Welcome to the Husker Monday Marinade. Each week we will take a unique look at the week that was, the week that will be and the opinions that will drive the debate about Nebraska Cornhusker Football. Please feel free to add to the conversation below, share on Facebook and Tweet it!
We escaped, maybe even stole one from Northwestern Saturday. But that game was more about what didn’t happen then what did.
Nebraska didn’t finish drives. They took the first drive of the game and established Quincy Enunwa early, hitting him for a 30-yard catch, which would become a reoccurring theme. Martinez drives the team to the 10 and can’t convert a third&2 and they settle for three. A touchdown there goes a long way to establish dominance early, and tune up a pro-Husker crowd. Later in the third quarter, down 21-10 the Huskers drove to the Wildcat 28 and stalled when a 4th-and-3 went horribly wrong for a 10-yard loss.
Nebraska didn’t play smart on special teams. The penalty on Daimion Stafford on the muffed punt probably cost the Huskers seven points, and for sure three. That could have made it 10-0. The mistake was as good as a seven-point safety.
Then, Brett Maher shanked a 16-yard punt mid-way through the second quarter, giving the Wildcats a short field. Northwestern went just 50 yards and took a 14-10 lead at half.
Nebraska didn’t take advantage of the defense’s strong first quarter, a la Ohio State. The #Huskers defense came out with two #3&O’s and the offense couldn’t replicate their first drive success, and nearly gave up a safety. The punt following that drive gave the Wildcats the ball at Nebraska’s 49 and again the defense got a #3&O, but Ameer Abdullah fumbled the punt away and three plays, 14 yards later NW had a 7-3 lead.
Nebraska didn’t do themselves any favors. I kept a running tab during my live Twitter feed (@bbrashaw) during the game of how many points the Huskers cost themselves. Between the aforementioned special teams errors and Kyler Reed’s fumble at the NW 22, cost Nebraska between 20-24 points.
Nebraska is -6 the last two games in turnover ratio, amounting to between a 42-52 point swing. These are points Nebraska can’t sacrifice next week.
Nebraska didn’t stop the big play. Maybe this isn’t fair to say. The Husker defense did a fantastic job stopping the Wildcat attack. Northwestern had just 301 yards of total offense, but 80 of those yards were on one play at a very inopportune time in the game. The touchdown led to a 21-10 lead for NW and that old pit in the stomach crept up in Husker fans again, and had plenty on Twitter saying Bo Pelini was now coaching for his job.
Nebraska didn’t help their defense. Northwestern’s scoring drives were 14, 50, 52 and 93 yards (the 93-yarder a result of the 80-yard run). Its not like the Wildcats put together long, sustained, time-and-momentum killing drives. Even Ohio State only had two drives of the 10+ play 70+ yard variety, the rest were big plays, turnovers, etc.
Nebraska didn’t convert two-point conversions. This is my last negative, but perhaps the most important part of the game. When they scored and pulled the game to 21-16 in the third quarter, they went for two. I wasn’t alone in my thinking that it was too early. They didn’t convert and when they scored the go-ahead they had to go for two again and failed. If they just kick the extra points, they don’t have to sweat the late 53-yarder to beat them, it could only tie. Easy to say now, but with more than 15 minutes left in a dog fight of a game, I thought it was early.
Now the good things Nebraska didn’t do.
Nebraska didn’t quit and they didn’t panic. It felt a bit like the Wisconsin game in that the Huskers had to mount another comeback, but the Wisconsin game was different in that, to me, it always felt like Nebraska was the better team and would eventually come out on top.
In this game, I thought like Nebraska was the better team, but down 12 with just over eight minutes to go, it felt they had just made too many mistakes. They proved us all wrong and showed fight and tenacity, an aspect we have yet to see from this team this year.
Nebraska didn’t let the absence of Rex Burkhead be an excuse. I think the loss of Rex Burkhead was more than just field production. Rex is the senior leader of that offense and it would have been nice to have him on the field to calm the team down. But they fought through and came together. An encouraging sign for the rest of the season.
Nebraska didn’t win despite Taylor Martinez, they won BECAUSE of him. Martinez was solid for the majority of the game and nothing short of brilliant the last two drives. I was very critical of Martinez on huskersonline.com last week saying he wasn’t a leader, he didn’t have the ability or desire to carry this team on his shoulders. After two-and-a-half years of him starting, he finally did just that Saturday. He refused to let the Huskers down and carried a bit of Bo’s weight.
Martinez engineered two drives of 80 yards and 76 yards, Nebraska’s two longest of the day, both ending in passing touchdowns. He didn’t seem to revert to his old style motion, he stepped in, fired and succeeded. He turned in a card of 27-39 passing, 342 yards, three TD’s and most importantly, no fumbles and no interceptions.
Quincy Enunwa didn’t stop ballin. From the first 30-yard grab he made in the first quarter to the two he made in the fourth, Enunwa was in full-on beast mode and became a legit weapon and will made a nice addition to the Kenny Bell-led aerial assault going forward.
Who knows what next week will bring as, every game is the biggest game from here on, and I certainly wish Michigan State would have done us a little favor by beating Michigan. However, not one game did I think the Huskers were not the better team, top-to-bottom. Less mistakes = more wins, period.
Nebraskans didn’t expect last Saturday’s game, but we got the result. But we’ve already had the expectation talk, haven’t we. Until next week, Husker fan.