Nebraska Football 2011: Week 2 Report Card

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Nebraska Football 2011:  Week 2 Report Card
Eric Francis/Getty Images
Despite being 2-0, more questions than answers for the Huskers after a shaky win yesterday.

I'm still somewhat in shock that Fresno State was not only able to be competitive, but put a real scare into the more talented Nebraska Cornhuskers. Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini cannot be thrilled with the lack of progress that the team made from last week.

Quarterback

Let's be honest when we grade out Taylor Martinez—he's the feast or famine player in our offense and he provided numerous big plays yesterday. However, let's not forget that against inferior talent, playmakers are supposed to provide the big play. 

Of the 219 yards Nebraska accumulated on the ground, Martinez was responsible for 166 of them, including three runs of over 35 yards. When Martinez gets to the perimeter, he's a legitimate threat.

As for the passing aspect of his game, Martinez is still as shaky as can be. Yes, Martinez ended up with 219 passing yards but he was just for 4-13 in the first half with two interceptions. In the second half, Martinez made quite a few nice throws to Kyler Reed, Kenny Bell and true freshman Jamal Turner.

B- is the grade here. If Martinez doesn't improve, Nebraska has no chance to beat Wisconsin on Oct. 1.

Running Back

It's really hard to grade this position because once again because Nebraska struggled early to throw and the line of scrimmage was loaded with defensive players. Rex Burkhead ended up with 55 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns but Nebraska needs more from this unit.

Burkhead is a pleasure to watch and root for. He combines talent with real football smarts and real grit. In order for the Cornhuskers to fully utilize his talent, they will need to provide him with more running lanes. Even getting him the ball via the screen pass would be effective.

C is the grade here.

Offensive Line

Really disappointed again in this group. Again, it's so tough to grade them when the five man unit is consistently dealing with seven or eight defenders but the truth is, nobody on the line stood out last night. 

The offensive line must be held responsible for the numerous short drives and lack of push on a lot of plays. This group has a lot of talent but that can't be the excuse week after week.

C is the grade. Without the big plays from Martinez, this grade would be lower.

Wide Receiver

I loved the second half play calling that got the ball into Jamal Turner and Kyler Reed's hands, but any positive is offset by the drops of senior Brandon Kinnie. 

I have no idea what has happened to Kinnie but he seems to have no confidence at the moment and should be sent to the bench. 

The blocking from this group was fairly solid, as evident from the success in the running game.

C+ is the grade.

Defensive Line

The defensive unit completely disappointed me yesterday. 

This group is supposed to be the strength of the team but they were completely outplayed yesterday.  Fresno State executed a great game but that is no excuse. Jared Crick and the defensive line had penetration but made few plays.

Anytime a touted defensive line gives up nearly 200 yards on the ground, you know they lost the battle in the trenches.

D is the grade.

Linebackers

Don't look at the stats here because they will only mislead you. Forget that LaVonte David and Will Compton each had 15 tackles, this group was mediocre.  Making tackles in the second level are a real indication of lack of big plays.

I don't think the team had any tackles for a loss and that is something we've come to expect from David and the group. 

Obviously Compton playing and having 15 tackles is a positive after the foot injury last week, but there were times that he was slow to read a play. His inability to react is good reason why Fresno State was able to run the ball successfully and have the ball for over 37 minutes.

Defensive Backs

We need Alfonzo Dennard back because we're just not the same team without a lockdown corner. I thought Andrew Green was pretty good, but Ciante Evans played another disappointing game.

Fresno State Derek Carr is a nice player, but he was able to take full advantage of the soft Nebraska corner coverage for 254 yards. Without much pressure, the defensive backfield was exposed as nothing exceptional.

I liked that Damion Stafford started, but nobody in this group made an impact yesterday.

C- is the grade.

Special Teams

Ameer Abdullah is very talented and his 100 yard return was the highlight of the day, but it was offset by the 67 yard punt return Devon Wylie, of Fresno State.

Brett Maher was very good in the punting game, where he averaged over 50 yards for his six attempts.

B- is the grade.

Coaching:

2-0 is "fine" but this team has clearly under performed so far on both sides of the ball. 

On offense, offensive coordinator Tim Beck has yet to find a real rhythm, but maybe the second half play calling is a sign of life. The offense lacks an identity and needs to show it can grind out yards and scores. No drive yesterday lasted for more than four minutes. Once again, it's feast or famine with the offense.

Offensive line coach Barney Cotton remains on my hot spot. The offensive line was yet again soft and unable to provide running lanes between the tackles.  If Martinez doesn't get daylight on the edge, the rushing game is nonexistent.

On defense, we look like we've taken a step back from the last few years.

The defensive line gets some penetration but not nearly enough on both running plays and on passing plays. LaVonte David has been as good as advertised but Sean Fisher really needs to play better. 

Ciante Evans remains a mystery to me. He doesn't play physical enough and gives way to much room off the line but has the tools to be a very good player. 

Both units have talent but I'm skeptical that this team is developing and conference play is right around the corner.

Bo Pelini should be somewhat impressed that his team faced adversity last night and had a nice last twenty minutes, but giving up nearly 450 yards offsets that.

This team is either playing scared or isn't as talented as some of us thought. Either way, the schedule gets harder and we'll have some more answers soon.

I'm prepared for the worst because the first two games give me little reason to think they can win against elite talent.

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