Look at the stats, and Saturday's Nebraska Cornhusker - Florida Atlantic game appears to be fairly even. But at the end of the game, Nebraska routed a tired and rattled Owl team, 49 - 3.
Prior to the season, questions loomed about key player positions and if the young Cornhuskers would stand up to the challenge. Saturday's performance shows that even though certain parts of the Husker attack are headed in the right direction, Coach Bo and the players need to tighten up a few areas, especially with a road trip to Virginia Tech in just two short weeks.
Did the Huskers make the grade against FAU? Here's a breakdown of Husker successes and areas for improvement.
- Passing Attack - Zac Lee debuted in Husker fashion, connecting on 15 of 22 passes totalling 213 yards. Unfortunately, receivers dropped three passes that were right where they needed to be. Lee scored or threw for two TDs. But his interception was a poorly thrown short pass that wasn't near his intended receiver. Most throws were simple routes. True freshman Cody Green hit two of three attempts for 18 yards. Eight receivers hauled in passes for 231 yards. Highlight of the game: Knowing we have receivers who can replace the great Nate Swift. Grade: B+
- Running Attack - Helu! A strong one-two punch from Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead. Huskers rush for 259 yards, and QB Lee shows he can run the ball, too. Highlight of the game: Helu ran to the left on a zone play, cut right, and blew past the defenders for a 44-yard TD run with 7:30 left in the third quarter. Grade: A
- Against the Pass - In the beginning of play, Nebraska's front four dominated. And then, what happened to the pressure on Owl QB Rusty Smith? It disappeared. Larry Asante, Ricky Thenarse, and Anthony West had some great breakups. And hooray for Matt O'Hanlon who picked off Smith a couple times. Grade: B-
- Against the Run - Overall, the Huskers grounded the Owls, holding them to 122 yards rushing. Thenarse and Suh topped the leader board with eight and seven tackles, respectively. Grade: B+
- Kunalik's kick-offs kept the Owls in their own territory. Jared Crick blocked a field goal. Niles Paul hung on to the punt when an Owl defender blasted into him. Alex Henery went 7-7 in PATs. He did have one partially deflected punt. Overall, special teams did their job effectively. Grade: A-
Ball and Time Management
- The Huskers were penalized nine times for 86 yards. The penalties may be attributed to first-game jitters of a young squad (false starts, delay of game). One fumble, one interception, and a four and a half minute difference in time of possesion. The Huskers need to work on third down conversions; they were 4 of 10, but they did convert 2-2 on 4th down attempts. Grade: B+
- No razzle dazzle, yet. But the energy and feeling of being one step away from the big play exists and excited the sell-out crowd of 85,719. The game had to be a big boost for Coach Bo, his assistants, and his players. But there's still work to do and Pelini will push his team to be ready mentally and physically each week. Not a bad start, and a huge dose of confidence for Zac Lee, Rex Burkhead, and Cody Green. Grade: B+
It may not have been a perfect game; it may have been a bit simple as far as play calling, but it's a real fine place to start.