Week three's SWOT analysis is, quite frankly, very easy to write. The first two games of the season were a mixed bag of great performances and head-scratching mistakes against inferior foes.
It's true that the Huskers faced an easier opponent for the third consecutive Saturday, but at least they faced a BCS team on the road in a traditionally difficult environment for visitors.
Many questions remained unanswered for Nebraska after the Idaho game: How do they stack up against BCS competition? How would freshman QB Taylor Martinez perform in his first start on the road? Will the hostile, loud crowd contribute to the Husker's penchant for committing penalties? Will turnovers finally catch up to the offense against a much better Washington team? Could the Huskers secondary contain quarterback Jake Locker, who is expected to be a top-five in the 2011 NFL draft?
Nebraska stomped into Husky stadium, asserted its will on the home team, destroyed a Heisman campaign, and turned a potential trap game into a laugher. In the end, it turns out that Idaho provided more of a challenge for them than the Huskies. Now, on to the SWOT:
7.1 yards and a cloud of dust.
Last week I lamented that Nebraska proved it could score from the 50-yard line but seemed to have problems mounting sustained, clock-eating drives. Obviously Shawn Watson and Barney Cotton (the Husker's offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, respectively) read my analysis and decided to prove me wrong.
The offensive line played like men against a pee wee team. A nearly 10 minute difference in time of possession solidified Watson's commitment to game management.
Even better news: the time differential got better for the Huskers as the game wore on. Washington held the ball for over nine minutes in the first quarter while Nebraska won the clock battle in all succeeding quarters, including nearly 11 minutes in the fourth quarter.
Any questions about Nebraska's inexperienced freshman quarterback? Martinez had more miscues at home last week than on the road this week. Once again, he leads the team in rushing.
His 7-11 and no INT passing performance was the model of efficiency in a hostile stadium. Sure, he was sacked three times—but did I mention he led the team in rushing? Again? Speaking of which...
A little help from his friends.
Martinez, or T-Mart, or T-Magic, or whatever the Husker fan base wants to call him (I sense another column coming up to squash this nickname issue) had some company in the 100-yard club. Along with the QB's 137 net yards, senior Roy Helu, Jr. contributed 110 and sophomore Rex Burkhead pitched in 104. It was only the fifth time in school history that three Nebraska players rushed for 100+ yards. And the first time ever that Washington allowed that feat.
Today's Pick-Six Winner is...
Three interceptions returned for touchdowns in two games for the defense. This week CB Alfonzo Dennard got into the act. The Huskers need only three more to break the school record for a season. I'm looking at you, Missouri.
Ok, let's reach to find a weakness this week. The stellar, other-worldly defensive secondary had its once-a-game mental lapse on Heisman dope-ful Jake Locker's only TD pass of the day, a 45-yard strike to Jermaine Kearse that resulted from a missed assignment by Nebraska's safeties.
It temporarily halted momentum for the Huskers after opening the second half on a one-play, 80-yard TD drive by Martinez that should have ended hope on the purple sideline.
Is it just me or does it seem like there is really no intimidating presence in the Big 12 this year? Check out these scores from around the Big 12: Oklahoma 27, Air Force 24; Missouri 27, San Diego State 24; Texas A&M 27, Florida International 20. Kansas 16, Southern Miss 31.
Colorado was down 10-0 at home at the half against Hawaii. Texas and Kansas State don't look awe-inspiring. Oklahoma State struggled against Troy last week. This could be a really special year for the Huskers.
Stringing out the QBs.
When Martinez started at quarterback in the first week of the season, the deepest position on the team seemed to be QB. Think about it: the starter is a freshman, the back-up is a sophomore who started two games last year, and the third stringer is a senior who started in 12 games in 2009.
Yet, Cody Green's two fumbles and the complete absence of Zac Lee makes one wonder where Nebraska would be if the unthinkable happened.
Nebraska rolled through its first three opponents and is eager to start their final Big 12 Conference campaign on a nationally-televised Thursday night game at Kansas State. But the team must not forget the trap game coming up this Saturday in Lincoln against a gritty South Dakota State team.
A Husker let-down against a determined Jackrabbit squad would destroy the season and—oh, hell. Who am I kidding? I couldn't write this with a straight face. Next Saturday will be a great night to take the family out to dinner, with an ear piece on, of course.
Get the Red out!
Lil' Red was given face time on this ABC/ESPN regional telecast. The more this puffed-up balloon boy shows up on TV the less intimidating the Husker football team becomes. I've made my stance perfectly clear on who should be representing this program.
So, Nebraska passes what was supposed to be its first real test with flying colors. The question is, did they pass because Washington really is that bad or because Nebraska is really that good? Who cares? South Dakota State is next.