‘I think there’s only one word that describes the Huskers 20-17 loss at Michigan State.
The defense wasn’t at it’s best; special teams had issues. And the offense? Simply not good, especially in the passing game. I thought the running game wasn’t bad, but the passing game was ... awful.
All fingers will naturally point towards the quarterback, and let’s be honest, there was a strong argument to be made to make a change in the fourth quarter for two reasons: first, Heinrich Haarberg was struggling and I think Haarberg’s skills aren’t suited towards a pass-first approach when Nebraska needed to score twice in the closing minutes.
Matt Rhule apparently disagreed. Whether he wanted to show faith in Haarberg, believed in Haarberg, or didn’t believe in the other quarterbacks isn’t known. Haarberg finished the game to the bitter end.
The thing to keep in mind is that Nebraska’s passing game is pretty limited due to all of the injuries. As fashionable as it was to call for Jeff Sims or Chubba Purdy, it doesn’t matter if receivers aren’t where they need to be. And with the inexperience of this group, assuming that the receivers were right might be a mistake. The coaches know, and will see it when they review the video...but Joe Q. Huskerfan doesn’t.
The defense didn’t have a great day, but still held Michigan State to 295 yards and 11 first downs. I think that most weeks, we would consider this a big success. But not this one.
With that, it’s on with the report card, and as always, your feedback is welcome in the comments.
QB: More than once, I wondered whether Haarberg was anywhere near 100%, as he looked slow at times running the ball. And in the pocket, he looked awfully indecisive at times as well. That’s what sparked my thoughts that perhaps a switch might be in order as the game started slipping away in the fourth quarter. His long run to set up Nebraska’s final touchdown shows why there’s going to be a spot for him in this program moving forward, but clearly, he’s going to have to adapt his game if it’s going to be at quarterback. Grade: D-
I-Back: I thought the backs ran the ball well enough most of the game, though once again, not without enough carries. The backs never got into any sort of rhythm because a pass play would come in and fail, putting the offense behind the chains and needing to pass again. And it was such a weird order, with Joshua Fleeks starting, relieved by Anthony Grant and then third in was Emmitt Johnson. Grade: C+
WR: To say that Alex Bullock had a rough day would be an understatement. Drops, out of position, mostly ineffective aside from one crossing route. Due to the inexperience of the youngsters, he’s playing. But Nebraska has to find better options for next season. Malachi Coleman did have a couple of nice catches. Grade: D-
OL: I thought the line was OK in this game; I attribute much of that to Haarberg being indecisive more than line issues. Could they be better? Like everything else, of course, but they weren’t the big problem. Grade: C
DL: Jimari Butler continues to play pretty well as a hybrid linebacker/defensive end. Cam Lenhardt with a big sack. Grade: B-
LB: It seems that Luke Reimer and Nick Heinrich are splitting snaps despite contributing more than John Bullock. And Javin Wright is contributing more and more as well. It wasn’t the best defensive performance, but the Spartans were held under 300 yards. Grade: C
Secondary: A couple of busts on coverage. Malcolm Hertzog did have a big break-up, and it was good to see Marques Buford back on the field. Grade: C-
Special Teams: After last week’s debacle on punt returns, Billy Kemp returned to fair catch punts. I get it...he can do that despite his injury, but Nebraska needs more out of the return game. Let Ethan Nation do this full time next week. Brian Buschini had one of his worst days as a Husker with a shank; his longest punt was basically an average punt for him any other weeks. No turnovers, but not great either. Grade: C-
Overall: D+ The defense has covered for poor offensive play the last few weeks...but what happens when the defense has an off day? You get this week. Nebraska has to figure out a way to improve offensive consistency, and to me, that starts by taking some of the load off of the quarterback by using the I-backs more. Or try another quarterback, and my vote would be Chubba Purdy. I think he’s the better passer of the three, and could open this offense up a bit more.
How would you grade the Huskers for their 20-17 loss to Michigan State?
This poll is closed
A - At least it’s not Iowa’s offense
B - Still better than Iowa’s offense
C - Could still become bowl eligible in future weeks
D - Didn’t win despite having a shot
F - Failed to win this week.