When the Tennessee Chattanooga Mocs were set to open their season against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, I had really only a handful of questions about the game: here they are, they'll be the bolded headings as usual, along with some analysis of the first Husker game of the 2011-2012 season.
1. What the Hell is a Moc?
While this is still relatively unclear to me, despite doing what amounted to a great deal of research for a lightly read semi-journalistic blog (*Author's note: That means I Googled it and looked at the UT Chattanooga website while at work) I believe the team's mascot to be some kind of snake. A water moccasin was my best guess.
I'm sure somewhere along the line they have an actual description of this, but their logo on their school's official athletic website featured a vaguely creepy pair of eyes in a triangle. It seemed a little more "pervy peeping tom at your window" than "dangerous snake in the water" to me.
However, this question is certainly less pertinent now that the game's over and we're unlikely to play UT Chattanooga again before the sun burns out and collapses into a black hole (*Author's note: otherwise known as 2012. According to those fear-mongering Mayans and the History Channel).
2. How Often Would Nebraska Huddle?
Hardly at all, as it turned out. They weren't kidding about the tempo of the offense being ratcheted up. Running out of multiple formations, changing looks far more frequently than I anticipated for such an early season game, the Huskers huddled up less than homophobic males on the "shirts" team of a shirts and skins game.
3. Would Taylor Martinez be an Effective Passer?
Unfortunately, not really. He completed 50 percent of his passes. Which, against a team of the Mocs' quality, isn't particularly impressive. Sure, he wasn't helped much by a few drops and our receivers' seeming inability to create separation at the line, but I firmly believe that college football statistics need to be graded on a curve.
Meaning: completing 50 percent against a team you have to Google to learn anything about is worth perhaps a 40 percent or lower against a quality opponent. It's kind of like if you took a third grade multiplication test and missed two or three. Your percentage wouldn't be that bad, but when you look at the big picture it turns out you're a twit.
Martinez missed three times three, four times six and a few other basic ones.
I didn't think he'd be perfect, necessarily, but I had really hoped that, when throwing five-yard timing routes against inferior competition, he'd be putting them on the money. He didn't, and it is worth noting.
3A. Will Taylor Martinez Actually be Fully Healthy?
Martinez, who was injured last year, had received a great deal of questions about the health of his ankle and other ailments this offseason. Almost certainly upon Bo Pelini's urging, he would merely sit back, grin and throw out the answer-that's-not-an-answer "I guess we'll have to wait until September 3rd."
At that point, some smarmy, dweeby reporter would inevitably break out into a fit of teenage, slumber-party-crush-revelation laughter.
This was all we knew going into the latest game.
That Martinez was taking a page out of the book that Pelini co-authored with Deep Throat and Tupac's murderer on the art of discretion was apparent. What wasn't was how Martinez would respond to making gameday cuts and acceleration to the after-burner type speed that made him such a homerun threat early in the season last year.
It turns out, he is. Or at least he looks that way. For now.
Martinez looked healthy. He ran for three touchdowns en route to gaining 157 yards rushing. He had several long runs where he looked explosive and much like the dynamo that had so many Huskers buzzing early in 2010.
However, he also carried the ball 19 times. I don't think we truly want him keeping it, and taking the big shots that he seems apt to take, that often. Several times he took hits that left me cringing and wondering how he'll hold up taking similar knocks from the big bodies of conference rivals.
4. Would the Defense Look Utterly Dominant?
Yes and no. I certainly hesitate to say that the defense looked dominant. They played really well. They always do. Cameron Meredith had a big game and Crick was a disruptive presence in the middle. We didn't dial up anything too exotic, blitz-wise, and Dennard's still recovering, but the secondary looked pretty good except for a few plays.
Meredith had two sacks and an interception and was a standout defensively, while LaVonte David racked up his usual nine tackles. All in all, it wasn't a "dominant" performance, but it was very solid. Any time you give up a total of seven points, you're doing your job.
5. How Would the Kicking and Punting Look Without Alex Henery?
The answer? Really good. Brett Maher, a native from Kearney, stepped up to the plate in a big way. In a Babe Ruthian way. Showing no signs of the nerves for his first attempt he crushed a 50 yard field goal into the wind and gave us hope that in Year One P.H. (*Author's note: Post Henery) our special teams may not revert back to the Jordan Congdon Dark Ages.
A fascinating start to the season, but, as usual, the first game doesn't reveal too much. Fresno State will be a greater challenge and we can only hope that the Huskers rise to meet it with all the precision and accuracy that was lacking during this initial test run.
Stay tuned, Husker fans. From here, it gets really interesting.