Idaho State vs. Nebraska, 9.22.12

Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini (right) pats the helmet of Huskers quarterback Tyson Broekemeier (9) during warmups on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012, at Memorial Stadium.

FRANCIS GARDLER/Lincoln Journal Star

Let's take a chance and assume Nebraska will face football teams in the Big Ten that are appreciably better than Idaho State.

We can make that assumption, right?


It is probably best to proceed with a sense of humor in the wake of an exceptionally lousy game Saturday at Memorial Stadium — not to mention another shoddy day in the Big Ten.

Nebraska ended the nonconference part of its schedule with a 73-7 triumph that was as unfortunate in its occurrence as it was convincing.

These "money games" or "guarantee games" often are guaranteed to be a waste of fans' money.

Did Nebraska get anything out of it?

"Not a lot," said coach Bo Pelini.

However, I did detect something significant from the Nebraska camp despite the snarky tweets that not only belittled the Huskers-Bengals contest (rightfully so) but also the goings-on in the beleaguered Big Ten (ditto).

Nebraska (3-1) enters conference play with a nice vibe: Confident but not overly so. 

The Huskers seemingly regained their footing the past two weeks after that god-awful showing on defense Sept. 8 against UCLA. Pelini and his staff shuffled the defensive deck against Arkansas State, emphasizing the need for speed.

The Huskers in the past two games also unleashed senior Eric Martin, a defensive end/linebacker hybrid who pummeled Idaho State to the tune of five tackles for loss, including 2 1/2 sacks. The 6-foot-2, 250-pound Californian was so disruptive it was at times silly — like on the play during which he was blatantly held by a lineman (no call) but still recorded a sack.

The Bengals boast a decent spread attack. But they managed only 210 yards of total offense.

This was a grotesque mismatch.

This was a path of no resistance.

Perhaps the best thing about this game was that it's over.

And now comes the tough part: Staying awake throughout the Big Ten season.

OK, I'm done cracking wise.

If you're a Nebraska fan, you may feel downright excited, anticipating the Huskers' first conference crown since 1999. You could build a strong case that Pelini's crew should be regarded as the favorite, in part because the league is in shambles. But that's not the only reason.

Nebraska possesses the best group of skill-position players in the conference, especially if Rex Burkhead rounds into his previous All-Big Ten form, which appears possible.

The Huskers likely will remain potent on offense for the duration of the season. Can they be consistently proficient on special teams? Can they be a top 40-level defense nationally?

That just might be enough to get them to Indy in early December, and perhaps that explains why Pelini on Saturday seemed like Tony Robbins compared to his glum Big Ten colleagues.

Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers was philosophical, albeit in a surly manner, about surrendering 403 yards to Alabama-Birmingham in the Buckeyes' 29-15 victory.

"We gave up 15 points, that's all I give a s*** about," he said.

Well, then.

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio evidently was perturbed by his team's 23-7 win against Eastern Michigan. His postgame news conference lasted less than three minutes, and many of the questions were followed with a short answer and then "next question."

The biggest question entering Nebraska's game against Idaho State: How's Rex feeling?

Burkhead, sidelined since early in the Sept. 1 opener with an MCL sprain, showed "good straight-ahead burst," Nebraska running backs coach Ron Brown said. "His side-to-side movement wasn't too bad. He seemed to break tackles."

Enough of them to finish with 119 yards and two touchdowns on only eight carries. Burkhead said he was 90 percent of full speed, which was more than enough against Idaho State's smallish and slow defense.

Credit Nebraska for its focus. Pelini was correct when he said his team showed maturity with its businesslike approach to the game.

Credit Nebraska for its open-mindedness. For instance, senior linebacker Alonzo Whaley played defensive end despite no practice at the position.

"We just kind of threw him into the fire," NU defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski said.

No practice at the position? Really?

"Not that I can remember," Kaczenski said with a hearty laugh.

Yeah, Saturday was one of those kind of games — sort of fun, a bit relaxing, but nothing I'd ever pay to see.

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 402-473-7440 or


Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

Load comments