Ever since the final seconds rolled off the clock in Nebraska’s 51-38 win over Washington today, I see the Huskies in a different light.
The officiating in today’s Washington-Nebraska game played a critical role in the outcome. Two baffling interference calls shafted the Huskies and gave the Cornhuskers a couple of gift-wrapped opportunities.
The head official of the Big 10 crew seemed confused and disoriented throughout the contest.
But when it was said and done, Nebraska was a superior football team and deserved to win the game.
Heading into today’s game, I predicted the Cornhuskers would roll 45-13. The primary source of my concern was Washington’s porous defense that had struggled mightily against Eastern Washington and Hawaii.
Those concerns still exist, and I wonder how effective defensive coordinator Nick Holt has been. Does he warrant blame for the defense digressing since last year?
Nevertheless, I now see Washington in a different light than I did this morning. Quarterback Keith Price brings a level of sophistication and passing accuracy that the Huskies never had during the Jake Locker era. Surrounded by several super talented receivers, things should only get better for Price.
The level of fight in the team even when down by 20 points was heartening to see. In the Willingham era, the team would have rolled over and put up no resistance.
And as bad as the defense played, they brought the lumber on numerous occasions against Nebraska. The Dawgs punished Nebraska ball carriers with walloping hits more times today than they did in the entire Willingham era of 2005-2008.
Finally, to put it boldly, I’m more enamored of running back Chris Polk than ever before. No matter the circumstances or how tender his knee, the Pac-12’s premiere running back runs with a ferocious relentlessness. His yards after carry against the Cornhuskers produced multiple first downs and kept drives alive.
Heading into today’s game, I felt that Washington’s best hope was to go 5-7 this year. I can now see the team going 7-5 and reaching a minor bowl game, should Price and Polk stay healthy.
Public scrutiny over the failing defense will intensify as the season progresses.
But for now, there are positives to take away from today’s game.
Derek Johnson is the author of three books and co-hosts The War Room Podcast with former Huskies Matt Rogers and Kyle Benn.