Saturday, November 06, 2010

Huskers Survive A Cyclone in Ames

In what might turn out to be the wildest and wackiest day in the 16 year history of Big XII football, Nebraska somehow pulled out the only road win of the day. Injuries set the tone for the Huskers, as third string quarterback Cody Green was pressed into service. Earlier this season, we were told the race betwen Green, Taylor Martinez, and Zac Lee was neck and neck.

Well, if that was the state of things in August, it's pretty well defined in November. Green didn't play badly, but the offense really stagnated at times today.  He completed 7 out of 12 passes, including a sweet 29 yard completion to Kyler Reed that set up Nebraska's third touchdown.  But strangely enough, Green wasn't much of a factor running the ball, and with two fumbles, is turning into a liability in that aspect of the game. Steve Sipple of the Journal-Star wonders whether a position change is in Green's future, and frankly, I'd like to see that next spring.  With Brion Carnes already on campus, there is a potential logjam developing at the quarterback position.

If you consider Rex Burkhead's role in the Wildcat formation to be a quarterback, then Burkhead outshone Green today.  On Nebraska's second drive, it seemed like Burkhead took more snaps than Green did.  Some of that was a necessity after that helmet-to-helmet hit on Green on the opening play of the drive.  (Oh sure, THIS week they send Ed Cunningham to a different Big XII game!)  Burkhead was the offensive player of the game, taking snaps and gaining the tough yards throughout the game.  Fellow I-back Roy Helu also had a good game with powerful running, though he had that one fumble.  Or a play that was ruled a fumble; I still haven't seen a replay that shows what happened there.

Defensively, Nebraska had to dig deep after Dejon Gomes left the game with an injury.  Ciante Evans struggled today, as you might expect a freshman to do. But all things considered, the Huskers played well defensively in the second half, as the defensive line seemed to get good pressure on Austen Arnaud, and the linebackers and secondary did a better job of handling Alexander Robinson in the running game.  The defensive heroes are, of course, Austin Cassidy and Eric Hagg who pulled in three critical interceptions, each seemingly more important than the last.  What a read and reaction by Hagg on that fake extra point attempt, leaping high to pick off the pass to secure the victory. ESPN better had that man a helmet sticker in the next hour during College Football Final.

I initially thought that decision to fake and go for two was a Gary Pinkel-esque failure, but after I thought about it, the more it makes sense.  I liked Nebraska's chances in overtime if it ever came down to field goals; ISU's Grant Mahoney is 8 for 15 on the season versus Alex Henery's 11 for 12. Catching Nebraska off guard and winning the game right there was a gutty call, and would've/could've worked, if not for Hagg's heroics.

So Nebraska wins ugly.  Big effin' deal.  Nebraska was the only road team to win in the Big XII today in a day filled with surprises.  Most people expected Baylor to put up more of a fight against Oklahoma State today.  Texas A&M shocked Oklahoma early on, and while the Sooners fought back in the second half, A&M still had more in their tank at the end.  Missouri had the hot first quarter and mailed in the rest of the game.  And then the games that make you go W - T - F.  Kansas State dominates Texas from start to finish, and now it's really looking doubtful that Texas is even going to make a bowl game.  Then the capper:  Turner Gill's Kansas team scores 35 points in the final 12 minutes to win 52-45.  Dan Hawkins will survive to the end of the season, but only because his son Cody is the only scholarship quarterback the Buffaloes have left.

So Nebraska won ugly on the road?  I can think of five other teams in the Big XII that would love that problem this week.  And with what Texas A&M did to Oklahoma tonight, Nebraska better hope that Taylor Martinez gets a whole lot healthier in the next two weeks, because A&M with Ryan Tannehill looks completely different than the version with Jerrod Johnson.  Look for ABC's Saturday Night crew to head to College Station for this one, as I think it'll come down to either Ohio State/Iowa or Nebraska/Texas A&M for the primetime game in two weeks.


Matthew said...

Love the blog--one of my favorite reads, especially after the NU football games. I thought you were spot on this week with the analysis; in particular the point about road teams being 1-5 with Nebraska being the 1. Thought it was interesting some of the analysis of this game from the media. The OWH implied that Nebraska was lucky to win, despite the fact that their best offensive and one of their best defensive players were more or less on the bench all game. Also, a certain ESPN blogger said multiple times that ISU "botched" the fake 2-point attempt...really? Pretty sure that if Eric Hagg doesn't make that play, Franklin catches the ball and ISU wins. Not much credit given to Hagg, which is unfortunate because if you watch the play from beginning to end, Hagg line up right where he was supposed to be and read the play perfectly. Will go down as one of the more memorable plays in NU history...

Anonymous said...

Agree with Matthew 100 percent. Nebraska did what good teams do. They won when they needed to even though everything was against them.