Report card: Nebraska vs. Michigan

2013-11-09T19:45:00Z 2013-11-10T17:02:37Z Report card: Nebraska vs. MichiganBy DARNELL DICKSON / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

Running game: B

Ameer Abdullah toughed out 105 yards on 27 carries, proving his worth over and over again. Nebraska ran for only 128 yards, but the running game was just effective enough to set up some big pass plays late. Considering the injuries that have piled up on the offensive line, it was a good performance.

Passing game: C

Veterans such as Quincy Enunwa and Kenny Bell dropped passes they probably should have caught, and Enunwa had a fumble. But both came up big when it counted. Tommy Armstrong finished 11-of-19 for 139 yards and didn't throw an interception, an important stat, since he had six combined in his past two starts. Ron Kellogg was ineffective through the air. (1-of-4, 6 yards).

Against the run: A

The Husker defensive line owned the line of scrimmage and held Michigan to minus 21 yards rushing. Even with 43 yards in sacks factored in, the Wolverines had just 17 yards from their running backs. Big props to defensive tackle Thad Randle, who controlled the middle, and ends Randy Gregory, Avery Moss and Jason Ankrah for patrolling the edge. Anybody remember Fitzgerald Toussaint gouging the Huskers for 138 yards the last time Nebraska came to Ann Arbor? He had just 6 yards on nine carries Saturday.

Against the pass: B

Michigan's Devin Gardner threw for 196 yards, and in the second half, started getting big yards with short passes to the running backs and tight ends. The Huskers had shown they could be attacked there before, but adjusted. The big factor was the pass rush, which sacked Gardner seven times. Michigan wideout Jeremy Gallon had a few big plays but finished with just five catches for 49 yards.

Special teams: B

It was surprising to see Jordan Westerkamp muff that punt in the second half. His hands are usually gold. Terrell Newby went back on punt returns in the first half when Westerkamp was banged up and made a mistake by not lining up deep enough, and a punt bounced to the NU 3-yard line. It didn't cost the Huskers, because Michigan didn't score right before the half. Mauro Bondi kicked three of his four kickoffs for touchbacks, and Sam Foltz averaged 43 yards on seven punts, including a 64-yarder.

Game management: B

The Nebraska coaches figured out what kind of a defensive game it was turning out to be, so they made the right moves to play field position most of the second half. The two-quarterback system almost never pays off, but the Huskers keep going to it. Kellogg didn't move the ball on his two possessions. I was surprised the Huskers decided to let him throw with less than a minute to play in the half.

Play calling: B

Offensive coordinator Tim Beck played to Armstrong’s strengths and didn't put him in too many bad positions. The Huskers stuck with the run even though yards sometimes were hard to come by. The run set up NU's big pass plays late. The real key to the game, though, was the defensive play calling. The Huskers brought pressure and were aggressive all game. This doesn't even look like the same defense we saw earlier in the season. The players are more confident, and that makes the coaches more confident in calling for pressure and one-on-one coverage.

Overall: B

This isn't a great Michigan team, but beating the Wolverines in Ann Arbor is a huge accomplishment for Nebraska. It was a game that came down to a key fourth-quarter drive led by a redshirt freshman quarterback and a big fourth-down stop by a defense that has struggled this year. It also sets up a big game in Lincoln against Michigan State next week.

Reach Sports Editor Darnell Dickson at ddickson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7320.

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