RUNNING GAME (A)
Rushing for 375 yards in a season opener is a good enough reason for this grade, but not everything was clean for Nebraska. Yes, Imani Cross and his spin moves on his 31-yard touchdown were impressive, but why in the world did he run out of bounds when Nebraska needed to run out the clock? Fumbles were an issue, too, with none bigger than the one by Taylor Martinez with two minutes left in the game. Terrell Newby looks as advertised.
PASSING GAME (B)
Martinez looked a lot like the Martinez we knew — some beautiful throws, with some bad ones mixed in. He threw a perfectly placed touchdown pass to Jamal Turner, a play resembling Turner’s reception last year against Michigan State, including the nifty footwork to stay in bounds. He also threw that late interception, and could’ve easily had one more.
AGAINST THE RUN (D)
Wyoming got some big plays from Brett Smith on draws, but more concerning for Nebraska’s defense was how the Cowboys gashed the Huskers between the tackles, particularly in the first half. Youth was evident. Wyoming averaged 125 rushing yards last season, and surpassed that mark less than three minutes into the second quarter. If Wyoming can do that, well …
AGAINST THE PASS (D)
Give credit to Smith. He was poised, moved around in the pocket and made strong throws. Nebraska got pressure, at times, but could rarely deliver that final blow. “We couldn’t get home,” said defensive tackle Vincent Valentine. Stanley Jean-Baptiste, at times, lived up to the hype coach Bo Pelini put on him in fall camp, with a couple of hard pass breakups and an interception that not only thwarted a Wyoming score but set up a Nebraska touchdown.
SPECIAL TEAMS (B)
No fumbled punts, but that would’ve been hard to do with all the rugby-style punting Wyoming was doing. The only major special-teams snafu — and who knew it might end up costing Nebraska at the time? — was the missed PAT. But the punting by Sam Foltz was solid — lots of hang time, great distance. Looks like Nebraska has another in-state native to continue that tradition.
GAME MANAGEMENT (D)
Two false starts on third-and-1 plays in the first half are just as hair-pulling, if not more, than the two Martinez turnovers. Give credit to Pelini, though, for keeping his cool on the roughing-the-passer penalty on Randy Gregory — you know, where Gregory got penalized for sacking the quarterback.
PLAY CALLING (C)
It looked as if Tim Beck was either getting too fancy or was out-thinking himself in the first half with all the short screens instead of just going up the middle on a Wyoming defense that ranked No. 106 last season. Finally, in the second half, Nebraska did pound away on the ground, but didn’t take any shots downfield in the passing game.
Well, that’s 28 in a row on opening day, but this one was much closer than it should’ve been. Wyoming looked like the more focused and prepared team from the outset, and even after the Huskers seemingly had control, they inexcusably and inexplicably lost focus and let up. Lots of uneasy feelings in and around Memorial Stadium, mainly because everyone saw the same issues: turnovers, critical penalties, big plays given up by defense.