Nebraska Big Plays Put Broncos Away
For the Huskers, big plays were the name of the game on Saturday. On offense, it was Joe Ganz piling on the passing numbers and making plays with his feet. On special teams, it was Alex Henery hitting all four of his 44 yard attempts and all of his extra points to continue his perfect kicking record. On defense, it was Cody Glenn. Period. End of Sentence. 12 tackles, 3 for loss, 3 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble, and a lot of fist pumping were what he brought to the table against Western Michigan. We in the blogging business call that â€œBringing Your A-Game.â€?
First of all, let's get this out of the way: the Western Michigan Broncos are going to be a bowl eligible team this year. They returned 10 starters on defense and have a highly touted passing attack. The Hiller to Ledbetter connection is likely going to be the best in the MAC conference this year. Yes, they are a non-conference opponent. But they also faced a Missouri team last year, playing to a 52-24 loss. So for those fairweather Husker fans, please realize that this should not have been a 70-0 type of game.
To look at the big plays we had, I broke down the yardage into some charts. If we look at the plays from 1 through 67, a pattern does not seem to emerge.
However, when we look at the chart from least to most number of yards in a play, we start to see something interesting.
(note: I gave a zero for no gain rushes, incomplete passes, and interceptions)
The Huskers had 11 plays between 10-20 yards and 8 plays with more than 20. That's over 25% of our plays that gained enough for a first down and better! All I heard about last year was how big plays made all the difference. On defense, the Broncos were able to run 74 plays to our 67. However, the Nebraska defense was up to the task, holding them to only 7 plays between 10-20 yards and only 2 over 20 yards. I'll take 8 big plays to 2 any game of the year.
On the other hand, it wasn't all sunshine and kittens and smiley faces all day. There were some (fixable) mistakes that need to be taken care of before getting to conference play. Offensively, our running game was a disappointment. Roy Helu, Jr. had the most luck in terms of rushing yards, but that could have had more to do with fresh legs late in the game than anything else. They offensive linemen are putting on a strong face, but I really think that the shuffling is affecting the chemistry, a critical component of a good running line. Expect it to settle down in the next few weeks without further issues. We'll have our 200 yard rushing game in the next week or two.
The adjustments made by Bo Pelini were evident in terms of getting the penalties under control in the second half. Anthony West practically handed Western Michigan their first touchdown. Fortunately, those types of mistakes are easy to avoid in the future. The mistakes that worried me were seeing O'Hanlon out of position or playing catch-up on at least three plays. Looking at the stats from above, it didn't appear to burn us. I'm hoping we don't have another Pat Ricketts on our hands here.
Overall, I'm just being a little picky. I needed to find something good and something not so good from the game, but I was trying not to just be â€œa fan.â€? I am very happy with the win and see much potential for a bowl-bound team this year. We're still a (not so) far cry from championship games, but this is a pretty solid beginning to the Bo Pelini era.