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Nebraska vs. FAU Cheers and Jeers

Posted 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).

Cheers -

* 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.

Jeers -

*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.


Comments
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I'm just an old fogie. Mourning the days of O'Brian when the Husker roster was totally dominated by "local" talent developed at Lincoln.

Accepting there will always be out-of-state, even out-of-region athletes seeking playing time with every major NCAA athletic power.

One of my OSU roommates paid his own way after going to the Olympic wrestling tryout finals in hopes of becoming an NCAA champion.

But, no alumni bought him a car, or fraternity membership, or full wardrobe. He paid for his own train tickets from northern New Jersey, out-of-state tuition and all living expenses.

NCAA athletics now are a bidding war for mercenaries. Anyone who thinks for a moment OU, Texas, Texas A&M, OSU, Colorado, Texas Tech, and a number of other athletic programs don't have outstanding summer jobs in the "oil patch" available for "student athletes" who don't stay on campus year round for the conditioning programs, needs to grind their coffee beans a little finer.

-- Posted by HerndonHank on Fri, Sep 11, 2009, at 4:01 PM

I agree with you ekimsitruc, game 3 will tell us more than the rest of the early games. I will say this on behalf of FAU, and Arkansas State, parity in the college ranks is growing. Even though FAU was near the bottom 5 in the country, that is not as big a gap as there used to be in college football. They have won more bowl games in a row than Nebraska, smaller bowls of course, but also a smaller program. It was a great season opener and nobody can leave too distraught about the upcoming season. A few years ago (2001, I believe), we played an early season game against TCU and several people were upset that we didn't destroy them. Later they made a bowl game and Nebraska played for a national title (although Miami let us have it). So maybe FAU is better than people think and maybe we are as good as some people think, only time will tell.

As far as people basing arguments on rankings I would like to point out how terribly off they are sometimes. Last year Clemson was a top 5 team and did not pan out so who is to say that they know what they are talking about at the bottom 5?

Also, great call on the Mountain West Mr. Kevin!! I love the conference and even though I am a Big 12 fan, my disdain for Colorado allowed me to cheer repeatedly in my basement for CSU as they embarrassed their opponent. Fantastic conference and an even better call by yourself.

-- Posted by jlewis on Thu, Sep 10, 2009, at 4:03 PM

The question now on offense for Oklahoma becomes what are they gonna do to replace Gresham their all-american tightend that is done for the year.

-- Posted by S&DC on Thu, Sep 10, 2009, at 10:36 AM

I think it's pretty unfair to question Bradford's decision to stay in school. He turned down the opportunity to become the first pick in the draft and one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the league, to remain in school and contend for a national championship. I can't fault a guy for that.

I still think he'll be a top five pick next year. It seems that the news on his shoulder gets better by the day. However, the same cannot be said for their national championship hopes with Gresham out for the season.

-- Posted by kdf84 on Wed, Sep 9, 2009, at 6:57 PM

I don't agree that BYU probably would have beaten Oklahoma had Sam Bradford not been injured in the first half, but it would have been a tight game. Not taking anything away from BYU, they came to play.

Oklahoma has serious questions on offense with or without Sam Bradford. The running game is atrocious and the offensive line looked absolutely lost out there. This could be a rough year for Oklahoma and leave Sam Bradford wondering if he probably should have gone on to the pros last year. At the beginning of this year he was project a top five if not the top pick of next years draft, but with this injury and the questions on offense, I see his stock going down.

And not to take anything away from Nebraska, but let's remember who they played, Florida Atlantic, who got a nod, though outside the list, in the Bottom Ten on ESPN.com. I'll hold my opinion on Nebraska and their season until the 3rd game against Virginia Tech.

But all that aside I don't think we could have asked for a better 1st week of the college football season.

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Wed, Sep 9, 2009, at 6:36 PM

mccookreader,

The defensive line, presumably the strength of this team, had zero sacks. Crick and Suh (which sounds like a great crime-fighting duo by the way) did have moments of greatness, but if the line cannot put the pressure on FAU's quarterback we could be in for trouble when facing off against likes of Tyrod Taylor, Robert Griffin, and Todd Reesing.

GI,

You're exactly right. My concerns were with the lack of running lanes early in the game. Those were fixed after halftime and FAU's pass rush did not cause too many problems.

-- Posted by kdf84 on Wed, Sep 9, 2009, at 6:08 PM

That would be because crick never played against McCook... Cozad was C-1 when both Dreu Young and Crick played. They were part of a team that had not only those two but Luke Pinkleman who is at Iowa State now playing tackle and a couple other college athletes. pretty solid for a small town in Nebraska'

Congrats to Jared for putting to rest all the fears that he would not be able to fill Steinkuhler's shoes... he has a ways to go but he stilled did an excellent job.

-- Posted by S&DC on Wed, Sep 9, 2009, at 1:21 PM

I agree with all points but one.

How could you not be impressed with the defensive line?

In the first half FAU ran a lot of screens so of course our d line was going to get in the backfield. But even on plays that weren't screens either Crick or Suh got to the qb. Not only that, Suh made about 4 tackles from running back to the play upfield from where he was in the backfield.

Both Crick and Suh played amazingly. And good to see for Crick since he's a local guy. And it didn't seem like he tore up McCook quite as bad as he did FAU. Haha. Bit of a joke there.

-- Posted by mccookreader on Wed, Sep 9, 2009, at 11:18 AM


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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.
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