Sunday, November 22, 2009

Huskers Beat K-State and Win the North

It wasn't the prettiest victory in the world, but style points simply don't matter.  Second game in a row in Lincoln not allowing a touchdown; that's championship defense.  Yes, the offense is still inconsistent, but you do see some periodic signs of life.  Here are some positives:
  • I think this was Zac Lee's best game of the year, considering the competition.  (By that, I'm throwing out the Sun Belt games.)  Yes, that interception was a pass that shouldn't have been thrown.  But Lee is starting to show better poise in the pocket, and is starting to commit to running the ball when he decides to take off.  In September and October, Lee seemed to be more interested in finding receivers than taking free yards the defense was offering.  Tonight, he ran hard and took the yardage.
  • Criticize Lee for underthrowing Niles Paul on the deep route if you will.  But better to underthrow than overthrow the receiver.  I'll take a long completion over an incompletion everytime.
  • The offensive line will no doubt take some criticism for their blocking, but my initial take was that the problem was more related to missed blocks on the perimeter.
  • Shawn Watson tried to mix together all of his looks tonight.  Sometimes that kept Kansas State from getting in a rhythm; sometimes, that kept Nebraska from staying in much of a rhythm.
  • Remember that opening Husker drive?  Who would've thunk that Nebraska could put together a 16 play drive?

Defensively, the biggest weak spot for the Blackshirts was the failure to cover the short crossing route.  That's something that needs to be addressed this week.  If I'm a Wildcat fan, though, I have to be asking where Daniel Thomas was at times tonight.  I understand the desire to mix things up, but K-State seemed to do a better job limiting Thomas than the Blackshirts did.

Big name players come up big in crunch time, and nobody came up bigger than Ndamukong Suh down the stretch with putting pressure on Grant Gregory, whether it was running him down from behind, sacking him, or batting down the pass.  Nice way to wrap up his final game in Lincoln.  Larry Asante had a great game leading the way with 10 tackles, and interception, and perhaps the play of the game by blasting the ball out of Keithen Valentines arms while he was heading for an touchdown.

So while it's an ugly victory (the Wildcats outgained the Huskers today), it's still a victory.  How ironic that this defense has emerged two years removed from the worst defense in Husker history.  Let's put it in perspective:  In 2007, Nebraska gave up 11 touchdowns to Kansas in a single game. In 2009, Nebraska has given up 12 touchdowns in 11 games.  That type of improvement is simply amazing.

I also like the fact that Nebraska didn't overly celebrate a "division" title.  No fireworks, no trophy presentation on the field.  Yes, there were some graphics on the screens and an advertisement on the big screen to let fans know when Big XII Championship Game tickets go on sale to the general public.  (Tuesday morning, if you missed it, at  Yes, winning the North is a good thing, but there still are two games to play.  Plenty of time to celebrate down the line, but with a short week coming up, it's time to stay focused on the tasks at hand.


malcolmkass said...

"But better to underthrow than overthrow the receiver."

I dunno if I agree. Against KState, that was a catch. Against UT, that is a drive killing int with how much that ball was underthrown. Lee had a solid game, but I do think he was more accurate against KU and overall had a better game.

Husker Mike said...

Depends on the coverage, of course. KSU's secondary was suspect, so you like the chances of Paul getting the catch if he can get to it. But you are right about Texas...but worry about Colorado first.