At halftime, I posted the following on Facebook.
“Uh oh. Offense is going to have to win this one. Yikes!”
It was “Yikes!” alright, for the Kansas Jayhawks.
Few short of Shawn Watson, his fellow offensive assistants and the Husker offensive players thought this was going to turn out good for the scarlets. But low and behold, it did! In the most impressive offensive effort against non-Sun Belt competition, the Cornhuskers put themselves in a position to win the North Division next week by defeating Kansas State. Preseason, we all felt that NU had to beat Kansas (their co-favorite counterparts) to claim a spot in the Big 12 Championship. We just didn’t think the circumstances would be like this.\
And we didn’t think it would be the offense to save the day.
How did they do it? With some good ol’ fashioned Nebraska power, possession, precision and poise.
Hello there Tyler Legate! Nice to see you! The redshirt freshman from Neligh is listed at 5-10, 225 pounds. By fullback standards, that’s kinda small. Consider that Joel Makovicka was listed at 5-11, 235lbs - 12 years ago. While nobody is going to confuse Legate for Makovicka as a runner (mostly because Legate may never touch the ball outside of a pass play), Legate is doing the one thing that all Nebraska fullbacks are taught to do first.
Plow a path.
And plow Legate did. Though it wasn’t a guarantee that every time the Huskers ran Roy Helu behind #48, they gobbled up mass chunks of yardage, they succeeded more times than not. The back-breaking final drive featured a 30 yard Helu run on 3rd and 10 and the game-clinching 14 yard touchdown run on 3rd and 4. Both plays set up by textbook lead blocking by Legate. Watch the replay of the 30 yard run, Legate flattens his man on the perimeter, opening up the sideline alley that allowed Helu to streak down the field.
In addition, three of Niles Paul’s four catches off play action were made possible because Legate was in the game to give the defense a “run look.”
How about NO turnovers. Only the third time this year we’ve been able to say that. If the Huskers were going to win, they couldn’t be bumbling around the field.
In addition, the Big Red also controlled the ball in the second half. More often than not, the time of possession stat doesn’t paint an accurate picture of what kind of dominance an offense is having in a particular game. But on a day where Nebraska’s defense was struggling, having the ball for over 19 minutes of the second half was critical. In addition, the Huskers gained that T.O.P. with only four possessions – and they scored on each of those possessions with drives of 13, 13, 4 and 10 plays respectively. Alex Henery’s only work of the second half was to kick the ball through the uprights.
Zac Lee is not going to confuse anyone for Peyton Manning when it comes to accuracy. But on a day where he was facing the Big 12′s most veteran quarterback, Lee outperformed Todd Reesing. He hit Paul every time on those important field-changing play action passes. He never really missed anybody badly as we have seen in other games and his short passing game was accurate when it needed to be.
In addition, his receivers didn’t make the mind-blowing drops that have plagued this team most of the season.
Lee looked more like the Arkansas State Lee than the Virginia Tech Lee. He still looks like a robot at times running the option which still confounds me every time the play is called or Lee audibles to it. But he did enough when it was called not to screw it up. Not to panic. Then there were a couple of 3rd down scrambles where Lee actually looked like he was running with confidence. Reesing was the one sliding more times than Lou Brock going into second. Lee generally stood his ground, not that he needs to nor should, but he wasn’t showing that stooped over look of a man who was ready to fall at the first sign of contact.
Confidence. That is something that has been sorely missing in Nebraska’s offense. With success usually comes confidence. Though last week against Oklahoma could not be considered an offensive gem, it did do enough to win the game. Against Kansas, the Huskers were more free to spice things up a bit with play action passing and option and it worked. Against Kansas State, the Huskers should be able to build on that confidence and if they can, they should win the North Division. That was expected all along. The path has been very strange and very rocky, but with a little confidence, it should be one that the Huskers can follow all the way to its proper conclusion.
Reesing “Goes For Two”
I remember this play, but for some reason I didn’t see it all the way through to the end. It happened early in the first quarter on one of Kansas’s opening possessions. It will go in the stat sheet as a routine incomplete pass. But as you will see, the pass did find a target…….and anytime a KU guy can inflict pain on a K-State grad, that’ll make any Jayhawk proud.
And if you are a fan of The Simpsons, it might remind you of this classic.
You might say Ekeler imitates art!
Sunday School Top Ten
Before I give you my poll, I first have to mention the fact that despite looking like absolute garbage the last three weeks, the pollsters still find it proper to have Southern Cal ranked with their 7-3 record. Sure, that record is not bad, but this system is based on subjectivity. It’s been based on “style points” and “quality wins” yet somehow the Trojans are deemed worthy of a ranking when they are only worthy of the first syllable of that word.
Why? Well, it’s pretty easy to see. The pollsters will always give the benefit of the doubt to the brand name program, especially when that program is of the glamour of Southern Cal. Logic doesn’t apply. Not that I ever expect logic to apply in anything the AP or coaches do when it comes to ranking the best teams in the nation.
With that said, let me try to apply my logic to this week’s top ten.
1 – Florida
2 – Alabama
3 – Texas
4 – TCU
5 – Cincinnati
6 – Georgia Tech
7 – Boise State
8 – Pittsburgh
9 – Oregon
10 – LSU
As I mentioned earlier this season, I tend to give more credit to undefeated teams than perhaps some pollsters do. So why is Georgia Tech rated ahead of unbeaten Boise? Boise hasn’t beaten anyone of quality since Oregon in the first week. Yes, Oregon is in my top ten while Georgia Tech hasn’t beaten anyone of that caliber. But I am looking at the entire body of work. The Yellow Jackets have wins over division leading Clemson, along with bowl eligible teams North Carolina and Virginia Tech. Their only loss is to another bowl eligible team, the Miami Hurricanes.
Beyond Oregon, Boise has wins over Idaho and Fresno State. Idaho is the only one of those two that is bowl eligible.