Nebraska defeated Arkansas State 42-13 in a game that will likely be remembered more for who was on the sidelines rather than what happened on the field. Head coach Bo Pelini did not return from the locker room in the second half, instead being transported to a local hospital as a precautionary measure.
But now that we can be reasonably comfortable that Pelini’s health issues have been resolved, we can take a look at the game itself and determine the winners and losers for Nebraska.
With Rex Burkhead out for another game due to an MCL injury, Ameer Abdullah got his chance to show his ability as a front-line tailback. Abdullah responded with 167 yards on 30 carries, and two touchdowns.
Against Southern Miss, the carries were divided between Abdullah, Braylon Heard and Imani Cross. Against Arkansas State, Abdullah staked his claim for sole ownership of the backup role behind Burkhead.
There were a number of new faces on the field for the Blackshirts and many of them made an impression in Nebraska’s defensive bounceback against Arkansas State.
But it was senior Eric Martin, moving between rush end and linebacker and providing Nebraska with much-needed pressure into the opposing backfield, that may have shone the brightest.
First-year defensive coordinator John Papuchis was thrown into an unexpected role, leading Nebraska when head coach Bo Pelini was taken to the hospital during the second half of the game against Arkansas State.
While all signs point to Pelini being just fine after his hospital stay, Papuchis gained some valuable experience and credibility taking charge of Nebraska on the field and helping to make sure Arkansas State was not able to generate a comeback.
Ciante Evans has seen a great deal of time on the field as a nickelback, covering receivers and helping out in run support. Evans’ success is giving Nebraska more confidence to remain in a two-linebacker set. The person likely to lose playing time as a result of Evans’ emergence is Sean Fisher.
Braylon Heard found himself securely behind Ameer Abdullah on the depth chart against Arkansas State. Heard only had 10 carries for 54 yards.
Worse, Heard’s miscommunication with Taylor Martinez on a zone read caused one of Nebraska’s three fumbles. That turnover will do nothing to help Heard move up the depth chart.
Fullback Mike Marrow is starting to see his playing time eaten into by C.J. Zimmerer. He is starting to see his number of touches decline, from four against Southern Miss to one against Arkansas State.
And his fumble on the goal line as Nebraska was finishing out the game against the Red Wolves, coupled with his inability to convert a first down in one of the most critical plays against UCLA, means that Marrow’s opportunities to participate with the ball in his hands may be diminishing.
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