Nebraska's Big 12 farewell tour continues with another great outing against an old Big 8 foe.
What a great feeling to: A) Take Missouri's seat at the Big Ten table and B) Grab the last chance at a division title on the way out.
This game also makes Nebraska 5-0 all time against turncoat quarterback recruits in the Big 12 era with three wins against Josh Freeman, the former Kansas State QB, and two against Blaine Gabbert. Tyler Gabbert has to be happy to see Nebraska exit the conference.
The Huskers played inspired at home—finally. They're winning every which way they can. One week is an aerial assault from a freshman quarterback in a shootout, the next week is a great defensive performance and an overwhelming ground attack from a veteran running back having a career day.
Without further ado, the SWOT.
Mizzou says goodbye, but I say Helu
This is the game we all thought senior running back Roy Helu, Jr. would have eventually. Helu has been a consistent performer over his career at Nebraska, occasionally showing flashes of brilliance. But the slight build that allows his lightning-fast speed has also made the running back injury-prone, hampering him from reaching his full potential.
The humble, religious Helu would never agree with this assessment—but it was as if four years of potential and frustration were unleashed in a fury on an unsuspecting Missouri team in this one game. His 307 yards is the all-time Husker rushing record in a game.
Think about what rushing means to this program. We're talking about the freakin' Nebraska Cornhuskers here—a program that has produced all-time greats like Mike Rozier, Ahman Green, Lawrence Phillips (yes, still painful to cite, but he was a good running back), I.M. Hipp (also the best-named running back of all time), Roger Craig, Calvin Jones, etc., etc.
That's not even counting quarterbacks, who have essentially been rush options in the history of Nebraska offenses.
Return of the pipeline
After the Kansas State game I wrote about how it seemed like old times with the Huskers running wild over an overmatched foe. This game was the same way—only different.
With Taylor Martinez out for the entire second half, everyone in the stadium knew what a Zac Lee-directed offense would do, yet the Missouri defense was still unable to withstand the pounding the Husker line inflicted. The giant gashes of touchdown runs that covered half the field became death by a thousand cuts of four, five and six yards by Helu—bleeding the clock all the way to the end of the game.
Actually, I guess this was exactly like an old Kansas State game—1994 with third string quarterback Matt Turman handing off to Lawrence Phillips time and time again and the Wildcats helpless to stop it. This same attack, 16 years later, helped eat up over 13 minutes of time in the fourth quarter alone to seal the victory.
Actually, more like a sack feast. Six sacks from six different defenders terrorized Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert all day. Bull rushes up the middle from seniors Pierre Allen and Jared Crick. Quick strikes from linebackers Lavonte David and Eric Hagg. Speed from the edge with Courtney Osborne. The Pelini brothers mixed it up with a three-man front that left Missouri's offensive line dazed and confused.
The thin Green line
Remember Cody Green? The sophomore QB that was a major catch out of Texas? Again, I'm glad to see Zac Lee get some playing time in his final year at Nebraska, but this really points to the depth—or lack thereof—at quarterback.
Sure, you can argue that Nebraska just throttled a Top 10 opponent without the starting QB for an entire half of football—and I'd argue that it showed. There were two completely different halves to this game; just look at the box score. Maybe, because the game got out of hand after the first quarter, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson decided to just grind out clock.
Seems like Green is enough of an athlete to get him on the field in some capacity. Maybe at linebacker—a reverse Latravis Washington, who switched from linebacker to QB last year? He likes to hit, and Nebraska may need some size at linebacker to handle the power rushing attacks prevalent in the Big Ten next year.
Senior Alex Henery missed his first field goal of the season on a blocked attempt from 51 yards out in the fourth quarter. As I said last week, this kid is awful. They should just cut him from the team immediately.
It's just that there's not much to talk about under Weaknesses this week, so I had to go there.
Check the schedule
This was Nebraska's last major hurdle to the conference championship game. The Huskers will be favored in road games against Iowa State and Texas A&M and home games against Kansas and Colorado. And do you think for a second that the Huskers will overlook Iowa State after last year's debacle at home (eight turnovers in a 9-7 loss)?
If there is one game out of this set that would be great to attend, it would be the "Going Away Bowl" with Colorado. With both teams departing the Big 12, maybe the fanbases can set aside animosities and make this one big party in Lincoln.
We are the champions...?
I know Husker fans are booking their tickets to Jerry World right now. It sure looks like a good bet. However, assuming Nebraska doesn't melt down along the way, who would you want to play for the conference title? Right now, it looks like it's down to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor.
Wait. Let me check again. Baylor. Yes, that's right—Baylor.
I do not want to be on the field with Oklahoma State again, and I do believe Nebraska would have its hands full with dual threat quarterback Robert Griffin III at Baylor. How about a matchup between two old but respected competitors to end the Big 8/12 era?
Oklahoma is a threat I could definitely live with.