Sunday School: Kansas State

I am at a loss for words.

Not because I am stunned or overwhelmed by what I saw, but because after Nebraska’s 17-3 win over Kansas State, clinching the Big 12 North Division, I don’t have anything more to write.

The game and the victory are probably symbolic of what we have seen out of this Husker team of 2009.  A workmanlike effort.  Not flashy.  Not spectacular.  Just another win.

Nebraska’s offense did enough.  The defense, though still looking like it is suffering from OU hangover, did enough.  Special teams did enough.  Now, it earns Nebraska another trip to the Big 12 Championship game.  Ironically, in a city and a stadium that exudes flash and glamour.

Dallas, get ready to welcome the unassuming Nebraska Cornhuskers – champions of the Big 12 North.

And that’s really all I can say about that.

Bishop’s Six Pack

The Good:

Zac Lee – It’s amazing what a little confidence can do for you.  Since being asked to manage the offense against Oklahoma, the confidence has returned to Nebraska’s on-off-back on starting quarterback.  Saturday night may have been his most accurate passing game of the season, though it won’t be that way statistically.  All season, I have wondered about Lee’s short-to-intermediate passing abilities.  Many times he would throw behind or short of receivers.  But against Kansas State, Lee was on target all night.  Those short passes – many of them on rollouts – got Nebraska’s offense going and helped a running game that took some time to get going.

In addition, Lee ran the ball about as good as he has all season.  He didn’t appear like he was ready to go down.  He took some vicious hits and bounced right back up.  There was a toughness there that I wondered existed.  Much of this success is due to the fact that NU has it’s running threat back and that Shawn Watson has settled into a new offensive identity.  But it can’t happen with a quarterback who is timid or appears lacking in confidence.  With this Zac Lee, Nebraska has a puncher’s chance in Dallas.

Penalties, or lack thereof – The Huskers committed just 3 penalties all night and we didn’t see one false start or holding penalty that destroyed a positive play.

Senior Class – A good night was had by the 13 members of the 2009 Nebraska football senior class in the Memorial Stadium swan song.  Seniors Larry Asante, Ndamukong Suh and Phillip Dillard led the way in tackles.  Asante made the game changing hit that separated Keithen Valentine from the ball at the Nebraska 1 yard line and intercepted another pass inside the red zone.

The Bad:

Losing Containment – For the second week in a row, the Husker defensive line was made to look mortal and while there was a little better pass rush on Grant Gregory than was applied to KU’s Todd Reesing, too many times was Gregory able to escape and make positive yards.  You knew that Suh and Crick was draw some added attention, but it is time for the pressure from the ends to pinch down on the opponent’s QB.  The Huskers were fortunate that Reesing is not enjoying his best year or that Gregory is nothing more than a journeyman passer.  The Big Red won’t be so fortunate against Texas’s Colt McCoy.

A little soft in the middle – For the last two weeks, opponents have schemed against the Blackshirt to open up the middle of the field.  With their spread, it was relatively easy for Kansas to get receivers out wide and leave the middle open for crossing routes or for Reesing to run.  K-State got a bulk of their passing success by dragging Brandon Banks or a running back across the middle.  If Gregory were a better passer, he would have had another 50-100 yards through the air.  Again, this is a luxury the Blackshirts won’t have against Texas.

A Meaningless Thanksgiving Weekend – Don’t tell this to Bo Pelini, but this will likely be the most anti-climatic end of regular season game Nebraska has played in years.  Even in 2004 and 2006, there was the drama of avoiding a losing season.  Last year, it meant a Gator Bowl trip instead of a lesser bowl.  But what is there in 2009?  It depends if Colorado is still willing to save a head coach’s job and by the sounds of the rumbling from Boulder, I don’t think they care if Dan Hawkins comes back for another year.  Sure an outright Big 12 North title and building momentum for the title game is important.  Look at what NU did to Colorado in 2005.  I just hope that the Huskers continue the pledge of working hard every day, because it’s going to be hard to work up a lot of enthusiasm for this Friday.

My How Things Have Changed

The first time I went to Memorial Stadium for a game in 1978, we traveled by motorhome, parked in some nondescript lot, ate some Irv’s sandwiches and went to the game.  I have been to plenty of games as a fan, but never really noticed a huge emphasis on tailgating around Memorial Stadium.  I always assumed that tailgates were things that happened at places where there is more surface parking close to the stadium.

I assumed wrong.

For the first time since my college days, I got a chance to walk around and take in the atmosphere in the hours before kickoff.  It was a pleasant discovery to see the various set ups, both elaborate and simple, from the giant motorhomes to the converted buses.  From simple tents to corporate parties with multiple large screen televisions, there was quite a party happening in Lincoln for several hours before the ball was set on the kicking tee.

So if anyone tells you that this town is boring, just bring them here on a gameday Saturday.  We know how to throw a party.

Get Ready Conspiracy Theorists

Barring an unlikely collapse against Texas A&M, the Big 12 is poised to get a representative in the BCS title game for the 7th time in the 12 year history of the contest (and the 5th in the last 7 games.)  Of course, Nebraska could spoil the Longhorns party in Pasadena by pulling the James Brown-esque upset in Cowboys Stadium.  Already this year we have heard the “foul” cries from the SEC that officials there have been protecting Florida and Alabama as they run towards an eventual BCS Semifinal game in the SEC Championship.

The Big Texas….er, 12 wouldn’t dream of protecting it’s 18 million dollar (the payout for reaching the BCS Championship) investment…..would it?

Any calls that go against the Huskers will certainly be questioned.

Sunday School Top Ten

1 – Florida

2 – Alabama

3 – Texas

4 – TCU

5 – Cincinnati

6 – Georgia Tech

7 – Boise State

8 – Ohio State

9 – Iowa

10 – Pittsburgh

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