Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cajun Rage No Match For Husker Power

Tonight's Huskers/Cajuns matchup was less about the game and more about 300. So while the game was about as uncompetitive as it gets, the stadium was packed (record crowd) and energized most of the night. It was a great atmosphere...but despite the score, wasn't a great performance.

There's plenty to be happy about: 55 points scored, 0 allowed. Zac Lee completing 15 of 18 passes. Larry Asante picking off a pass and racing to the house. Cody Green showing speed on the ground and a strong arm through the air. Rex Burkhead showing speed, great vision, and great balance on his touchdown reception. Eric Martin creating highlight reel hits on special teams.

But there's plenty to be unhappy about: only 133 yards rushing, multiple bobbled snaps, and 14 first downs allowed to the Cajuns.

Early on, I had to wonder what was up with the exchange between Lee and Jacob Hickman, as snaps out of the shotgun repeatedly arrived head high or even higher. Running room was tough to find against the Cajuns.

In a blowout like this, what you hate to see are injuries. Media reports sound like Rickey Thenarse's injury is serious. Larry Asante might be okay with a bye week coming up. (Truth be told, from my vantage point high in the south end zone, we had to wonder what happened to Asante as he looked fine running into the end zone, then we saw him a couple of minutes later being helped from the back of the end zone. Turns out he tweaked his ankle on the run, but we had to wonder if he suffered a injury in the celebration.)

So it's a good game for Pelini and company. A blow out victory, but one that will provide plenty of teaching opportunities for the coaching staff. Plenty of things to work on, but plenty of reasons for optimism going into conference play.

Why optimism? Well, for starters, look how Nebraska nearly pulled off a victory in Blacksburg last week. Many national "experts" were pushing Miami as being "back" and a consensus top team. The Hokies blew them out. Missouri went on the road to Reno, and won somewhat ugly thanks to Danario Alexander, who's becoming one of the elite receivers in the conference. Kansas narrowly defeated Southern Miss and their basketball team this week. While the Tigers and Jayhawks may have arguably better offenses, Nebraska's defense appears to be the best in the North. That could be a bigger difference than playing games in Columbia and Lawrence.

But the story of the night was the 300th sellout celebration. Especially poignant was Ohio coach Frank Solich appearing on the big screen to thank fans for their support, and receiving loud applause. Buffalo coach Turner Gill also appeared, and also received cheers, though Gill's comments were extremely brief. Barry Switzer got a few boos, and the end of game retrospective was well-done. The fireworks might have been unnecessary since most fans focused on the highlights, but it was still worth sticking around to the end of a 55-0 blowout.

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