Yesterday, Carl Pelini told Husker fans in Omaha that "This may have been the best week of practice I may have ever had as a coach." I had two conflicting thoughts when I heard that:
Great! Bo Pelini said that Nebraska practiced well the week before, and the Huskers then went out and played pretty well against Texas Tech.
Not Again! Mike Ekeler made a similar announcement two weeks ago, then the Huskers were demolished by Missouri.
By early in the 2nd quarter, it was clear that my first feeling was correct. Nebraska absolutely dominated that first half on both sides of the ball. Nate Swift had an unbelievable first half, especially that highlight reel touchdown catch in the first quarter. Really, the only thing to criticize in the first half was the two turnovers...otherwise, it could easily have been 31-0 or 35-0 at halftime.
Second half, the Cyclones made some adjustments and quickly got back into the game with a quick touchdown to open the third quarter. But the rest of the third quarter was a stalemate until Iowa State badly missed a 40 yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, landing it in the tuba section instead of through the uprights. Nebraska promptly got the offense back into gear, and finished up strong.
At halftime, I felt that if the defense finished the game like they started, they might have finally earned their Blackshirts. Second half, I'm not sure they earned them, though it was by far their strongest game of the year. Holding Iowa State to 228 yards and 7 points isn't too shabby. But again, it was Iowa State who hasn't done much offensively since halftime two weeks ago, when they led Kansas at home.
One major accomplishment was Pierre Allen finally forcing a turnover when he stripped Derrick Catlett late in the third quarter. Unfortunately, that led to an excessively long review while the referees tried to determine if Armando Murillo had stepped back in bounds before picking up the ball. It took nearly almost five minutes for Versus to pull up the low end zone replay and slow it down enough to determine that Murillo had indeed stepped back in bounds before gaining possession. It took so long that the ISU public address announcer played the entire 4 minutes of Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer"...yikes! Larry Asante, though, let another interception pass through his hands.
Offensive turnovers by the receivers were the biggest offensive problem this week. Penalties were much improved this week, with only 4 penalties for 45 yards. (Those 15 yarders need to get addressed though.) Lucky ran pretty well, though the offense was once again throw first, run second. Maybe that's not the long term vision for this program, but right now, that's what this team seems to do best.
But most importantly, did we see progress again this week? Damn right we did. Unlike last season, where the team seemed to get worse as the season progressed, this year, the team generally seems to be improving.