If you love defense, you had to love tonight's Nebraska-Oklahoma game. Some might point to the 10-3 final and announce boring, mediocre, or just plain bad. But from the south end zone perspective, it was one hell of a night of football as two great defenses took the field tonight.
Matt O'Hanlon took a step tonight to putting the end of the Virginia Tech game behind him tonight with an outstanding performance. 12 tackles and THREE interceptions? What a game from the former walk-on. But O'Hanlon's performance wasn't the only stellar performance tonight. Phillip Dillard was all over the field, making tackles. Prince Amukamara forced the first interception which set up tonight's lone touchdown.
All night long, the Husker defenders kept their cool. Personal foul penalties have been an issue at times during the Bo Pelini era, coming at sometimes the most unfortunate times. Tonight, however, it was the Sooners who lost their cool at times and the Huskers waived it off, never retaliating.
Tonight's offense was pedestrian at best, and for good reason. The Sooner defense is rock solid, and trying to do too much was a much larger danger as it risked turnovers... especially once the Huskers took the lead. I have absolutely no problem with Zac Lee taking over at quarterback tonight. Tonight's matchup required a game manager who wasn't going to try and make plays when they weren't there. 7 of 14 passing for 39 yards looks like a horror story from Orange Bowl blowouts, but tonight's final score proved it wasn't necessary. Look at the other side of the field for the proof: Landry Jones threw 58 passes tonight, but only completed 26 passes to Sooners and five to Huskers. Sometimes when ou force a play, it turns out to be a disaster. And for the most part, Zac Lee didn't make mistakes. Didn't make any plays either, but it turns out it wasn't necessary thanks to the Blackshirts.
Think back to 2006 at the LA Coliseum, where Nebraska turtled up against USC. Didn't work very well that night, because while the defense played ok that night, the offense never tried to win the game until too late. And at that point of the 2006 season, Nebraska's best offensive weapon was Zac Taylor and his arm. This season? Well, it appears that it's Roy Helu when he's healthy. So the Huskers went with power formation after power formation. Didn't accomplish much, but as it turned out, they didn't need to. And as long as the Blackshirts had control of the Sooners, no need to risk anything.
Now, if Sooner Magic had struck again this evening, we might have rued that decision, but as long as the Huskers were ahead on the scoreboard, it was a calculated decision to protect the ball and hope the Blackshirts could have held on. Without any playmakers in the passing game, it really was the best option.
Ugly, yes. But it was a win, and a win against a ranked opponent. The Huskers find themselves solidly in the Big XII North race, trailing a surprising Kansas State squad by just a half-game. Nebraska's destiny in the Big XII North is in their own hands, and after the last three weeks, that's a welcome situation.