Nebraska started the season out with a 29 point victory at home. Taylor Martinez, and company take their high powered offense on the road this week. They answered a lot of questions last week, while the defense, and special teams left people wondering after the game.
Things We Need To See Out of the Offense
Senior running back Rex Burkhead sprained his MCL in his left knee in the first quarter against Southern Miss. It is very unlikely he will play against UCLA on Saturday. With that in mind, the Nebraska coaching staff needs to keep a solid rotation at running back against the Bruins, with sophomores Ammer Abdullah, Braylon Heard, and Imani Cross.
Heard carried the ball, 3 times for 34 yards. After switching over to the defensive side of the ball in the spring, Heard came back to his original position at running back, and he seemed to be running with purpose on Saturday. Heard earned more than 3 carries on Saturday. If it wasn’t so out of hand, he may have rushed the ball about 10 times. Look for Heard to get more involved in the running game if Burkhead can’t go.
Senior tight end Kyler Reed led Nebraska receivers in catches as a sophomore. Saturday against Southern Miss., he had 5 catches, 2nd most on the team, for 57 yards and one touchdown. Reed is as dangerous as any tight end in the country, his involvement in the offense is crucial going forward.
Redshirt junior quarterback, Taylor Martinez may have thrown his hat into the Heisman race on Saturday. He had the best performance of his career against Southern Miss. He completed 26 passes to 10 different receivers, but this doesn’t really tell the whole story. The most impressive thing about Martinez’s performance will not show up on a stat sheet. The California native was reading through all of his progressions in a timely manner, and really didn’t force a throw on Saturday. On every play, Martinez found the open guy. If that continues the Husker signal caller may find his way to New York at the end of the season.
One of the most surprising things Saturday was the offensive line play. The guys up front allowed one sack, and missed a few blocks, but those plays didn’t result in a loss, but a a whole, the “Pipeline,” played well. It was the first game of the season, and there were a few mistakes up front, but they can be corrected. If Nebraska can continue to be a diverse offense, it will be interesting to see how far this offensive line can go. They will need a big game against a very talented front four of UCLA.
The O-line didn’t draw one penalty on Saturday. That is the first time that has happened in the Pelini era.
Things We Need To See Out of the Blackshirts
After the very first drive against Southern Miss., Nebraska’s defense struggled through the first half. The Golden Eagles offense went 7-14 on 3rd down for the game. The biggest question on the defense going into week 1 was the defensive line. I don’t think any questions got answered. Senior defensive end Cameron Meredith struggled again. He missed two tackles where he was clearly outmatched athletically. The thing Meredith needs to work on is keeping containment. There was a play with 1:26 left in the first where Chris Campbell, a not very athletic quarterback, broke of a 12 yard run, because Meredith bit on an inside run. This can’t keep happening this season if Nebraska wants to win a Conference Championship.
The defense was vastly improved in the second half. A half where freshmen Avery Moss, and Aaron Curry saw the field, and impressed. The Huskers recorded two sacks on Saturday, neither were recorded by a defensive linemen. Senior defensive ends Joseph Carter, and Eric Martin were the only two defensive linemen accredited with quarterbacks hit.
The game ball for the defense goes to Will Compton. The senior linebacker finished the day with a team leading 12 tackles, a sack for a 12 yard loss, and was the center of the energy for the Blackshirts. With the loss of Lavonte David, Compton is going to have to be cornerstone of this defense. He played out of his mind on Saturday, and for this defense to be successful going forward, Compton will have to stay on that level.
If Compton was the most impressive defensive player on Saturday, Ciante Evans was a close second. There were reports that he was the most improved player in the off season, and it showed on Saturday. He had 1 tackle, and 1 pass breakup, and then the Golden Eagles tried throwing anywhere else. The junior could be competing with Andrew Green for a starting position at Corner going forward.
Things We Need To See Out of the Special Teams
ANYTHING ELSE! First Team All-American kicker Brett Maher struggled more than anyone on Saturday. He missed two field goals, had a kick off go out of bounce, missed a tackle on a kick off return in the first quarter, and had a 16 yard punt. The thing that I noticed after rewatching the Southern Miss game, was Maher was slow to get up after missing that tackle on Tracey Lamply. That is something to watch for in the coming weeks, is Mahers health.
By Jimmie Allen
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