Mission accomplished, 26 straight opening day wins for Nebraska. A sound win over a FCS opponent. Nothing to sneeze at after watching so many FBS schools struggle against lower division schools earlier in the day. So whether you liked the process or not the final answer has to be acceptable at 40 to 7.
Now let’s talk about the process, in a word the offense was sloppy. At points when Nebraska tried to run the option it was painfully obvious how long of a way they have to go. Taylor Martinez has to become a better decision maker and quickly.
Reports had Taylor working a little with Eric Crouch last week getting ready for the season. Hopefully Eric told him that he has to pressure the defense into making decisions. You pitch too soon you leave your I-back to beat multiple defenders. You hold on too long and you’re instantly behind the sticks. Just watch the goal line play in the 3rd quarter. Martinez clearly has the pitch to Burkhead available but holds on until it’s too late. That has to be cleaned up before Washington comes to town.
Martinez ended the day 11 of 22 for 116 yards in the air. He is still releasing the ball late to wide receivers coming out of their breaks. It’s a two-way street of course and the wide-outs have to make tough catches in traffic. But too many times Martinez is behind his intended receiver. One of his best stick throws was to Ben Cotton in the 2nd half when he dropped down sidearm.
It was amazing at times how bad the spacing was by the I-backs. Maybe you must have them take a counter step or something first so they aren’t so close to Taylor when heading down the line. Or maybe it’s as simple as more reps to get on the same page. In the end the backs rushed for under a hundred yards and that was with a 52 yard run by Burkhead added in.
We have all heard too many times to count the idea of round peg into square hole, but that’s what I see when the offensive line blocks for the option game. Especially out of the pistol. The entire group just looked better on zone read plays and when running out of the I.
In order for this option return to 1995 offense to work the fullbacks, who really struggled on Saturday, have to do their job in conjunction with the offensive line.
Now with all that bad, I hope it doesn’t cover up the good you can see early on in this offense. Martinez looks as healthy as he did thru week 7 of last season. He has that breakaway top end speed back. Martinez also showed us the ability to audible several times including on 4th down in the second quarter. Burkhead went one way while Martinez took off around the left side for a 43 yard TD run with FB Tyler Legate at his side.
Rex looked fine in his limited opportunities and missed a 59 yard TD run by a toenail. Burkhead was also a part of a the three back-formation that has come to be known as Diamond by OU and Okie State. Burkhead along with freshman Aaron Green and Ameer Abdullah on all sides of Martinez. Braylon Heard also lined up in the three back set later in the game and had to recover a wide pitch.
Several young player really stood out after game one. Once again true freshman Jamal Turner showed how electric he can be after catching a pass from redshirt freshman Brion Carnes. Breaking a tackle and coming a shoestring tackle away from a long TD. Ameer Abdullah showed why he is the number one punt returner. Abdullah’s lateral quickness an acceleration is perfectly suited for a return man. And let’s throw Sophomore Quincy Enunwa into the mix. Enunwa plays even larger than his 6’2 210 frame. His four catches weren’t eye-popping but you can see the potential of a big time big ten receiver. He was also one of the few that excelled as a blocker
If there was an MVP of the game it might be Brett Maher. It’s never easy when you take over for the best player at a position in team history. Maher not only filled the shoes of Alex Henery as a place kicker kicking three FGs but Maher also averaged 52 yards on four punts. Combine that with his kickoffs into the endzone Maher had nearly a perfect opening weekend.
What can u say about NU’s defense? Cam Meredith played like a true beast with 2 sacks and an interception. Lavonte David led the team with 9 total tackles. And the all-america candidate Jared Crick pushed around the Chattanooga offensive live. Tipping the pass that led to Meredith’s interception. Two more names have to be mentioned, Trevor Roach finished with 7 tackles after coming in for an injured Will Compton. Roach is the perfect complement to David.
And then there’s the human missile Daimion Stafford. The junior college transfer immediately made his name known when he crashed down from his safety spot and laid out Chattanooga RB Chris Awuah. In case you missed it the first time Stafford did it again a few minutes later.
Other big hits came from Corey Cooper and Harvey Jackson on special teams.
The one real slip up on defense was an actual slip by Andrew Green on the TD pass to Marlon Anthony.
Overall you have to give the entire performance a C+. Even with the struggles of the offense they still scored 40. Suffering only 2 penalties, but again putting the ball on the field turf four times losing two. One of which was a miscommunication on a punt return with Abdullah and Wil Richards.
The one question I walk away from game one with is, was it absolutely necessary to play all three freshman running backs? In the long run it may not matter, but when you have three guys who are so similar you have to wonder if there are enough carries to go around.
Anyway see you next week for Fresno State.