Huskers V.S. Fresno State: Recapping a Dogfight

Posted: September 13, 2011 in Sports
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Bulldogs are known to be fighters. 

They have jaws that famously can clamp down in an almost gator-like manner and must be surgically removed.  They’re frighteningly tough little animals.

Ask Michael Vick, the late Tommy Mickens from HBO’s True Blood, or any number of would-be gangsters who have decided that the animal affords them more street cred.  Or, you could always just ask the Huskers.

As the Fresno State Bulldogs entered memorial stadium last Saturday I thought the game would be a good contest.  Nothing to get worked up over, just another mid-major stepping up to take their whooping from the big boys. 

Sure, our offense and the team in general had looked a bit out of sorts against a far inferior team the previous weekend, but I had the Bulldogs pegged to more of a speedbump in the non-conference schedule than a roadblock. 

They turned out to be more like a 26-car pileup that somehow ended up de-railing a train carrying toxic waste directly onto the road causing a massive and excruciating traffic jam.  We got through it eventually but, damn it, it was ugly.

Here’s a few of my observations from the game.

The Huskers Unleashed Some Young Playmakers

All offseason we’ve been hearing about the terms “dynamic,” “explosive,” and “playmakers” so often about freshmen Ameer Abdullah and Jamal Turner that I had begun to write it off as mere hyperbole.  Bo seems to read his press conference responses from a grab-bag of coaching clichés and so I immediately discount 82% of what he says.

It turns out, he wasn’t kidding about Turner.  Or Abdullah.

Turner, who was by most accounts one of the few bright spots of the Spring Game, has Husker fans hoping for another Bobby Newcombe-type prospect;  (*Author’s note: except for how Bobby used to enjoy stepping out of bounds to avoid contact) a kind of wingback-esque player who can do a little bit of everything and can be, to quote every coach that’s ever blown a whistle, “explosive.”

Abdullah was a special teams whiz, running back a punt 17 yards and scoring on a 100-yard kick return that had me deleting my text to a friend bemoaning how this was the worst non-conference game against a lackluster opponent since the Ball State debacle in the Dark Ages referred to as the Callahan Years by historians. 

(*Author’s note: the text went a little something like this, “F-word. . .f-word. . .Titanic. . .Hindenburg. . .F-word. . .Exxon Valdez. . .)

Abdullah’s return seemed to be the lightning bolt needed to suddenly revive the corpse-like Husker team.  Abdullah Frankensteined us back to life and suddenly we had ourselves a game. 

The simple fact is this: we need to keep finding ways to incorporate these young players into the game.  They are simply too elusive, too capable of breaking loose big plays and they bring some much needed big play ability to a team that relies far too heavily on Martinez to shoulder the entire “holy-hell, did you see that?!?” load.

Hopefully Tim Beck can continue to find ways to work in the talents of these young up-and-comers.

The Defense Struggled

How often have I written that before?  Not since I was posting on Facebook about Bill Callahan’s criminally garbage defense.  In the past few years there have been two constants at the University of Nebraska: Bo Pelini pulling a face like he just saw an innocent man getting the electric chair every time there’s a false start and a defense that consistently plays well.

Bo still pulled his innocent-man-gets-murdered face on Saturday, at times looking like he would be happy to serve as the executioner, but the defense simply wasn’t up to par. 

There was no pass rush to speak of.  None.  Jared Crick, normally able to toss aside blockers like most 8th grade girls toss aside crushes, looked sluggish.  He wasn’t able to pressure the Bulldogs’ Derek Carr, despite playing against a line that had been shredded like cheap toilet paper by Cal the week before. 

Sure, Carr was constantly rolling out.  He was bootlegging like Prohibition was back in effect.  But Crick and company should’ve still been able to get into the backfield and disrupt the quarterback more than they did.  It was disconcerting to see Crick be so ineffectual and see Meredith go from havoc-wreaking man-beast to just some guy with crazy hair.  It left me wondering if perhaps Crick wasn’t right, if maybe he’d sustained some kind of injury or illness that slowed him down against such a weak o-line.

Alfonzo Dennard was certainly missed in the secondary as Carr was able to pick apart the youngsters, throwing for 254 yards and making them look every bit as inexperienced as we know they are.

The Dogs’ run game, too, was shockingly effective.  If there has been a chink in the defense’s black chainmail in the past, it has been their ability to stop the run.  Saturday was no exception.  The 5’7″ Robbie Rouse slashed through the defense, racking up 169 yards on 36 carries and thoroughly freaking me out for our matchup against the Washington Huskies’ stud rusher, Chris Polk, this weekend.

LaVonte David got his usual 12,000,000,000 tackles, which was a bright spot, but the line will have to generate more pressure and the secondary will have to grow up quick or they’ll have Husker fans getting suddenly very edgy.

T-Magic Pulls One Out of His. . .Hat

Taylor Martinez had a tough outing.  It’s strange to write that about someone who had 319 yards of total offense and accounted for 3 touchdowns on the night.  That’s the frustrating part about Martinez, though.  He makes or breaks virtually every play.  His insane speed can rip the swear words you were throwing his way right out of your mouth as he blazes past everyone for a 47-yard touchdown and his herky-jerky tosses directly to the opposition can have you howling for his benching in favor of anyone who can throw it to the guys in our uniforms.

He’s a catch 22 wearing #3.  We can’t afford to play without him, or so Pelini would seem to think, and at times he’s a detriment to the team.  He could’ve had two or three more turnovers but we lucked into either fumbling out of bounds or somehow being gifted the ball back.  At some point this season, more than likely against good opponents, Martinez’s big play abilities will end up getting stifled and then we may just find ourselves between a rock and a completely-screwed-potentially-losing-to-Texas-wait-that-already-happened place.

I realize that the accuracy issues are bad (*Author’s note: Martinez completed a Medusa-ugly 47% of his passes against Fresno State including one out-and-out gem that hit the Fresno player in the hands and had me pulling the Gwyneth Paltrow “Uh-oh. . .It’s plague time” face that Contagion has subjected us to every single commercial break for the last month.

Looks like Paltrow was watching the game Saturday night.

 

In Conclusion

It’s no secret that this offense is out of balance.  We rely on the big play too much.  P-90Rex still only averaged 3.7 yards-per-carry.  That number needs to climb if we’re to establish any type of balance between Martinez and the rest of the runners.

Big Plays, while they certainly can get us all to bite off a swear word mid “motherfu–“, can also doom us if we rely on them too heavily. 

Our defense, no doubt challenged by the brothers Pelini this week (*Author’s note: And by “challenged” I mean verbally flogged into a complete fervor of insanity) will have something to prove for the first time in a very long time.  Some might think that makes them weak.  I think it makes them dangerous.  We’ll find out either way on Saturday.

 FIN

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Comments
  1. Sue Tolles says:

    “catch-22 wearing # 3” very true, but I think we have someone better. “like 8th grade girls toss aside crushes”, that is what we want to see. It was a rrrruufff rrrrfffff game to watch.

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