The Nebraska Cornhuskers took down the Illinois Fighting Illini 39-19 on Saturday in their Big Ten opener. I caught up with Husker Corner staff writer Josh Shaw to discuss a few topics from the game.
Nebraska played a better game defensively against Illinois but still struggled. What position are you most concerned with on Nebraska’s defense?
Josh Shaw: The linebackers are the weakness. There are still those glaring missed assignments and tackles. Anyone could run against this defense if they cannot progress.
John Ackeren: The linebackers by a landslide. Josh Banderas and Nate Gerry played well early in the season but have fallen off. David Santos has not made any kind of impact through five games. I am not completely sold on Jared Afalava either. Michael Rose had a great outing on Saturday, but we will have to wait and see if that kind of effort is consistent.
Tommy Armstrong managed the offense well enough, but didn’t quite duplicate his performance against South Dakota State. Is this evidence that the discussion about him replacing Taylor Martinez should stop?
Josh Shaw: Taylor Martinez has not exactly amazed us this season either. Tommy handled the game well. He did not turn it over which is something we cannot say for Taylor who seems to fumble once every game. As far as the discussion goes, it won’t end because if Taylor comes back and comes out flat the coaches may turn to Tommy for a spark.
John Ackeren: I don’t think the conversation will end until Taylor Martinez graduates. People who want to see a change will be vocal, and wont be silenced unless Armstrong wins the job outright.
Ameer Abdullah had the biggest game of his career against Illinois. Do you expect opponents to key on him and force Nebraska to win games through the air?
Josh Shaw: No I do not expect them to key on Ameer. The Huskers will see better defenses than what they faced in Illinois. Iowa, Michigan, and Michigan State will challenge Nebraska’s run game. At this point teams cannot key in on Abdullah because of the talent at wide receiver. Kenny Bell and the receiving core will hurt opposing defenses if Abdullah is a point of emphasis for the opposition.
John Ackeren: If they want to shut down Nebraska’s offense they need to shut Abdullah down. Taylor Martinez is a much better passer than he was when he first started as a freshman, but the guy is no Peyton Manning. Tommy Armstrong has the look of a quarterback that can sling it, but he has yet to be tested. If teams shut Ameer down it will be much easier to force the Husker quarterbacks into making mistakes.
Bo Pelini and John Papuchis were seen arguing on the sideline late in the fourth quarter. Do you think this is the beginning of the end between the two coaches?
Josh Shaw: There was a huge communication lapse throughout the game between the two. Sometimes it looks as if Papuchis forgets that Bo makes the defensive calls and he just goes with it. All of the substitution infractions may have been a result of this back and forth arguments between them.
John Ackeren: I firmly believe that the beginning of the end between the two started with the UCLA game. While the defense looked much better against Illinois, there are still multiple issues that have not been corrected. If it comes down to it, Pelini might have to fire his friend.