|All Points West: Huskers could feast on Hawks|
|November 20, 2015 Frank Marquez|
The 31-14 win over the Rutger Scarlet Knights concerns me only in that against a Top 10 team like Iowa, you can’t make mistakes. There is no room for error. There is no try, there is only do. Nebraska will probably need more than Yoda’s advice come Nov. 27 when Iowa comes to town. We’ll need to break new decibel levels with the 12th man; Herbie Husker needs to get mean; and for once I want to see our student section put up some decent signs. Let’s roast a new kind of bird post-Thanksgiving. Hopefully, the Huskers will still have their appetite for winning and push to a much needed 6-6 record. Who would’ve ever thought in a million years, Husker fans would be happy with a .500 team. You got to give Nebraska style points.
But first, let’s get through the bye week without incident.
As for reasons to be thankful. We could have been our own worst enemy against Rutgers, ala the 55-45 collapse at Purdue. Thankfully, the team stayed focused, finding it could score against a soft secondary. It seemed QB Tommy Armstrong gained the much-needed control over his powerful throwing arm in the first quarter of the game against Rutgers, going 8-for-8 in passing in the first quarter. Then, call it old habits, the wind, the errant footwork, or Gremlins nipping at the pigskin, Tommy threw three picks, two that went for relatively easy scores by the Knights (And I thought the ‘gimmes’ only happened in sandlot football).
I say relatively easy scores because Rutgers on their second drive toward the end zone had to work against an almost air tight Black Shirt defense; Knights QB Chris Laviano found favored target Leonte Carroo for 30 yards to the Nebraska 5-yard line in the third quarter. This was a slight defensive lapse given Carroo wasn’t 100 percent. In all, Tommy threw for 14-of-21 amassing 188 yards.
One of Tommy’s usual targets through the air Tight End Cethan Carter turned running back for one play and ambled 32 yards for Nebraska’s first score – a credit to the coaching staff for trying new things, and utilizing the strengths of its players.
Another positive: Armstrong is spreading the ball around, and enforcing the concept of there being no ‘I’ in Team. Carter ended the game with 57 yards and a 14.3 average, a sure weapon against Iowa. This adds to the cupboard of sure-handed targets in Jordan Westerkamp and Brandon Reilly, who went out with a sore ankle early the game. Armstrong found seven different receivers overall.
Promoting a balanced attack, chalk up more smart approaches to the coaching staff and Offensive Coordinator Danny Langsdorf for making believers out of running backs Imani Cross and Devine Ozigbo who ate up the turf at a steady rate. Ozigbo’s 33 yards backed up the Cross, who tallied 90 total yards. On Mark Banker’s defense, defensive backs Nate Gerry and Chris Jones notched picks in the second half, showing the secondary has learned how not to get burned. Meanwhile, Gerry leads the team in total tackles with 72
“The only reason we’ve been in this, is because they kept working,” Coach Mike Riley said about his Nebraska team in the post-game interview.
A vital member of the good hands’ club, Wide Receiver Brandon Reilly sat out with ankle injury, but with the bye week has some time to work himself back into the line-up.
Notes: The Big Ten accounts for nearly one quarter of the top 20 teams in the nation, with Iowa, Michigan State, Michigan, Northwestern and Wisconsin at No. 22. What does that say about Nebraska’s season? We’re not playing in some patsy league; Nebraska has played some tough battles albeit against the unranked persuasion for the most part. Given the way the Gophers tested Iowa, expect the league to get tougher as time goes on. Nebraska isn’t running the gauntlet like a Notre Dame, but give it time.
If Nebraska can pull off the pre-supposed upset against the Iowa Hawkeyes (tested by Minnesota through three quarters of last Saturday’s game in Iowa City) at home in Lincoln, we will most surely go bowling.
This might also earn the Huskers a post-season ranking, depending upon who they meet. This would indicate the possibility a coaching staff passionate and willing to work with a core of players who truly want to be part of the Big Red mystique.
Again, give it time.
If by chance, Nebraska doesn’t make it to a post-season venue. I for one will be looking forward to the Spring Game for any first signs of hope, even it’s a small leaf trying to break through two large slabs of concrete in Memorial Stadium. In the meantime …