There is no need to hit the panic button in Lincoln, Neb., just yet.
With the UCLA Bruins' trip to Memorial Stadium quickly approaching, the Huskers' win over the Wyoming Cowboys was not shocking, but the too-close-for-comfort, 37-34 nature of it certainly was. Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen found ways to expose Nebraska on all sides of the ball, something Nebraska fans were not expecting.
After all, the offseason was spent touting the Huskers' offense. Quarterback Taylor Martinez has plenty of experience, entering the record books as the first Nebraska quarterback to start four season-opening games. The group that surrounds him is just as experienced, with wide receivers Kenny Bell and Jamal Turner leading the way.
However, Christensen and his defense found ways to silence the explosive Nebraska offense. Additionally, the Wyoming coaching staff found ways to expose Nebraska's young defense, allowing Cowboy quarterback Brett Smith to complete 29 of 43 passes for 383 yards.
The Cowboys' offense as a whole generated 602 yards.
Smith threw for the seventh-highest yardage total of any quarterback versus the Huskers. The last quarterback to hang that many yards on Nebraska was Missouri's Chase Daniel in 2007. Interestingly enough, Christensen was making the calls as Missouri's offensive coordinator then.
The Nebraska coach may have been different at the time, but this fact rings true: Wyoming's head coach knows how to pick apart a defense.
Nebraska's defense was an easy one to pick apart as well. The group that took the field against Wyoming was extremely young, something head coach Bo Pelini reiterated several times after the game ended, telling the Big Ten Network's Damon Benning, "We had a lot of guys that experienced this for the first time."
The coach was also quick to say in his postgame press conference that he is not panicking. If the head coach is not panicking, do fans need to be?
As of right now, the answer is no. The highlights were that two Cornhusker I-backs, Ameer Abdullah and Imani Cross, each ran for more than 100 yards. Quarterback Taylor Martinez passed for three touchdowns and completed 17 of 22 passes for 155 yards, all while favoring his left shoulder. Plus, freshman I-back Terrell Newby looked good with his nine carries on a series that finished the third quarter.
Defensively, Stanley Jean-Baptiste shined for the secondary, as he ended Smith's streak of pass attempts without an interception at 183 with a pick in the second quarter.
Ciante Evans had a pick too, his coming in the fourth quarter. Both Evans and Jean-Baptiste are defensive players who personify the leadership expected from the Blackshirts.
As for the new defensive players, redshirt freshman defensive tackle Vincent Valentine and sophomore defensive end Randy Gregory looked good in their starting debuts. Gregory stood out, especially when rushing Smith. Unfortunately, a sack by Gregory was overturned for roughing the passer (the defensive end reached around Smith's neck), but his speed and ability to get to the quarterback looked promising.
Wyoming got the yards, but the Huskers got the most important thing—the win. Nebraska was never able to get comfortable at any time during the matchup, but Pelini expected that going into the game. "Well, we're 1-0 and I'm happy we're 1-0, but obviously we've got a lot of work to do," Pelini said, reinforcing the notion that improvements will need to be made over the coming weeks.
Not only is it the win that matters, it's this win that extends Nebraska's season-opening wins to 28 straight, more than any other team in the country. Nebraska is also now 7-0 over the Cowboys.
"It's never as good as you think it is, and it's never as bad as you think it is," Pelini said. "By no means am I panicking."
Fans don't need to be either.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes are courtesy of the postgame press conference, via Huskers.com.
Smith THREW FOR THE SEVENTH-HIGHEST YARDAGE TOTAL [had
the seventh-best yardage] of any quarterback versus the Huskers. The last
quarterback to hang that many yards on Nebraska was Missouri's Chase Daniel in
2007. Interestingly enough, Christensen was making the calls as Missouri's
offensive coordinator then.
The Nebraska coach may have been different at the time,
but this fact rings TRUE[home]:
Wyoming's head coach knows how to pick apart a defense.