The Whole Season in a Game
Game one is in the books and there are still just as many questions about this team as there were before the season began. But the questions are not the same ones. The problem with a small sample set is that Nebraska strengths cannot be extrapolated and the level of competition cannot be fully reviewed. The positive results may be skewed towards the weaknesses that Southern Miss possessed, but without more games, these weak spots are unknown. But there are still a few things that can be pulled from the film and stat lines that should continue.
For one, the most talked about item of the weekend was the improved throwing motion of Taylor Martinez. 34 passes, 26 completed. Only 5 or 6 passes did not look like the smooth standard quarterback throwing motion that dominated the Eagles. If a future opponent were to significantly pressure Martinez with a solid pass rush, some regression might happen. The outcome may not be the same later on, but he should still continue to look better in his throws than his efforts last year.
The offensive line had an exceptional time pass blocking. The time needed to check down to second or third option really made a difference in Martinez upping his completion to above 70%. Whether or not they continue to be a solid wall remains to be seen, but the endurance of the linemen into the fourth quarter is something that has less bearing on the opponents. The tempo of the entire offense was sufficiently quick well into the game and that is a trait that will continue in other games.
Much of that pace had to do with the rotation of wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs. The coaches made a smart move to keep fresh offensive players on the field as much as possible. Regardless of opponent, this should be a tactic that will also been clear this season. The benefit of those players being successful in week one has another positive net. Defensive players will not be able to take a play off if the number one guy comes out and number two comes in at any of the skill positions.
Another key was the not so surprising success of Ameer Abdullah. His skills in following blocks, running hard, and making football moves gave fans just a little less worry for UCLA with the status of Rex Burkhead still questionable. Yes, young players will make mistakes from time to time, but his 15 carries had the mark of someone who has been studying the game plan this off season.
The offense that took the field for the first time in 2012 looked like what should have been expected from the 2011 squad had the execution not been lacking. When the media kept getting quotes from coaches and players touting the execution, this is what it is supposed to look like.