All Points West: Huskers get away with giveaways
     2014-09-18      By Frank Marquez   
With the big tests ahead, the Huskers cannot afford to be their own worst enemy. This is not sandlot football where you can spot the weaker guy a couple of scores right off the bat.

TV analyst Aaron Taylor remarked that the 55-19 victory over Fresno State was vintage Nebraska. Yes and no. There’s good and bad news. The good news first: Nebraska scored often and in heaps — about two TDs per quarter with a range of rapidly maturing personnel — Heisman candidate Ameer Abdullah at the center of it.

And what, you may ask, was the bad news? In short, Fresno State scored unearned points profiting from Nebraska’s errors. But in light of a potent offense, the bad news wasn’t so bad for Big Red. Keep in mind this cannot happen in the big games. Here is a breakdown of foibles Nebraska cannot afford against Big Ten opponents the likes of the Michigan State Spartans and Wisconsin Badgers, both on Nebraska’s schedule.

Number one was Linebacker David Santos’ bonehead batting of the ball forward on a punt which sailed safely out the back of the end zone in the first quarter. This is football 101 when you treat the ball like a grenade to protect your fellow teammates. It’s live. You either fall on it, or get the hell out of the way. The result: two points for the Dogs.

Number two was the Nebraska D’s over pursuit of Fresno State’s QB Brian Burrell, who scampered 66 yards for a third quarter touchdown. Who knew the kid had wheels? Another fundamental violation showing the inability of the Husker’s defensive ends to contain and force the run inside. With the plays moving forward or laterally, the Black Shirts need to pretend they are Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, and repeat this refrain: “There’s no place like home.” In other words, stay in your lane guys. Don’t even get me started on discipline. The Dogs add seven more points.

Number three was I-back Terrell Newby’s fumble on the Nebraska 14-yard line. Fresno State takes advantage after recovering the ball in the red zone and scores two plays later. While Newby was playing with heart, the Bulldogs were playing for pride. A power run up the gut became the perfect chance for knocking the ball loose. Fresno State’s paws were all over it. Granted, at this point, the game was well in hand. No one gets a free pass here on fumbles. It’s a bad habit and hard to stop once it starts. The result: another seven points for the Dogs.

The only points Fresno State really earned came in the form of a second-quarter 27-yard field goal. Given this fact, the Black Shirts allowed the opposition only three tiny points. In a tug-of-war against a great team, Nebraska prevails, given time of possession and scoring prowess.

Versus Fresno State, awareness turns out to be the biggest lesson. Everyone needs to know where they are during the game, and where they are on the field. Improve awareness, seal out the flubs, and ideally you have a juggernaut that could very well vie for the conference title in a conference full of underachievers. Then factor in all the NCAA’s dark horses, and it’s anybody’s year.

Next up for Nebraska in Week 4: The 2-1 Miami Hurricanes, who fell 31-13 to the Louisville Cardinals in Week 1. Nebraska hosts the Canes in a second consecutive night game. Given the Huskers played well into Sunday morning central time versus Fresno State, sleep deprivation just might turn out to be an advantage for them. There’s something to be said about being too alert, and overthinking plays. When Nebraska settles into a rhythm, it appears unstoppable.

Yet, I would be remiss if I failed to mention weighted matchups, and the unfair and imbalanced power of the press. For Nebraska to climb the rankings ladders, winning a conference crown becomes a must. Not that I think rankings mean a stack of hay bales but Louisville fell out of the AP Top 25 while No. 24 Nebraska moves back up behind eight — count ’em eight — one-loss teams, including No. 23 the Ohio State Buckeyes. How does any of this add up in a true playoff system?

My advice to the Huskers this week: Don’t leave any room for doubt.

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