A familiar position for the Kansas offense last night.
Another week, another (final?) victory over an old Big 8/Big 12 foe on Nebraska's farewell tour. Let the final record show 91 wins, 23 losses and three ties—in favor of the Huskers. Not exactly a rivalry.
This victory was made special by ending the longest continuous-running series in college football. That seems strange. Seems like the Kansas-Missouri annual hate-fest should be longer running.
And, truthfully, the whole game seemed strange. Actually, the whole night.
The Huskers dominated the game. And didn't dominate.
The game never seemed out of hand. And never seemed in control.
The Huskers should have blown this team out of the stadium. And I would have hated to see it happen to Turner Gill.
Ah, Turner Gill. Nebraska's beloved quarterback, assistant coach, adopted son, outstanding citizen. Every Nebraskan is proud of the man who was borne out of the Husker family and Tom Osborne legacy. He may be a Jayhawk now, but he will always be a Cornhusker.
When Gill was announced as the next head coach of Kansas football I think the state of Nebraska was just as excited to have him back in the conference as Kansans were. Then the Huskers made the conference switch and—just like that—a highly anticipated annual rivalry with one of Nebraska's own products was turned into a one-game history.
But after the "awkwardness" of last night—Gill admitted it himself—maybe this is exactly the way things should end. Nebraska beats a less talented but scrappy Kansas team, keeping the Husker season on track and Jayhawk pride in tact.
And now, on to the SWOT:
It's hard to point out one specific positive for the Husker defense because the whole performance was pretty doggone good. I don't care who the opponent is—limiting a team to under 100 total offensive yards (87, to be specific) is a huge accomplishment.
Nebraska spent as much time in the Jayhawk's backfield as Kansas QB Quinn Mecham did, with six sacks from four different players.
And, once again, Lavonte David was a beast. The junior JUCO transfer linebacker notched 10 total tackles with two sacks. Junior lineman Jared Crick also added two sacks, along with Dejon Gomes and Will Compton contributing one each.
Forgetting about the actual score (20-3, by the way), Nebraska clearly dominated statistically. If this were the Miss America pageant, the Huskers would have narrowly won based on the scores of the talent portion of the competition. Is the Miss America pageant still around?
The Huskers out-gained the Jayhawks 397 to 87. Nebraska had 20 first downs to Kansas' five. They controlled the clock for nearly 13 more minutes than Kansas. The Huskers ran nearly 30 more offensive plays and averaged 5.3 yards per play.
All of this points to a rout that simply did not happen.
Speaking of statistics, the Huskers lead the nation in another category: fumbles. Hooray!
Nebraska, which fumbled twice in the game and lost one, has fumbled 33 times this year, losing 12. That's a ridiculous amount for a 9-1 team. It's a ridiculous amount for a Pelini-coached team that emphasizes discipline and execution. I have a bad feeling about making this team's goals if this trend continues.
Red Zone Blues
I love kicker Alex Henery, but I sure would like to see him kicking less field goals and more extra points. Why did Nebraska have to settle for threes against a sad-sack Jayhawk defense that ranks 107 in scoring defense?!
Many Happy Returns
Are the Huskers more banged up than the coaches are letting on? I mean, I know the medical issues of Husker team members are private—HIPAA privacy laws and all. But Husker offensive coordinator Shawn Watson and the rest of the staff clearly kept the offense's most lethal weapon, Husker QB Taylor Martinez, under wraps in the first half of the game and gave him very little latitude in the second half, with just five carries.
Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, on the other hand, came back with a vengeance. Dennard notched his fourth pick of the year to tie Eric Hagg for the team lead and didn't seem to miss a beat after being held out of playing since the first quarter of the Missouri game a couple of weeks ago.
The bigger picture here: Nebraska was able to notch a couple of victories while giving two invaluable players valuable rest time for the home stretch of the season.
The 2010 edition of the Nebraska Cornhuskers is a team that plays to the level of their competition. And it seems to thrive in high-pressure environments. To wit:
- A lethargic 17-3 home victory over FCS opponent South Dakota State versus a brutal pounding of Kansas State on the road.
- An unsatisfactory win at home over an overmatched Kansas Jayhawk team versus a shootout victory over previously undefeated Oklahoma State in Stillwater.
- A loss at home to the worst Longhorn team in over a decade versus a surprising route of a previously undefeated and top ten Missouri.
Missouri's loss to Texas Tech following the Tigers' defeat in Lincoln meant that Nebraska only had to win two out of their next three games to get to the Big 12 Championship. I think a lot of Husker fans were thankful that two out of those three games were at home against Kansas and Colorado.
But, the way the season has gone, I think the surest victory out of the three is a road game against a good Texas A&M team. But, keep in mind, I really don't think there are any "sure" victories with this team which is why . . .
AAA (Aggie Aggravation Ahead)
I was concerned about facing a Jerrod Johnson-helmed Texas A&M team on the road, especially after seeing what the dynamic run/pass quarterback did to Texas last year—back when Texas was good. But three Aggie losses in a row—with Johnson turning the ball over frequently—forced coach Mike Sherman to go to former backup Ryan Tannehill. And now the Aggies are on a four-game winning streak.
In a previous poll readers stated that Texas A&M is the biggest threat on Nebraska's remaining schedule. I'd tend to agree, if not for the struggles Nebraska had with Iowa State last week and Kansas this week.
However, I'm going to make a prediction for only the second time this year. I think Nebraska once again surprises—positively this time—and reacts to a pressure-filled situation on the road.
Nebraska 38, Texas A&M 24
And, with that, Nebraska captures the Big 12 North Division title and prepares for the love-fest that will be the "Departure Bowl" with Colorado over Thanksgiving in Lincoln.