasn’t a systemic issue of poor training, compare the offensive line to the defensive line’s performance. The defensive line was solid, continually pushing back and clogging up the South Alabama running game. South Alabama only had two rushes that gained more than three yards after the first quarter. Transfer Darrion Daniels made his presence felt by leading with four tackles up front. Grade: B+
Linebackers: Mohammed Barry led with 12 tackles, and frankly, I think NU’s combo of Will Honas and Collin Miller is an upgrade this season on the inside. Jojo Domann was limited in the snaps he saw; he wasn’t limited while he was in there. Overall, a solid performance. Grade: B
Secondary: Two backups stole the show (and the ball). Eric Lee opened the second half with his Pick-Six interception. And now EVERYBODY knows #5 on the defense. Cam Taylor added his mother’s name to the back of his jersey, hyphenated to Taylor-Britt, then proceded to level Cephus Johnson on a sweep, sending him backwards on a third down play to force a punt. Johnson didn’t get the message to keep away from Taylor-Britt the first time, as he devasted Johnson on a fourth quarter blitz that ended with Alex Davis’ easy scoop-and-score. Can’t forget his interception either, which pretty much ended South Alabama’s last bid to pull off the upset. Grade: B+
Overall: Grade: D+ It’s a win...but it’s a win that doesn’t give you a lot of confidence going out to Colorado. However, when I listen to and read the post-game comments, I feel a bit better that this was more of a bad opening game...and there were a LOT of those in college football this weekend.
How would you grade the Huskers performance against South Alabama?
This poll is closed
A - I’m from Alabama; I thought it was greAt!
B - Basically a bumpy opening game. Everything will be fine.
C - Great defense, meh offense. Could have been better.
D - Don’t think Nebraska is going to win many games playing like THAT this season.
F - Can’t use that word here, but I’m sure more than a few Husker fans screamed it during the game.
Elsewhere in College Football
SEC: LOL. Apparently it didn’t mean more this weekend, as the SEC went 7-4 in non-conference games, with losses to Georgia State, Memphis, North Carolina and Wyoming. And several of those wins were a lot closer than they should have been (Arkansas by 7 over 1-AA Portland State, Mississippi State by 10 over Louisiana-Lafayette and Kentucky by 14 over Toledo). But hey, ‘Bama won, so that’s all that matters.
Minnesota: Whew. Better get this figured out before getting on the plane to Fresno, who gave Southern Cal all they wanted.
Nevada: A+ Good job by former Nebraska offensive coordinator Jay Norvell in taking out Purdon’t.
Illinois: A I said this summer that the Illini would get to a bowl game. A 42-3 blowout of Akron was a strong first step to that.