It was a schizophrenic, manic depressive night for Nebraska football.
First two plays, Adrian Martinez overthrew receivers badly on simple swing passes, raising my alarm levels and recalling the start of the Northern Illinois game two years earlier.
Then Martinez hits JD Spielman for a 41 yard completion on the very next play.
Next drive, Dedrick Mills breaks through the right side of the line for a 61 yard gain...and then fumbles on the next play.
Special teams was the same way. Northern Illinois’ punt protection was as porous as a Bob Diaco defense as the Huskers had five guys ready to tackle NIU punter Matt Ference’s second punt attempt before he could even get the punt off. (Officially, Isaiah Stalbird was credited with a forced fumble on the play because Ference never actually got his foot on the ball.) And after Stalbird’s blocked punt in the second quarter, Northern Illinois abandoned a traditional punt formation most of the rest of the night, choosing instead to have quarterback Ross Bowers quick kick. Awesome night, right? Nope, as NIU blocked two Nebraska field goals and an extra point. DERP!
One of those quick kicks was downed inside the Nebraska 5 yard line, and led to a safety when Scott Frost had a brain fart, calling for a Bill Callahan-special swing pass out of the end zone.
That 30-5 halftime score might be the strangest way for two teams to split 35 points ever.
So how do you grade a game where there was so much “WOW”, way too much “meh” and little bit of “WTF” to go around? I’ll give you my grades, and you can give me your thoughts in the comments. Chances are, we’ll all be right in some respect, because it was one of those nights.
Quarterback: Northern Illinois read all of the quotes about Scott Frost wanting Adrian Martinez to run the ball and was more than ready. My big takeaway was watching Martinez look beyond Spielman and Wan-dale Robinson to throw to Mike Williams and Kanawai Noa to help open up the passing game. It was a good performance...but not great, because there were way too many missed opportunities to make even more plays on the night. Grade: B-
I-Back: I’m going to be honest here: I’m not a fan of any game plan where the I-backs only carry the ball 19 times in a game where Nebraska won by 36 points. There’s a multitude of reasons why that was the case, but when you have two backs averaging over 10 yards per carry, Mills and Maurice Washington were underused on the night. A small demerit for Mills coughing up the football in the first quarter keeps this from being an “A”. Grade: B+
Wide Receiver: Love seeing more guys involved in this game. Mike Williams had a drop of a slightly underthrown pass, but found himself open a little more often. Hopefully, Martinez watches a lot of video this week to see some of the missed opportunities out there. Spread the ball around just a bit more, and Wan-dale Robinson is going to get open and do something really big. Grade: A-
Offensive Line: High snaps were an issue early, but otherwise I think the line did OK. Northern Illinois was loading the box; they have a stout run defense and really dared Nebraska to throw. Still would have liked Nebraska to run a little more...and maybe more with the backs instead of Adrian Martinez. Hopefully left tackle Brenden Jaimes isn’t injured as badly as it appears. Grade: B
Defensive Line: I think Carlos Davis is going to be living in the nightmares of several NIU linemen this week. As we move into conference play, we’ll see if the defensive line will remain this dominant against stronger competition. Grade: A-
Linebackers: I think Mohamed Barry had a better week than last week, but Will Honas continues to impress me. I’m not sure whether I want to track nickel back JoJo Domann as a linebacker or a fifth defensive back, but he continually makes plays when on the field. Grade: B+
Secondary: Lamar Jackson established his own no-fly zone last night. He’s finally playing at the level the recruitniks expected when he arrived on campus. But it’s a shame to see Cam Taylor-Britt go down with what appears to be a serious shoulder or arm injury. Scott Frost doesn’t comment on injuries, so we have no idea how serious it is or how long he’ll be out. It’s probably worth noting that Taylor-Britt has a redshirt season available to him, as he’s only played in three games. Grade: A-
Overall: It’s a solid B+. There was a bunch of A level play on the highlights, but too many “whut?” moments that you can’t dismiss. This might be the best blowout victory you can have: the game was never in doubt, but there’s plenty of things to work on during the week.
Grade the Huskers for their 44-8 victory over Northern Illinois
This poll is closed
A - A dominating victory
B - Blowout victory with plenty of things to work on.
C - Up and down performance.
D - Didn’t execute quite well enough against an inferior opponent.
Elsewhere in College Football
Michigan State: D- Sparty NOOOOOOOOO! Mark Dantonio might want to slip this video into their game review:
Iowa State: F What a way to seal a loss than targeting your own punt returner.
What a way for Iowa State to lose ... pic.twitter.com/i4R8D8sU7R— Chris Hummer (@chris_hummer) September 15, 2019
Illinois: F Nothing like pouring your own gasoline onto your hot seat, Lovie.