PASSING GAME (C)
Was that Corey McKeon playing quarterback during the middle portion of the first half? It sure didn’t like the same No. 13 that started and ended the half. Zac Taylor struggled in between, at one time throwing eight straight incompletions (including an interception). But he rebounded with a strong series before halftime that gave the Huskers a spark. Taylor, though, was hounded all game by a blitzing Michigan defense that really smelled blood after going up 28-17.
RUNNING GAME (A)
Cory Ross gave Nebraska a spark on the first series of the game, and the senior running back had perhaps his best running game of the season. Ross’ 20-yard run on Nebraska’s second touchdown drive was key. He also had a 25-yard gain in the third quarter on the Huskers’ field-goal drive. The fact Nebraska was able to establish a ground game early was good to see.
AGAINST THE RUN (B)
It’s debatable how healthy Michigan starting running back Michael Hart was, but in any case, the Blackshirts contained him for the most part. But who knew Chad Henne was so capable of producing all those scrambling yards? That hurt Nebraska as much as anything. Credit the Huskers for sniffing out a few trick plays on reverses and end-arounds.
AGAINST THE PASS (B)
Give credit to Nebraska’s secondary for those first-half sacks of Henne. The Michigan quarterback had great protection, but the Nebraska defensive front still sacked Henne three times before halftime. In the second half, though, the vaunted Michigan line kept Nebraska’s pass rush at arm's length. Zac Bowman, despite his first-half pass-interference penalty, had perhaps his best game as a Husker. His third-quarter interception was not only an outstanding play, it was a crucial one. And credit safety Blake Tiedtke for a couple of nice breakups, too.
SPECIAL TEAMS (D)
Nebraska lost this battle. A kickoff coverage unit that’s been so sound all year let Steve Breaston loose on a 69-yard return that set up Michigan’s first touchdown, and allowed James Bloomsburgh to return a kickoff 30 yards to set up a third-quarter touchdown. A low punt snap on Nebraska’s first punt gave the Wolverines great field position on their first series. And the Huskers averted disaster late in the first half when Tyler Fisher inexplicably ran into punt returner Cortney Grixby, who was signaling a fair catch.
GAME MANAGEMENT AND PENALTIES (C)
Too many penalties for a bowl game. A couple of false starts put the Huskers in tough positions. The holding penalty on Chris Patrick negated a touchdown, but Nebraska came back on the next play with a score, anyway. A costly roughing-the-passer penalty on Titus Adams helped Michigan on its first touchdown drive of the third quarter. A kick-catch interference penalty on a Michigan punt return also hurt NU, as Michigan began a touchdown drive at its 47-yard line.
PLAY CALLING (A)
Great call to toss the ball to Ross on third-and-5 late in the first half. Michigan, expecting pass, was blitzing big-time, and it allowed Ross, with the help of a nice block by J.B Phillips, to break a 20-yard gain. It set up Nebraska’s second touchdown. A similar call against the blitz resulted in a 25-yard run for Ross in the third quarter. Smart to go for the two-point conversion, even with eight minutes remaining (especially since it worked).
If nothing else, we learned that the Colorado game was indeed not a fluke, aberration, or whatever excuse some wanted to use for Nebraska’s surprising 30-3 victory. Nebraska played an inspired football game against a more-established, more-experienced Michigan team. The thrilling, competitive game showed Bill Callahan’s team is headed in the right direction. Oh, and the victory was nice, too.