College Football

The Cornhusker Recap, Week 2: Pick ‘Em, Cowboy

The final score read 52-17, but entering the fourth quarter, Nebraska held only a 24-17 lead and things felt awfully similar to Fresno State. Then things finally kicked into gear for the Cornhuskers.

Tommy Armstrong Jr. hit Jordan Westerkamp for a beautiful 34- yard touchdown and the defense turned it up. After already intercepting Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen twice, the secondary added three more in the fourth quarter alone. Two came by way of Nate Gerry, giving us a hilarious moment (and a penalty) when Gerry handed the ball back to Allen (Gerry claims he thought Allen was the referee, but let’s be honest: it was some savage taunting). And when Ross Dzuris recovered a fumbled lateral, you knew things just weren’t going Wyoming’s way for the rest of the game.

The final quarter turned a could-be nightmare into a runaway Nebraska victory. Instead of relying on the running game as in week one, this week’s game plan leaned heavily on the passing attack. Tommy and Co. put up 412 yards through the air for four touchdowns. 138 yards on the ground isn’t exactly terrible by any means, but a week after running for 301, we’re left to wonder if Nebraska’s reduced ground game was a conscious choice on the coaches’ part or the inability to get things going on the ground.

If you want to have a glass-half-full view, Nebraska has now put up a dominant rushing and receiving performance, just in different weeks. If they want to have any chance of grounding the high-flying Ducks next week, it might be time to see an even mix of the two.

If you’re a glass-half-empty person, you can point out the team’s struggle with special teams which showed no improvement and might have even gotten worse over the past week. The lowlight was punter Caleb Lightbourn’s bizarre decision to take a fake punt into his own hands, which he apparently wasn’t supposed to do. From my vantage point, Lightbourn actually made a good read. He just needed the rest of the players on the same page; no one was ready to block the Wyoming players who went after him.

De’Mornay Pierson-El got his spot back as the top punt returner, but for the second straight week, Nebraska failed to register a single return yard. I don’t know how Oregon’s special teams will stack up next week, but it’s not hard to imagine some crucial errors in the kicking game making a big difference if they aren’t cleaned up.

Still, Nebraska delivered a knockout punch when they needed to. An effective air attack and a ball-hawking secondary combined to move the Huskers to 2-0 before their first big test of the season. Is it next Saturday yet?

On with the Recap.

Opponent Round-Up:

Previous Opponents: 2-2

Fresno State (1-1): 31-3 win over Sacramento State.
Wyoming (1-1): Annnnd Nate Gerry just intercepted another pass.

Future Opponents: 16-4

9/17 #24 Oregon (2-0): 44-26 win over Virginia. (2:30 PM, TV: ABC)
9/24 @ Northwestern (0-2): 9-7 loss to Illinois State. (6:30 PM, TV: BTN)
10/1 Illinois (1-1): 48-23 loss to North Carolina. (2:30 PM, TV: TBA)
10/8 Bye Week
10/15 @ Indiana (2-0): 30-20 win over Ball State. (2:30 PM, TV: TBA)
10/22 Purdue (1-1): 38-20 loss to Cincinnati. (Time & TV TBA)
10/29 @ #10 Wisconsin (2-0): 54-10 win over Akron. (6:00 PM, TV: ABC/ESPN/2)
11/5 @ #4 Ohio State (2-0): 48-3 win over Tulsa. (7:00 PM, TV: ABC/ESPN/2)
11/12 Minnesota (2-0): 58-28 win over Indiana State. (6:30 PM, TV: BTN)
11/19 Maryland (2-0): 41-14 win at Florida International. (Time & TV TBA)
11/25 @ #16 Iowa (2-0): 42-3 win over Iowa State. (Time & TV TBA)

LOL Northwestern.

The Tommy-to-Taylor Ladder:

Tommy eclipsed his week one output just a little bit with 377 yards on 20-of-34 passing. That puts him just 82 yards behind Taylor Martinez for Nebraska’s top passing-yards slot.

1. Taylor Martinez (7,258)
2. Tommy Armstrong Jr. (7,176)
3. Zac Taylor (5,850)
4. Joe Ganz (5,125)
5. Dave Humm (5,035)
6. Jerry Tagge (4,704)
7. Eric Crouch (4,481)
8. Tommie Frazier (3,521)
9. Turner Gill (3,317)
10. Vince Ferragamo (3,224)

In addition to all his yards, Armstrong’s 57th touchdown pass of his Nebraska career on Saturday was enough to put him over Martinez for most touchdowns thrown as a Nebraska quarterback. He’s got a lot of time left to put a huge cushion between himself and his next challenger.

The Wester-Ladder:

Now that’s more like it. 105 yards on four receptions and two touchdowns is a lot closer to the Jordan Westerkamp we know than the six yards he hauled in last week.

1. Kenny Bell (2,689)
2. Johnny Rodgers (2,479)
3. Nate Swift (2,476)
4. Jordan Westerkamp (2,059)
5. Terrence Nunn (1,762)
6. Todd Peterson (1,602)
7. Niles Paul (1,532)
8. Quincy Enunwa (1,526)
9. Matt Davison (1,456)
10. Maurice Purify (1,444)

Those 105 yards were enough to make him only the fourth receiver in Nebraska history to cross the 2,000-yard threshold, and 417 yards away from entering the top three.

Odds & N’s:

This might be the dumbest complaint of mine you’ll read all year, but the flags of all the other Big Ten teams held by the band during the pregame ceremonies are neither organized by conference divisions or alphabetically. I think this should change.

Another thing that needs to change? Section markers. Every Saturday, dozens of people sit in section 19, thinking it’s section 18. I hope this is an indication of confusing signs rather than the collective intelligence of Husker fans.

Overall, I enjoy the music selection at Memorial Stadium. “California Love” and “Take It To Da House” were two great choices that stuck out to me. But how, how, HOW can you tease me with Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight” and not play it through to the end?!? I need that drum solo!

Officially, the attendance was only 118 fewer than against Fresno. Anecdotally, however? Seemed a lot less than that. There were multiple empty patches throughout the stadium at kickoff. Maybe I just wasn’t paying enough attention in week one, but it’s a good thing the sellout streak isn’t an attendance streak.

Might as well keep airing my beefs while I’m on a roll. In recent years NU has added ad ribbons below each club level on the east and west sides, and smaller ones just behind the end zones. So how about we take a few of them off the main scoreboard? Seems like we can afford it, and we’d have at least 50% more screen space.

But hey, it’s not all bad up there. This year’s new “name that tune” gimmick is pretty fun. The audience is asked to identify a song’s title and artist before Husker athletes on the screen can do the same. I’m going to just let you know I’ve yet to be beaten to the punch by any of them yet this year. Where’s my prize?

It doesn’t actually count because of a penalty, but Armstrong had a SICK juke on a called-back touchdown run.

We’re sure playing some great field-goal defense this year, don’t you think?

Sam McKewon writes that a shining secondary was the spotlight, but penalties are still a huge concern.

Tom Shatel writes that NU-Oregon could be fascinating — depending on which Nebraska shows up.

The Husker receivers get a nod from Armstrong after his record day, writes Tony Boone.

Craig Bohl’s return to his hometown didn’t go as planned, writes Steve Beideck.

Opponent Preview:

And here she comes. The crown jewel of the 2016 Nebraska Cornhuskers’ home schedule: the Oregon Ducks.

If you stayed up late enough last Saturday, you saw a high-powered offense start slowly against Virginia but gradually build up steam throughout the first half until the Cavaliers simply couldn’t keep up. (I headed to bed once Oregon had built a 30-6 halftime lead.) Virginia must have responded with a decent second half, as the final score ended up 44-26, but it was too little too late.

Defensive coordinator Mark Banker is chomping at the bit to take on Oregon again, but his task is a tall one. Oregon quarterback is averaging over 300 yards in the air and just under 10 yards per completion. Any number of players seem capable of ripping off a huge play at any time. Through two games, the Ducks already have touchdowns of 33 (RB Tony Brooks-James), 55 (WR Darren Carrington II), 77 (WR Devon Allen), and 85 yards (RB Royce Freeman). The defense will need to be at its very best to have a chance of slowing down the Ducks. (This sentence presented by Captain Obvious.)

All previous Nebraska-Oregon games took place between 1952 and 1986, with the Huskers claiming a 5-1 advantage. The Ducks’ lone win was a 20-12 contest in 1953, which also marks the most points Oregon has ever scored against Nebraska. Something tells me this version of Oregon is going to be slightly more difficult to hold to 20 points.

Thanks for reading! See you back here next week.

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