Sunday, October 28, 2012

Blackshirts Awarded on Weasel Stomping Day

Some Husker fans may doubt that this same defense that got torched by UCLA and Ohio State deserves Blackshirts, but the Blackshirts are now in the possession of the Nebraska defense after a second strong defensive performance in a row. Some will want to throw an asterisk on this performance due to Denard Robinson's injury.  If you choose to asterisk that performance, that's your prerogative.

I'll disagree with you, though.  It's true that Robinson's absence pretty much eliminated any chance Michigan had to win the game, but Nebraska had the lead at that point, and furthermore, Nebraska had the lead on the stat sheet at that point.  The Blackshirts were defending Robinson and Michigan pretty well in the first half, so unlike the folks on BTN's Final Drive claimed, the injury didn't change the game.

It probably did seal the victory for Nebraska. It's unfair to compare redshirt freshman quarterback Russell Bellomy to Joe Bauserman, the Ohio State senior quarterback who couldn't hit the broad side of a barn last year...but it's a comparison that's hard to ignore.  Bellomy probably is a little more mobile than Bauserman, but also more inexperienced.  A 3 for 14 performance passing - with three interceptions - pretty much eliminated any opportunity for Michigan to come back.

Last week, Nebraska had multiple opportunities to intercept Northwestern passes, but tonight, Nebraska capitalized on them.  Nice to see the secondary finally coming away with the ball, and more importantly, Nebraska coming out +1 in turnover margin.

Many will criticize the productivity of the offense, but that conveniently ignores that in conference action, Michigan stands atop almost every major defensive statistical category:  scoring defense, total defense, and passing defense.  The one category they don't lead is rushing defense, where Michigan trails Ohio State by 1.2 yards a game.

Taylor Martinez had another solid, warrior performance.  He got stripped of a ball just before halftime when he probably was down, and getting bent over backwards as well.  Listening to postgame radio coverage, I didn't realize that Martinez injured his ankle on the play, which makes his second half play even more impressive.  His interception was an underthrow; he was trying to get the ball to a wide open Tim Marlowe on third down....but credit Michigan for tipping the ball for the interception.

Biggest disappointment on offense to me was center Justin Jackson; a personal foul penalty for a chop block and several bad shotgun snaps. Maybe Jackson is doing a good job elsewhere on his blocking, but all season long, it's been an adventure for Taylor Martinez taking a snap, and it's not his fault that his center is channeling Phil Niekro.

After the game, several players were sporting the Blackshirts which they finally earned. Bo Pelini takes way too much criticism over the Blackshirt tradition.  The idea that Pelini doesn't believe in the Blackshirt tradition is just plain ass-backwards; if anything, Pelini has made the tradition stronger.  Under Bo Pelini, the Blackshirt is something that you have to earn.  Last week, Pelini apparently tried to award the Blackshirts, but the defensive players turned them down, saying they hadn't earned them yet. How refreshing is that accountability?  Remember how Kevin Cosgrove sported the black in 2007? 

So now Nebraska controls it's own destiny to be the West division champion and head to the Big Ten championship game.  It's not a lock, by any means.  Michigan State's defense is probably better than Michigan's...and the game is on the road.  Penn State is saltier than anybody expected, and Minnesota is improved as well.  And while Iowa is really struggling this season, the Hawkeyes always seem to beat somebody they shouldn't.  Both 4-0 and 0-4 in the final month of the season are not out of the realm of possibility.

But enough of that.  As Nebraska-Omaha hockey fans can attest, any day that you beat the Weasels of Michigan is a great day.

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