Black Friday Escape: Huskers Win, But Questions Remain
It was not pretty.
In fact it may have been downright ugly. Bo Pelini must have thought so.
"It was probably our worst effort of the season," Pelini said shortly following the 28-20 victory in Boulder.
I remember a 9-7 loss to Iowa State that seemed to look like the worst performance of the season, but maybe Pelini was talking about the 400+ yards the Buffaloes racked up on a Husker defense that looked just downright tired at times.
It was ugly, but it was an ugly win—something Husker fans have become accustomed to when visiting the Buffs in Boulder. A win is a win though, and Nebraska will take their fifth straight win to propel themselves to a 9-3 regular season record.
Barring a punt return for a touchdown by Niles Paul and an interception return for a touchdown by Matt O'Hanlon, Nebraska was downright outplayed by the Buffaloes for most of the game.
Rex Burkhead may have been the best player on the field today, amassing exactly one hundred yards rushing, culminating with a seven-yard touchdown run to ice the game late in the fourth quarter.
Like I said before, a win is a win. And on Black Friday we can't take anything for granted. Nebraska won today, and that's about all we can say about that.
But with the win comes a myriad of different questions, all pertaining to a certain championship game that Nebraska will be playing a week and a day from now.
Can Nebraska hang with Texas?
Tyler Hansen isn't Colt McCoy, but he sure looked about like it in the second half. He ran for first downs and threw incredible completions, including a 56-yard strike to Scotty McKnight at the end of the game.
McCoy is hitting his stride at the right time for the Longhorns. His performance against Texas A&M last night was something to be remembered, and if Nebraska plays like they did against Hansen in the second half, Husker nation better be prepared for a show.
The questions that we thought had been answered rise again out of the dust and aftermath of this game.
Can Zac Lee be a championship quarterback?
Is Roy Helu's shoulder still a problem?
And where is the double move offense of Mike McNeill?
Hopefully Watson was just hiding things against Texas, hoping that they could keep a few wrinkles tucked away for that season defining game against the Longhorns next week.
Watching Jerrod Johnson tear apart the vaunted Longhorn defense made me wonder what it would look like if Cody Green was ready for the limelight. He obviously isn't and it makes Nebraska fans worry.
But if Nebraska's defense gets a few more days of rest this week, and uses those extra days to prepare, they can still make a game of it.
There are positives to take away from this game too, if we look past some of the glaring problems.
One: Rex Burkhead can carry a load when Helu is tired or hurt. The kid is Superman and one has to wonder what this season would have looked like had he been healthy the entire year.
Two: Ndamukong Suh gets better in the fourth quarter, or when he is needed most to make a play. Colorado triple-teamed him most of the game today with a tackle, guard, and tight end or running back and he still affected the game.
Three: The future looks bright on defense. Baker Steinkuhler, Jared Crick, and Cameron Meredith show what talent can get you under Pelini's coaching. PJ Smith and Prince Amukamara make it seem like this defense may not lose too much in their placing without Suh, Asante, and Dillard.
Four: This team has the character of the head coach. They never stop playing and they always try harder. Nothing is ever good enough for them and that's a good thing, because this was definitely a sub-par performance for the Huskers.
In the end, once again, Nebraska goes into the Big 12 Championship game with more questions than answers.
There is one answer though, and it's that this team is definitely moving in the right direction under Pelini. From 5-7 to 8-4 to 9-3, this program is on the rise and the next unlikely stop is in Dallas, where Nebraska will have a chance to make a name for itself in the biggest game of Pelini's young career.
If defense wins championships, then Nebraska better come out firing on all cylinders against the Longhorns next week.
Even if this win wasn't pretty, it's the character of the team that makes it important. Now Nebraska goes into the next game with zero chance according to most people. That seems to be exactly where Pelini likes to be.
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