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Nebraska Football: Grading All 22 Starters from the Capital One Bowl

Patrick RungeCorrespondent IJune 26, 2016

Nebraska Football: Grading All 22 Starters from the Capital One Bowl

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    The Nebraska football season ended with a 45-31 loss to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl. While Nebraska’s defense performed admirably against Georgia’s rushing attack, the Blackshirts surrendered 427 yards passing and five touchdowns as the Bulldogs were able to wear NU down and pull away in the fourth quarter.

    Nebraska ends the season at 10-4, having lost three straight bowl games. This also ends head coach Bo Pelini’s fifth year in charge with another four-loss season. Let’s take a look at Nebraska’s starters for the Capital One Bowl and assess their performance on a 1-10 soccer-style grading scale.

Offensive Line

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    Brent Qvale (LT) – 5.5: Nebraska’s offensive line held up better than expected against the “NFL-ready” defense of Georgia, allowing NU to gain 239 yards rushing. One false start penalty blemishes an otherwise solid performance from Qvale.

    Seung Hoon Choi (LG) – 6: Choi held his own on the interior of Nebraska’s offensive line, providing running lanes and affording better-than-expected protection for Taylor Martinez.

    Cole Pensick (C) – 6: The clubhouse leader to be starting center in 2013, Pensick put on an admirable performance, cleanly handling the snaps and keeping the offensive line in rhythm.

    Spencer Long (RG) – 6: Long, as the most decorated of Nebraska’s offensive linemen, led the way in a surprisingly stout performance, giving Nebraska’s offense a chance to move the ball for most of the game.

    Jeremiah Sirles (RT) – Incomplete: Injury made it difficult to give a fair grade to Sirles’ performance in the Capital One Bowl. It’s probably for the best that Andrew Rodriguez wasn’t listed as a starter, as he was frequently abused on the edge of Nebraska’s offensive line.

Offensive Backers

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    Rex Burkhead (IB) – 8: Oh, what might have been. Through the first three quarters, Nebraska fans got a good look at what NU’s offense with a healthy Burkhead might have looked like. Power, decisiveness, elusiveness and decision-making were all on display as Superman took his swan song in scarlet and cream.

    Taylor Martinez (QB) – 6.5: Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but Martinez’s performance was a challenge to grade. For much of the game, his elusiveness and decision-making (particularly running the zone read) were crucial to Nebraska moving the ball. But the untimely turnovers—this time, two interceptions, including one back-breaking pick as Nebraska was driving to cut the lead in the fourth quarter—snuffed out NU’s chance for another miracle comeback. His ball security, particularly against a strong and aggressive defense like Georgia’s, was first-rate.

Offensive Receivers

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    Kenny Bell (WR) – 7: Four catches for 80 yards and more strong down-field blocking, makes “The Fro” a leading candidate for best receiver in the Big Ten coming into 2013.

    Jamal Turner (WR) – 7: While Turner missed a few opportunities, it was clear early in the game that offensive coordinator Tim Beck was looking to his playmaking abilities. If you’re looking for a breakout candidate for 2013, Turner should be your first stop.

    Quincy Enunwa (WR) – 6.5: Enunwa had a quiet afternoon, but his one first-down catch summarized the weapon he can be. Enunwa got past the marker and used his big body as a shield to hold the ball and his position to gain Nebraska a first down. While not flashy, Enunwa’s contributions are a big part of Nebraska’s offensive success.

    Ben Cotton (TE) – 7: A 56-yard reception in the first half helped spark Nebraska’s offense and prevent another slippery slope blowout like Ohio State and Wisconsin. Cotton’s contributions will be missed by Nebraska in 2013.

Defensive Line

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    Eric Martin (DE) – 7: Martin only had three tackles, but had two tackles for loss and continued to be a disruptive threat in Georgia’s backfield. His attitude, along with his playmaking ability, stood out in an otherwise poor defensive performance for Nebraska.

    Cameron Meredith (DT) – 7: For a guy giving up almost 100 pounds moving inside from end to tackle, Meredith performed remarkably well. He had two tackles, a tackle for loss and a sack, and helped contain Georgia’s rushing attack.

    Thaddeus Randle (DT) – 6: Injuries have hampered Randle throughout the season, so it was good to see him get the start and put in a solid performance. His stats in the game weren’t impressive, but the defensive line wasn’t the primary culprit for Nebraska’s performance.

    Jason Ankrah (DE) – 6.5: With two tackles and a tackle for loss, Ankrah played with the energy and drive of a man trying to claim a starting spot on the line next season. If you’re looking for a potential defensive breakout player next year, Ankrah wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

Defensive Linebackers

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    Will Compton (MIKE) – 8: Compton may be the most underappreciated senior graduating in 2012. He led the team in tackles for the game, scored on a pick-six interception and held his position to stop Georgia from gashing Nebraska on the ground the way Wisconsin did in the Big Ten title game.

    Corey Cooper (DB) – 5.5: Yes, I know he’s listed as a defensive back, but basically Cooper played as a peso-style hybrid linebacker/safety. While never glaringly poor, Cooper’s performance was relatively anonymous.

Defensive Backs

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    Andrew Green (CB) – 4.5: Nebraska’s plan for much of the game against Georgia appeared to be to fill the box, pressure quarterback Aaron Murray and let the cornerbacks make plays. Unfortunately, Green was not able to do so and was on the wrong end of a number of long Bulldog throws that ultimately decided the game.

    Josh Mitchell (CB) – 5: While not having the glaring losses on the edges, Mitchell’s performance was nondescript in a unit whose failure really was the difference in the game.

    Ciante Evans (CB) – 5: Evans has been one of the shining lights of Nebraska’s defensive season as a nickelback/hybrid safety/linebacker. Unfortunately, his performance when moved back to corner left much to be desired, getting beat on a number of long throws and giving up touchdowns.

    P.J. Smith (S) – 6: Smith’s first-half interception was crucial to help keep Nebraska in the game, and he was prolific in tackles and run support. But Nebraska’s safeties were complicit in some of the long throws Georgia hit on NU, helping to decide the contest.

    Daimion Stafford (S) – 6: Stafford’s open-field tackling, a weakness against Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game that helped to create such an embarrassing score, was significantly improved against Georgia. Unfortunately, his coverage skills came up wanting, and his angles were partly complicit for some of the bombs struck against NU’s secondary.

    If you’d like to contact Patrick to schedule an interview, provide feedback or get advice on which type of chocolate goes best with fresh fruit (spoiler alert: dark), send an e-mail to patrickrunge@gmail.com.

    Or, you could always...Follow @patrickrunge.

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