Maybe it was because I was extremely hungover....maybe it was the live band they always have at Joe Sensers that insists on playing a little fight tune for every play that results in a Husker first down. No matter what it was, there was a sense of foreboding when Nebraska came out and executed like a 4th-grade Pop Warner team through the first 3 quarters of Saturday's game against San Jose State. For the second straight game, the Huskers failed to establish the run, getting a paltry 99 yards on 30 carries, causing Big Red faithful to question why we had all that sunshine pumped up our ass by the coaching staff in camp.
The running game was supposed to be a strength this year, something that would enable us to keep all those lethal Big 12 offenses off the field and allow our thin defense to get some rest. Now, we're not so sure. If it wasn't for Niles Paul going untouched for 85 yards in the 4th quarter, we might be looking at a loss right now. Sure, we ended up winning going away, but I doubt anybody was very optimistic when the score was narrowed to 14 to 12 on a SJSU field goal with just over 12 minutes to play. When Niles split the sea of red blockers, it's as if the team collectively reached back and pulled their heads out of their asses and decided to play. The thing is, we won't have that luxury against better teams. If we play like this against Mizzou, Kansas, OU, or any of the other landmine games we have on this schedule, it's going to get ugly pretty quickly. Some other thoughts from Saturday:
- Did anyone ever teach Larry Asante to tackle? When he arrived on campus as a JUCO, he was supposed to be this head-hunting freak who would be a difference maker. Now he just looks like a matador who apparently doesn't know that it's perfectly legal to use your arms when tackling. If I was an opposing ball carrier, I'd be looking for him every time I got to the second level of the Husker defense. We need Ricky T back, and sooner rather than later.
-I'll say it again, it peeves me that much: 99 yards on 30 carries. Not acceptable by any means, and the whole team knows it.
- Great job by the defensive line. Sure, in the first quarter opposing ball carriers were getting to the second level way too easily. But Potter and company kept fighting, and came away with some big plays. Suh's nifty interception, along with Potter's, helped the morale of the team tremendously, and Pierre Allen's stat line helped ease the pain (not much, but a little)of losing Barry Turner for the year.
- Back when I played in college, the goals were to give up less than 200 passing yards and less than 100 rushing yards. The Huskers gave up 216 passing and 137 rushing, which means in comparison to last year, they are making progress. But if we don't do something quick to fix the missed tackles, we are going to be in for another long season (and my preseason prediction of 9 wins is going to qualify me for learning-disability status). The first San Jose drive was excruciatingly painful to watch, though it warrants mentioning that NU held them to just 30 rushing yards in the second half. Hopefully whatever adjustment the defensive staff made carries over the rest of the season.
- 12 penalties is asinine. I'm thoroughly convinced the three consecutive false starts are responsible for making my hangover worse than it already was at that point.
More on NU and other assorted thoughts tomorrow, I just wanted to vent a little bit of my frustration about Saturday's lethargic start. But all criticism aside, we improved the one stat that matters, and that's the W column.