Nebraska vs. Texas A&M Football: Live Analysis, Observation and Stats
Nebraska, 9-1 and No. 8 in the BCS, travels to College Station to face Texas A&M, 7-3 and rated No. 19 in the BCS. The Aggies have won four straight games after benching quarterback Jerrod Johnson, the Big 12 preseason offensive player of the year.
Nebraska's redshirt freshman-phenom quarterback, Taylor Martinez, is expected to play although he has been limited by an ankle injury suffered two weeks ago in Nebraska's win over Missouri.
Nebraska could clinch the Big 12 North title with a win or if Missouri loses to Iowa State. The Aggies were eliminated from contention to win the Big 12 South due to Oklahoma State's win at Kansas this afternoon.
Nebraska has a 10-3 advantage over Texas A&M in the series overall, including a 2-1 record at Kyle Field. Nebraska won the most recent game in College Station, 28-27. Texas A&M won the most recent matchup between the two schools, defeating Nebraska 36-14 in Lincoln in 2007.
Taylor Martinez couldn't convert a fourth-and-fourteen, and Nebraska loses to Texas A&M in College Station. Congrats to the Aggies for getting out of the way and letting Nebraska's mistakes -- and Martinez's injury -- cost them a win.
Keep in mind, NU had two turnovers to Nebraska's none, including one that likely took a field goal opportunity off the board. The story of the game, though, was Nebraska's 16 penalties for 140 yards, including one on Pelini. There's no such thing as a moral victory, but it's a pretty amazing thing that NU was even in this game with all of the self-inflicted wounds they had.
Oh, by the way, Colorado is undefeated since firing Dan Hawkins. Don't book those tickets to Dallas just yet. Full review to follow.
I am officially the last person that buys into the "Big 12 referees against Nebraska" conspiracy. But Courtney Osborne just got flagged for a late hit on Tannehill that was beyond questionable. That's the second time that the Aggies were held on a third down in the second half and given a first down by the officials. The conversion puts the Aggies into field goal position, and A&M ends up getting a chip-shot field goal to take a 9-6 lead.
I'm not sure I'm willing to say there's a direct conspiracy to make sure Nebraska doesn't win the game. I think there is something to NU having a reputation from the refs. Remember, it was Osborne that had the helmet-to-helmet shot on Blaine Gabbert of Missouri that didn't get called. If nothing else, the late hit call tonight may be a make-up call for the hit on Gabbert.
Either way, a big stop from NU leaves the door open for some fourth quarter magic. Remember, it took a fade to Maurice Purify in a similar situation last time NU was in College Station.
Nebraska answers A&M's drive from their own five for a field goal with one of their own. Rex Burkhead and Niles Paul were the key contributors, with Burkhead making an amazing run up the middle on the first play of the drive, and Paul snagging an errant Martinez throw and taking the ball into the A&M red zone. With the way these offenses have been playing, you have to think overtime is a strong possibility in this game. And with the massive special teams advantage Nebraska has, you'd have to like NU's chances if it gets there.
By the way, Taylor Martinez has been in the top 10 in Google Trends the whole evening. Apparently the country needs to know about their T-Magic.
Wow. Nebraska's team record for penalties was 14 in a game. Bo Pelini just got an unsportsmanlike conduct call for NU's fourteenth penalty. Good heavens, that's nothing if not appropriate. Pelini's frustrated with the flags, some justified and some not, but if you're a head coach, you simply cannot let that happen. Ever.
Rex Burkhead answers, of course, by getting NU out of their own end zone with yet another brilliant run, filled with balance and power. The game's far from over, even though Nebraska has no business even being in this game in the fourth quarter. Amazing stuff.
The Aggies have put together an impressive drive from their own five yard line -- although helped by a gift of a pass interference call against Alfonzo Dennard -- and have a third and five from NU's 13 as the fourth quarter begins. The quarter comes at a really good time for the Blackshirts, as they can get a breather and catch their bearings before what is, to now, the biggest play of the game.
For those of you keeping score at home, NU is now up to 12 penalties for 115 yards, and is -2 in turnovers. It's a testament to the defense and to Alex Henery that NU is even in this game up to now.
Taylor Martinez overthrows Kyler Reed on a post, and the Aggies get the ball back inside their own twenty. The pick gives A&M two turnovers to Nebraska's none, although after a personal foul on the Aggies, they start with the ball at their own five. Amusingly, the official called the penalty against A&M, but pointed at Nebraska. He can be forgiven for that in this game, as it's become something of a habit.
The turnover extinguishes NU's chances at a field goal, and wipes out a beautiful run from Roy Helu. Mark it down, Helu is the best back Nebraska's had since Ahman Green, and is going to make a good pro.
Ten Penalties. Ninety eight yards. Over six minutes left in the third quarter. This time, NU has a critical first down erased due to an illegal formation call, the second of the night. I know it's tough with no options on offense. While NU gets a first down on an AMAZINGLY brave (some might say foolish, or at least desperate) fourth down, Nebraska's penalty problem is becoming critical.
Texas A&M get out of jail, primarily on a 36-yard pass from Tannehill to Jeff Fuller, but the Aggies stall out at the NU 40 and have to punt. Tannehill, who also serves as the Aggies' punter (hello, Danny White), shanks another one, though, giving Nebraska the ball at their own 23.
Don't be stunned to see Cody Green come back in at quarterback for Nebraska. Martinez had a definitive limp, and failed to step into a third down pass that almost resulted in an interception. He's definitely not right, and NU may have a better chance to win with Green tonight.
Well, Martinez's Willis Reed moment still resulted in an NU three and out, and another punt from Alex Henery. But Bill Callahan South's decision to go for it earlier in the quarter haunts him again -- Henery, the MVP, buries the Aggies at their six. NU had all the field position in the first half, and while they didn't do much with it, they also kept A&M off the board. Even though A&M started with the ball and had some rhythm offensively early, NU is winning the field position battle again.
Texas A&M had a fourth and two, went for it, and failed, giving NU the ball near midfield. In a pitcher's duel like this, field position is everything, and the Aggies just gave a bunch of it to NU.
And, call me a genius. Martinez is back under center. We'll see if NU can get some rhythm on offense as a result.
If NU wants to escape College Station with a win, they need to do the following:
- Play smart: NU had eight penalties for 88 yards. They can't do that again in the second half.
- Turn the Aggies over: The Blackshirts have been lights out, but they're going to need to get a turnover to flip the field.
- Get the T-Magic back: Bold prediction time! Taylor Martinez will be back under center before this game ends.
A real pitcher's duel in College Station, as Nebraska and Texas A&M each get one field goal on, basically, one good drive in the half. The Blackshirts hold the Aggies to 103 total yards, and shut out the Aggies' dangerous wide receiver Jeff Fuller.
The story of the half was Martinez's injury, sending him to the locker room and forcing Cody Green into the game. What might be a longer term story was Martinez's return to the sideline, and Bo Pelini getting into Martinez's face and reading him the riot act. Pelini told ABC's Heather Gray that the "conversation" had nothing to do with the injury, and that Green would start at QB for the second half.
Earlier in the week, Martinez made comments about NU being "his team," and you have to suspect that Pelini's (ahem) message to the young man centered around making sure he understood that Pelini would make the call if he went back in. That relationship bears watching.
Nebraska looks like it's going to squander great field position after Cody Green horribly overthrows Mike McNeil and gets the ball intercepted. Texas A&M still has poor field position, but points may be incredibly precious in this game. Starting with the ball at the Aggie 49, with Alex Henery on your team, means you don't have to do much to get three points. Now, NU won't get any on that drive.
How many times have you heard this? Henery punts the ball, pinning the opponent inside the ten. The bad field position changes how the opposing offense calls their offense, giving NU a chance for a three and out and great field position. Happened again in College Station.
Mark my word, Henery's departure next year will be sorely missed.
Nebraska converts a few first downs, including two critical throws from Cody Green to get NU out of the shadow of their own goalposts. While the drive bogged down (although kudos to Rex Burkhead for a blitz pickup that might have put LaTravis Washington in the game under center if he doesn't make it), NU moved the ball enough to let Alex Henery work his magic and pin the Aggies inside their 15.
There's just over 5 minutes in the first half. If NU can get to the locker room no worse than 3-3, they can regroup offensively and make a run at winning this one ugly.