Week Two in Husker Nation and Memorial Stadium should have cleared up any misconceptions of weakness on the 2009 squad. While some game elements drastically improved, the defense still hasn't found their groove against the running game.
How did the Huskers score against a scrappy Arkansas State team?
- Running Game The Huskers carried 28 times for 136 yards. Helu went 14 - 60 with the biggest run totaling nine yards. While the numbers are not staggering, the running game did keep the Red Wolves guessing. Several times, it felt like Helu was just a half step away from the long run. The potential exists, and hopefully in big game situations, Helu will elude the tackle and break down the field. Question of the game: Why didn't Burkhead carry more? He carried 3 times for 18 yards. Grade: B+
- Passing Game Zac Lee looks like he's been commanding the Huskers for several seasons. Completing 27 of 35 for 340 yards, the Lee - Paul connection sizzled on Saturday, despite a 70-yard catch and tip-toe down the sideline being called back because of a penalty. Sure, there were a couple issues; Lee was stuffed in the pocket twice and he avoided a near-interception deep in Arkansas State territory, but overall, the well-oiled Husker passing game cruised. Eleven receivers caught passes. When is the last time that happened? Even the shovel pass to Helu brought the 85,000+ to their feet. Simply outstanding! Play of the game: With so many great plays to choose from, it's difficult to single out one play. But the first TD pass - a 3-yarder to fullback Tyler Legate - set the tone. And, it was unexpected. Grade: A
- Against the Pass The Huskers kept the Red Wolves under control, allowing only 131 yards. And this week, the sack patrol returned and nailed Corey Leonard four times. Maybe there were more opportunities this week. Or maybe the pass defense finally realizes that they have to make the plays. Whatever, it worked. Grade: A-
- Against the Run The Blackshirts contained the Red Wolves, or so it would seem. But, Reggie Arnold carried the ball 14 times for 83 yards and at times, made running the ball look too simple. Were the Huskers tired? Were the Red Wolves crafty at play calling? Or, do the Blackshirts need to get their game on and make the play? I'll go with the last choice. Grade: C-
- The return men did their job. Adi Kunalik's kickoffs kept the Red Wolves deep in their territory. Alex Henery nailed the punts, averaging 42.7 yards per punt. Ok, he missed the 54-yard field goal. Barely. But the good news is that the special teams understand the game plan and baby, they're here to play. Now, if they can curb the penalties. Grade: B+
- Only three penalties this week. One was costly: a holding penalty that brought back a 70-yard TD pass from Lee to Paul. True freshman Eric Martin took off his helmet and drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, his second this year. Overall, the Huskers kept the ball for 31:38 and converted 8 of 13 third downs. The best news of the game - zero fumbles. That's a trend the Huskers need to continue. Grade: B+
- The good points to take away from this victory are there weren't any turnovers and the Huskers committed only three penalties. The bad news is the defense still has a lot to prove against the running game. Improvement will be critical as the Huskers gear up for the showdown against Virginia Tech. It's early in the season, but a solid showing on the road will boost Husker confidence. Grade: B+