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Report Card: Huskers 56, Northwestern Wildcats 7

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Northwestern assumed the position early in this game.

Northwestern v Nebraska
NU steamrolling NW.
Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

It took exactly one play to make it clear this week was going to be different.

Adrian Martinez stepped back in the pocket, rolled out to the right to escape some pressure, and heaved the ball deep, seemingly into double coverage.

Wait. We’ve seen that part before. The rest, though...

Samori Toure curled across the field, leaped and snagged the ball in front of the Northwestern safety who thought he was going to be the latest Wildcat hero against the Huskers. Toure finally was tackled at the NW 5, and two plays later, Martinez scampered into the end zone. The rout was on, not even one minute into the game.

That 70 yard completion symbolizes what’s different in year four for Nebraska. Aside from Stanley Morgan in 2018 and maybe Wan’Dale Robinson, Nebraska hasn’t really had a receiver like Toure, who Scott Frost and Martinez could trust to make a play like that.

Certainly not on the first play of the game.

It’s not just Toure. Nebraska finally has a full receiver corps; see Omar Manning and Zavier Betts as well. Deep enough that Nebraska didn’t even need to bother looking at the tight ends Saturday night. And Frost trusted this group to grab the dagger on the opening play. Trust in Martinez and Toure to make the play. Trust in the offensive line to protect Martinez to make a deep throw. Trust in the rest of the offense to recover from an incompletion.

Trust in the Blackshirts in case it all blew up in their face.

This was what we were hoping Scott Frost was bringing with him from Central Florida. Did the movers misplace it? Hardly. I dare say that Frost had many of the pieces he needed already in Orlando when he arrived in 2016. They certainly weren’t in Lincoln in 2018, and Frost and his staff didn’t do a good job initially trying to get them here.

But they are emerging now in Lincoln, and it is a beautiful thing indeed.

With that, here’s this week’s report card. As always, your feedback is welcome in the comments.

QB: I could point out a couple of misfires, and the errant pitch in the second quarter. I could also point out Nebraska never punted until after Adrian Martinez put his helmet away and put on his ball cap. 65% completion percentage, averaging over 11 yards per pass attempt and 6.2 yards per rush, four touchdowns overall and some beautiful option runs were enough to earn a solid A. Matt Masker got some highlight video to show his grandkids with that 13 yard run; both he and Logan Smothers were perfect passing. Grade: A

I-Back: I thought Rahmir Johnson ran the ball well, but Jaquez Yant was the star of the game with that 64 yard burst. I do wish he would have simply tried to simply try to run through the safety instead of trying to outrun him to the goal line; with his size, I think he had a chance to have an “Iowa-safety-trying-to-stop-Eric-Crouch” highlight. Markese Stepp and Sevion Morrison both had some second half flashes as well. Grade: A-

WR: Samori Toure’s second catch was a pretty highlight reel catch as well, as was Omar Manning’s catch. Zavier Betts’ option run completely befuddled a historically smart and disciplined Northwestern team. And Will Nixon’s five yard catch looked like it was one block away from being something quite a bit more; I want to see more of him. Grade: A+

OL: One of the weaknesses of sitting in my end zone seats is that I don’t have a good perspective to gauge the push the offensive line. So I’d watch a running back run into the line and a swarm of people, and go “meh, another bleh offensive line play”...only to realize that it was a three or four yard gain. True freshman Teddy Prochazka looks like he might be the real deal. And I figure I’m going to get as good as saying Nouredin (Nouili) as I did saying “Ndamukong”. Grade: A-

DL: While the stat sheet disagreed with me, I thought that Deontre Thomas forced that goal line fumble by Ryan Hilinski that scuttled Northwestern’s last scoring threat of the game (IN THE SECOND QUARTER!) While the individual stats look awfully unimpressive, there was the following stat from yesterday’s BTN broadcast which pretty much sums it up. Grade: B+

LB: Luke Reimer arguably could have had two interceptions in the game; the second on Ben Stille’s deflection. Caleb Tannor and Garrett Nelson continue to play at a high level; many people have expressed a lot of doubts about Nelson’s ability to contribute. Those critics have been silenced. One item of note: the last couple of weeks, I’ve rolled my eyes at the Pro Football Focus grades for the defense, which were remarkably low and inconsistent with what actually happened in the game. I believe the discrepancy revolves around wrapping up the tackle, and when someone else cleans up a missed tackle quickly, it looks like a great play for the defense but a negative play by PFF’s gradebook. Well, we had more missed tackles last week. Perhaps that’s a point of emphasis for the defense to prevent any sort of letdown. Grade: B

Secondary: Two players stood out to me: nickleback JoJo Domann (nine tackles with three for a loss of 28 yards) and cornerback Quinton Newsome (five tackles). Cam Taylor-Britt got victimized twice, though, on Northwestern’s touchdown drive. Judging by the fact that this cleaned itself up, adjustments were made. Grade: B

Special Teams: We almost ... ALMOST ... had a clean special teams game...until the final kickoff, when the coaches put two #29s on the kickoff team (Cooper Jewitt and Ashton Hausmann). Interesting that Northwestern didn’t attempt to return the kickoffs into the wind, choosing instead to take the fair catch. And what a punt by William Przystup... 84 yards! Talk about exorcising those special teams demons! Grade: A

Overall: A- I expected Northwestern to struggle this year, and so I wasn’t surprised by their issues. Still, we shouldn’t discount this type of dominant performance. We shouldn’t expect 657 yards and 56 points in games the rest of the season, but what we’ve seen the last few weeks should make it clear that Nebraska can compete with the next six opponents on the schedule. That includes the three Top Ten teams still remaining on the schedule, starting Saturday night. Remember the 24 hour rule? It’s even more important than usual this week.

Poll

How would you grade the Huskers 56-7 victory of Northwestern?

This poll is closed

  • 89%
    A - Absolutely what we’ve been waiting for.
    (1141 votes)
  • 6%
    B - Impressive offense, defense took a step back.
    (87 votes)
  • 1%
    C - Couldn’t bear watching this one, based on the last six years.
    (20 votes)
  • 0%
    D - Didn’t watch this game at all...or even check the score. I’m just here for the comments.
    (6 votes)
  • 1%
    F - Go Iowa! F*** Nebby!!!11!!11111!!!! Hey, did you guys know that the N stands for Nowledge? I just figured that out!
    (20 votes)
1274 votes total Vote Now

Elsewhere in College Football

Iowa: A I’m not sure I’d be all that comfortable with Spencer Petras at quarterback most seasons, but with this defense, he’s more than good enough. I’ll make Iowa jokes every single day, but the Hawkeyes defense is no joke. Six (!) interceptions against Maryland gives them the NCAA lead in interceptions and turnover margin.

Wisconsin: F The Badgers are last in the Big Ten in scoring offense with just 18.5 points per game.

Indiana: 0 Tom Allen has built his program on disrespect, but since whining about not making the Big Ten Championship Game (and pulling the Big Ten logos from their uniforms), they’ve gone 1-4 against division 1-A competition, being outscored 153-83. Their lone victory: 33-31 over Western Kentucky. And yesterday? A 24-0 loss to Penn State.

Clemson: OMG I get a sense that people are piling on Dabo Swinney now. They may be right, to some degree...but some of this is a bit sensationalistic.