So I wanted to let the Iowa State win soak in a few days and kind of gauge where Husker fans are at with their feelings on the program before I wrote anything. A couple of days later, it's become apparent that almost everyone sees the past two weeks as a potential turning point in the season. While I'm not going to go that far, I will say that ISU this past week was the most fun I've had watching Husker football since the Taylor-to-Purify Texas A&M game of 2006. That is both incredibly sad and encouraging at the same time, sad because of how awful we were last year and encouraging because for the first time in forever, we saw a dominant Husker team. And I'm not saying they are an overall dominant team, I'm just saying they dominated Iowa State, which might not mean much considering the Cyclones aren't that good, but at this point I would have taken any kind of win, and to have it be an ass-kicking was all the more fun for me.
Some more ISU/NU thoughts:
- Shawn Watson is en fuego. That's two consecutive games that he has called pretty much perfectly, at least in my opinion. Against ISU, the Huskers had 41 rushing attempts and 37 passing attempts, a near perfect balance that enabled them to efficiently rack up over 500 yards of offense and once again possess the ball for basically 2/3rds of the game. Any time you can keep the opposing offense off the field for 40 out of 60 minutes, you're doing a damn good job of piecing drives together.
- Does anyone else wonder if we might have made a bowl game or even better last year if Joe Ganz had been starting the entire time? I never really wanted to be part of the what-if-Ganz started crowd, but every time he comes out and completes over 70% of his passes I can't help but wonder. I know Keller completed 63% last year, but take into account that a good portion of his 205 completions last year went to Marlon Lucky, who had 75 catches. Ganz has been lethal in terms of ball distribution this season, and it's gotten to the point that you really don't know which way he's going to go with it. I'll be honest, watching the offense has been thrilling the past few weeks, and hopefully this execution continues. The amazing thing is that despite the gaudy completion percentage, Joe still only ranks 5th among Big-12 quarterbacks.
- Marlon Lucky: 15 carries for 74 yards. Roy Helu: 6 for 66. Quentin Castille: 11 for 70. Makes it hard to defend a running game when you have 3 backs with significantly different styles who all can carry the load if asked. Part of the credit goes to Watson, who is doing a good job of not making any back a "situational" guy. Whenever this happens, all you're really doing is tipping off the defense as to what might be coming. By not pigeon-holing any guy into one role, Watson is keeping a lot of options open for the offense, and as a result, every guy is producing.
- Through the first few games, I was concerned that my pre-season Nate Swift prediction was going to turn out like a lot of other famous declarations by me and be proven false. Luckily, the offense has kicked it up a couple of gears and you're seeing the results I thought would be regular occurence. Not that I thought Swift was going to put up 8 catches and 112 yards and a touchdown every game, but I figured he'd be getting more production than he had. Against ISU, he contributed the previously mentioned stat line in the first half, including a highlight catch-and-run for the games first touchdown (though it may have as much to do with Iowa State's inability to properly tackle him). Swifty currently sits just 7 catches behind Johnny Rodgers for the school record, and it could come as early as this week if Ganz gets going.
- Yardage total aside, no excuse can be made for fumbling the ball 5 times. You can get away with it against ISU, but we're going to need to protect the ball better the rest of the way if we're going to beat teams like OU and Kansas.
- Wasn't it refreshing to see the defense flying around and making plays for the first time in forever? Holding any team to 218 yards of offense is a job well done, especially when one third of them comes on one play (the 67-yard TD by Robinson in the 3rd).
- Nice hit, Ricky. Good to have you back, and I think I speak for us all when I say we'd love to see that become a regular occurrence.
-How fun was it to watch the D-line on Saturday? Suh was living in the ISU backfield, and all four of the starters were making their presence felt throughout the game. Seeing Potter come off the edge for a blindside sack was especially exciting, I love it when the QB can't see you coming, it's like teeing up with your driver......it might not look pretty, but no matter what, it's going to be hit hard. That said, it'll be a much bigger test for them this week as the opposing QB is a stud sprinter, and we all know the struggles the Big Red have had containing mobile quarterbacks.
- Is Armando Murillo emerging as a lock-down corner? Let's not get ahead of ourselves. But he made several nice plays on Saturday, including a very athletic pass break-up as well as a fumble recovery in the 3rd, and I never really saw him get beat at all. He's starting to get it just in time for the stretch run.
-The punting situation needs to be fixed, and sooner rather than later. Like, this week.
- Came out pretty lethargic in the 3rd quarter, something I hate to see after Callahan became an expert on how to lose games in that portion of the game. It's important to come out and re-establish your will on a team after you have a first half like that, and I think the whole team knows that they need to work on slamming the door shut when they find themselves in that position.
- This was an important win for us, as it helped establish some momentum for the rest of the season, something we need after going 3-3 in the first half. If the team plays like that the rest of the way, every game looks winnable save for the OU game in Norman. I'm not going to get ahead of myself and predict that's what's going to happen, because this team is still definitely a work in progress. But thankfully, last Saturday was definitely a sign of that progress, and it judging from the glowing press tidbits we've been seeing this week, this is a team that believes the ship has been righted and is in position to have some fun the rest of the year. Believe it or not, the Big 12 North is still up for grabs, as Kansas is the only team in the division with a 2-1 record right now, whereas the rest of the members are sitting at 1-2. KU, by the way, still has to play Texas Tech, Texas, and the Huskers. Anything is possible (though I'd hate to see us go to the Big 12 title game only to get embarassed by Texas, like Colorado in 2004).
Some other Big 12 thoughts:
- How good are Colt McCoy and Texas? I don't complete 80% of my passes on NCAA '09, and McCoy has that completion percentage halfway through the season. It's just mind blowing how efficient he's become, and his ability to run the ball if need be is going to help him win the Heisman when it's all said and done.
- What happened to Mizzou the past two weeks? After they demolished the Huskers, I thought I was looking at the eventual Big 12 Champion. Two losses later (the second one an ass-kicking by the Longhorns), they are in a dogfight to win the Big 12 North. It'll be interesting to see how Daniel and his team respond to the adversity they now face. If they continue to struggle, could we see something along the lines of the Huskers last year? I don't think they'll get shut out of a bowl or anything, but I could see them losing to Kansas and missing the conference title game altogether.