Nebraska football went 1-0 this week.
It was ugly football. Even Brian Ferentz would call it ugly. It doesn’t matter, because Nebraska went 1-0. And perhaps more importantly, the Huskers won the fourth quarter. When was the last time we could say that, in a close game? The tail-end of the previous regime was filled with “close” games that Nebraska just couldn’t close out.
Midway through Matt Rhule’s first season, Nebraska seized the fourth quarter. First play of the quarter? Nash Hutmacher and Jimari Butler combine for yet another sack. Northwestern punts, and then the kill shot: Heinrich Haarberg launches a strike to true freshman Malachi Coleman for a 49 yard touchdown to take a two-score lead. And with the way the Blackshirts were playing, that was enough.
And those Blackshirts... Trev, put the fundraising on the south stadium project aside for a moment and make sure that defensive coordinator Tony White gets locked up. Get that man paid. Northwestern did bust a few big plays, but never could make it into the end zone.
The offense, on the other hand...well, it needs work, and an awful lot of it. In fairness, Nebraska looks like they are going to be finishing the season without their top four receivers, two of their top three running backs and now one of their best offensive linemen. It’s something that we’re going to have to accept and factor in. I think Nebraska tried to loosen the passing game midway through the third quarter when they went three-and-out. It was unsuccessful, but Nebraska is going to need to find a way to loosen defenses in the coming weeks.
With that, it’s on with the report card. As always, your feedback is welcome in the comments.
QB: I think it’s safe to say the this was Heinrich Haarberg’s worst game at Nebraska, though to be fair, it’s not all his fault. Was Thomas Fidone running the routes correctly in the first quarter on those two interceptions? Quarterbacks always get charged with the interception even if the receiver made the mistake. There was a strong argument to be made for inserting Jeff Sims into this game, but the coaches clearly decided to stick with Haarberg, and it paid off with that sweet bomb to Coleman. Still, that can only bring the grade up to a D.
I-Back: Emmitt Johnson was a surprise starter, and played fairly well, I’d like to see more of Johnson. Joshua Fleeks is looking like a third-stringer with that fumble and his ineffective running. Perhaps there’s a way to incorporate more passes to the backs in this offense to open things up a bit more. And man, it just looks like Anthony Grant is not a good match with this staff; it happens. Grade: C+
Receiver: Maybe I should have seen Fidone’s struggles coming when he wasn’t announced as a starter. He ended up starting...and contributed to both early turnovers. But he also recovered Billy Kemp’s fumble...only to turn the ball over on the next play anyway. But with it looking like Kemp is going to be out for a while, it’s even more vital to get the freshmen contributing. That deep throw to Coleman is a good start, but it’s got to be more consistent and on shorter passes; there were a couple of really ugly throws out there...especially that throw to Jaidyn Doss. Right now, defenses are just loading the box because they aren’t afraid of Nebraska’s passing game. Grade: D-
OL: Was it just me, or was the offensive line playing a bit better in this game? Theredidn’t appear to be much of a dropoff when redshirt freshman Justin Evans-Jenkins entered the game to replace Ethan Piper, who appears to be done for the year. And yes, I’m including beleagured left tackle Turner Corcoran in this when I say “playing better”. Grade: C+
DL: It may have been 72 degrees on Saturday, but it was Polar Bear weather. Nash Hutmacher might get consideration for B1G defensive player of the week honors with 2.5 sacks and a team leading seven tackles. The whole defensive line played well; Princewill Umanmielen also had seven tackles and two quarterback hurries, and Jimari Butler had six tackles. Grade: A
LB: Nice seeing Luke Reimer back out there, but the playing time came at the expense of Nick Henrich. Grade: A-
Secondary: It was a mostly good game, but a few too many misses allowing Northwestern to bust several long plays. That’s going to hold the grade to a B. Isaac Gifford continues to be an impact player on this defense.
Special Teams: Tristan Alvano drilled his 47 yard field goal attempt to hopefully break out of any slump. With Billy Kemp (and possibly Tommi Hill as well) looking to be out for a while, Nebraska needs to get a freshman speedster involved in the return game. And yes, I’m starting to take Brian Buschini for granted with his punting. Grade: B
Overall: C- Yes, it was ugly football. But it’s Big Ten West football. Iowa’s offense is almost non-existent, Minnesota couldn’t crack the end zone and Wisconsin needed a tackle-eligble pass to beat Illinois. Nebraska went 1-0 this week, but they’ll have to up the game to go 1-0 next week against Purdue.
How would you grade the Huskers for their 17-9 victory over Northwestern?
This poll is closed
A - Any win is a great win
B - Blackshirts won the day
C - Could be a LOT better on offense, but that defense is a championship contender
D - Don’t think that offense is going to allow Nebraska to go 1-0 many weeks.