Want the story of the game? The Blackshirts held Kansas to 87 yards of offense tonight, and if it wasn't for a Taylor Martinez fumble midway through the third quarter, probably would have shut out the Jayhawks. It was a dominating performance, and frankly, you never got the feeling that Kansas was ever going to mount a challenge, even though the game was technically close on the scoreboard.
It was a solid performance across the board on defense. The line dominated the Kansas offensive line. The secondary were in lockdown coverage, and linebackers Lavonte David and Will Compton (when he was in) were all over the place. Yes, Kansas isn't a a good team, but still 87 yards and only five first downs (one by penalty?) is exceptional.
The offense was another matter entirely. Bo Pelini didn't think it was a lack of effort, according to his postgame interview. But it wasn't a particularly crisp performance by much of the team. Taylor Martinez returned at quarterback, but was limited in the first half to handing off and throwing for the most part. In the second half, he ran a little zone read, but it was obvious he wasn't Martinez fast tonight. He still accounted for 71 yards rushing, though. He looked good throwing the ball at times, but he had a freshman mistake throwing the ball into coverage. Ball security continues to be a problem, as he bobbled the ball twice tonight. That's something he'll need to address in the offseason.
Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead had some nice runs, but much of the night, it seemed they needed another block or make a better read. It just seems weird to complain about the offense after a 397 yard performance, but there just wasn't the consistency you'd like to see. Since Martinez left the Missouri game, the Husker offense has seemed to stagnate without Martinez's game breaking ability
If I had to pick a player of the game tonight, it would have to be the oft-maligned Niles Paul. Many fans point to his many snafus, such as his kickoff return decision last week, as a reason to bury him on the bench. Problem with that strategy is that you throw the good out with the bad, and tonight, he had a lot of good. Third and 25, Paul leaps and snags a 26 yard completion to get a first down. All told, four of his seven catches tonight kept drives alive when the Huskers faced third down. Add in some nifty kickoff returns, and it was a solid performance. Yes, you want Paul to cut down on his mistakes, but benching him is cutting off your nose to spite your face.
So Nebraska muddled through tonight against Kansas. They could get away with that this week, considering the opponent. They can't do that next week against Texas A&M; with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, the Aggies have been solid. I think the defense will be ready next week, but the lingering question is whether Taylor Martinez can be the gamebreaker in this game he's been previously... because the Huskers will need that facet of their game next Saturday night.