Sunday, September 21, 2014

Abdullah Overpowers Thug U

Going into the matchup between the Huskers and the Miami Hurricanes, the biggest questions many Husker fans had was whether Nebraska could run the ball effectively against a Miami team that had been fairly stout against the run...and whether Tim Beck could contain his impulse to turn to the passing game and lean on the ground game.

Well, mission accomplished on both fronts. Ameer Abdullah treated Husker fans to one of the most amazing performances in Nebraska football history. Roy Helu's 310 yard performance in 2010 is the school record, but featured three long runs where the offensive line (and the threat of Taylor Martinez) created a wide open field for Helu.

This game was all Abdullah.  The offensive line opened up some small holes, and Ameer did all the rest. Miami tried to arm tackle the Heisman candidate, only to have Ameer bounce off, change direction, and find more green space.  There were no big plays; Abdullah's long run of the night was just 26 yards.  It was simply a consistent pounding of the ball. Miami eventually could assume the ball was headed for Abdullah, but they were powerless to stop him.

That made it easy for Beck to ground the Nebraska offense, even though Tommy Armstrong was having a fine night throwing the ball. No 50% completion percentage for Armstrong; he completed 69% of his passes. There simply wasn't a need to throw when the offense was clicking on the ground.  Nebraska only needed to punt once all evening long, which tells you all you need to know about the potency of the Nebraska offense.

Defensively, it was a mixed bag.  Miami was able to exploit Bo Pelini's desire to customize his personnel on the field by keeping the 'Canes offense on the sideline until the last possible moment.  It worked early as Miami threw against Nebraska's three linebacker sets and ran against Pelini's nickel and dime defenses.  Then Miami couldn't get the play off and took two delay-of-game penalties to put the 'Canes in a hole.

We saw David Santos step up his game after his batted-punt-safety the week earlier. A key first half interception to thwart a Miami scoring threat and leading the team with 10 tackles. The other linebackers struggled, starting with Josh Banderas who consistently missed tackles plus committed a bad facemask penalty. In came senior Trevor Roach who didn't play much better until he forced a third quarter fumble that Josh Mitchell returned for a touchdown.

The defensive line didn't generate as much pressure as I'd like to have seen against a freshman quarterback. Some of that is because Miami spread the field much of the night. Some of that is because Miami took it upon themselves to try to get Randy Gregory out of the game. Miami has been known as Thug U for their on-and-off-the-field actions over the years, and cemented that reputation in the eyes of Husker fans with their tactics on the field.  Miami fans will respond by suggesting that Nebraska players started the shoving, but that's in reaction to the cheap shots Miami was taking.

Unfortunately, I haven't had an opportunity to see a replay of the roughing the passer penalty on Vincent Valentine that negated a Nathan Gerry interception.  I'll have to take the word of those who did get a chance to view the replay instead:
That's when emotions boiled over and the game started to get out of control.  I'm shocked that nobody was ejected from the game...including any from Nebraska.  The reality of football is while the officials may not see the instigators, they always see the retaliation.  But the chippiness was so bad that at some point, the referees needed to get control of the game...something they failed miserably to do.

Nebraska now enters Big Ten play 4-0.  Some fans didn't think that was possible, and had already penciled in a 3-1 or even 2-2 start for the Big Red. Instead, Nebraska seems to be headed for marquee prime-time performance against Michigan State...likely on ABC with Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit. But don't overlook Illinois next week in a way-too-late 8 pm kickoff.  Ignore the fact that Illinois has needed three fourth quarter comebacks against inferior foes to get to 3-1; Indiana embarrassed themselves by losing to Bowling Green last week only to bounce back and beat Missouri on the road.

After two horrible weeks previously, the Big Ten went 12-1 this weekend against other conferences, including 4-1 against Power-Five foes.  Nebraska's victory might have been against the biggest name, but Indiana's was against a ranked SEEEEEEEEEEEC opponent.
But's good to be 4-0.

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