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Nebraska vs. FAU Cheers and JeersPosted Wednesday, September 9, 2009, at 10:51 AM
Folks, I apologize for the late posting. I made the most of my Labor Day weekend, and I hope you did the same as well.
For this recap of the first Nebraska Cornhusker game of the 2009 season, I decided to give a few short blurbs about the positive and negative aspects of the game and the first weekend of college football in general. In addition, I would love to see what you guys come up in the comment section (which has been the most interesting part of this blogging experience so far).
* Aside from the win, the most impressive theme of the game to me was that nearly all of questions surrounding this Nebraska team were answered in a positive way. 1) The receivers did not show a lack of experience (save for a couple dropped passes that I'll chalk up to first game jitters), instead Holt, Gilleylen, and Paul put on a showcase of athleticism and explosiveness that has been missing since the departure of Mo' Purify. 2) It took only one half of football to make Zach Lee look like a bonafide starting quarterback. Sure there were some balls thrown behind receivers and some unnecessary risks taken (throwing into coverage when he easily could have ran for a first down), but Lee has a cannon for an arm and made better decisions as the game wore on.
*Jared Crick showed that the graduation of defensive end Zach Potter and his ginormous hands was not going to keep this team from their share of blocked field goals and deflected passes.
*Coming in to this season, one of my biggest concerns about this Nebraska team was their reliance on the play of freshmen. Consider those fears gone. Redshirt freshman and starting linebackers Will Compton and Sean Fisher were anything but detriments to this otherwise experienced Blackshirt defense. Backup Quarterback Cody Green brought an already satisfied crowd to their feet during fourth quarter junk time, when he pulled off an impressive 49 yard run. Probably the most impressive though was backup running back, Rex Burkhead (10 rushes, 48 yards, 1 touchdown) who showed that his YouTube highlight videos were the real deal. At times he looked better than the starting running back, Roy Helu Jr., who only managed 32 yards rushing before Burkhead got his first touches in the second quarter.
*Speaking of Helu...after Burkhead impressed the 298th consecutive sellout crowd with his first carries as a Husker, the game belonged to Roy. Whether he saw a freshman nipping at his heels for playing time or he just need a short break to shake off all his offseason rust, Helu looked every-bit like an All-American during the second and third quarters of Satruday's game. Helu finished the game with 157 yards rushing, three touchdowns, and little doubt that he will be one of the marque backs in the Big-12 conferece this year.
* I couldn't help but use this moment to gloat a little about my observations on the Mountain West conference. With BYU upsetting a Sam Bradford-less Oklahoma (Note: BYU was probably going to win that game with Bradford in the game as well) and Colorado State embarrassing Colorado on their home field, the Mountain West continues to strengthen its case that it should be among the auto-bid conferences in the BCS.
*While it's hard to complain about a 49-3 win, there were still some areas that the Huskers must improve on if they hope to win the Big-12 North. 1) I felt unimpressed by both the offensive and defensive lines during the game. During the first half, the running holes were not set up and Husker backs were having to shed tackles as soon as they reached the line of scrimmage. While Suh was his typical dominant self (chasing down running backs ten yards past the line of scrimmage? Ridiculous!), the rest of the defensive line was underwhelming. There was minimal pressure put on FAU's NFL caliber quarterback, Rusty Smith, and 122 yards rushing is too much to give up to a team of that caliber. 2) While the punt coverage was fantastic, the kickoff team left something to be desired. And if the punt team does not sure up its protection, Virginia Tech will make a living off disrupting Alex Henry.
* I really felt bad for Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs. After a spectacular 24 yard touchdown run to put his team in an opportunity to tie the sixth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes with a two point conversion, Dobbs throws an interception that gets run back all the way to the other end-zone to give Ohio State a four point lead with two minutes to go in the game. It's a heartbreaking ending to an otherwise thrilling game.
* After watching Missouri manhandle a hapless Illinois team, that Thursday night game in Colombia becomes more and more worrisome.
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My name is Kevin Forch, a Stratton, Nebraska native who uses the McCook Gazette webpage to keep up on the hometown news. I am also a recent graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who now lives in Kansas, where I work at a community college.