Right from the opening kickoff, you could see this was going to be a sloppy performance for the Huskers. Failure to field the opening pooch kickoff was one of those little things that hampered Nebraska the whole day. But for the most part, the Blackshirts made sure that no matter what happened today, Nebraska was never really in danger of losing to a 1-AA opponent.
Bo Pelini hinted that we'd see some traditional option as part of the new Nebraska offense, and we saw enough of it that had to make option-haters cringe. (It'll be interesting to see if the "No Option" flag that has flown in the booster parking lot behind the post office since 2004 will still fly next week...) At times, the option looked really rusty, as if it had been retired for seven years. Other times, like on that first quarter pitch to Rex Burkhead, it looked like a thing of beauty. And deep down, I absolutely loved that fourth down short-side option that ended 43 yards later in the end zone. Why do you run options to the short side of the field? It's very simple: usually there are fewer defenders there and less opportunity to have the play strung out.
The new offense was stymied by a rather ineffective performance by the offensive line. I get that Chattanooga stacked the box and clogged the running lanes..but we were talking about an undersized 1-AA opponent and there should have been more of a push. Yes, it was a young line with true freshman Tyler Moore and sophomores Andrew Rodriquez and Spencer Long taking a lot of snaps...but I'd like to have seen more. But I also get the feeling that Pelini and Tim Beck weren't terribly concerned about it, because we didn't see a lot of subsitutions. That tells me that the coaching staff wanted to see these players play through the adversity, rather than trying to find different combinations.
I thought Taylor Martinez looked OK today, though I get the feeling that opinions about Martinez are all over the board. I think Martinez's passing motion has become a little more consistent, but he still doesn't step into his throws. He gunned the ball into receivers all day, and while the accuracy was better than we've seen, the receivers couldn't handle those fastballs downfield at times. Certainly the speed was back, and frankly, I think he looked more comfortable in this system than he did the last part of last season.
The secondary looked like they missed Alfonzo Dennard at times, especially when they lost containment on Joel Bradford, the Mocs 1-AA All-American receiver. Andrew Green seemed to give him a huge cushion at times, and at other times, nickel back Justin Blatchford couldn't keep up with him.
That was the bad, now let's look at the positives. Brett Maher looks like he'll be a more than adequate replacement for Alex Henery. Henery has been oh-so-clutch the last three years, but Maher might have been even better today. His first punt tilted the field and made up for the bungled opening kickoff...then he went and averaged 52 yards a punt on the day. Perfect on field goals as well, including a 50 yarder into the wind.
Cameron Meredith looked like an all-American candidate at defensive end, and teamed up with Jared Crick on an interception early in the third quarter. Junior college transfer Daimion Stafford had a couple of highlight reel tackles. He brings the wood like his predecessor who wore #3 in the secondary, Rickey Thenarse, but he seems to be much more consistent in his game. Keep an eye on this guy: he might be the guy to fill that Dejon Gomes role in October.
Ameer Abdullah looks like he's going to be a gamebreaker as well. The struggles up front didn't allow him to do much in the rushing game, but he was electric on punt returns. He would have scored if only for the tackle teammate P.J. Smith laid on him in the fourth quarter.
And the no-huddle speed-up offense didn't lead to more penalties: only three for 33 yards on the day. And one of those was a completely absurd "roughing" the passer call on Josh Williams.
All told, I'm not sure what to take out of today's game. It's a win: just ask Oregon State how a loss to Sacramento State fells. Eastern Washington nearly took out Washington, and Iowa State needed a last-second comeback to handle Northern Iowa. It's a season opener, and you have to expect a few mistakes. I don't know how much of the "new offense" we saw today; it's obvious that execution really has to improve. We really didn't see much out of Jamal Turner until late in the game, and he gave us another hint that his performance in the spring game wasn't an aberration. I guess if it's possible to be unhappy after a 40-7 victory, I'll take that.