RUNNING GAME (A)
Question the competition all you want. What Terrell Newby provided Saturday night was refreshing and, quite honestly, a bit surprising. The junior showed burst, vision, patience and speed — all traits I hadn’t seen consistently. Give the O-line a shoutout, too. Now, can Newby duplicate that come Big Ten Conference play? Or against Miami, for that matter?
PASSING GAME (A)
Tommy Armstrong looked poised and confident and benefited from good protection. What a career day for Lane Hovey, too, who’s following in the footsteps of Brandon Reilly, Sam Burtch and others in the "Where-did-they-come-from?" department. The receiving crew, in general, isn’t missing much of a beat while De'Mornay Pierson-El recovers from a foot injury. Few drops, good blocking, yards after contact — it’s all been there.
AGAINST THE RUN (A)
South Alabama didn’t run much early, and when it did, the Jaguars tried getting to the perimeter, mostly on pitch plays, and without success. Defensive end Freedom Akinmoladun sniffed out a misdirection play for a loss of 6 yards. And credit Nebraska for surviving without injured linebackers Josh Banderas and Dedrick Young. The return of Michael Rose-Ivey was timely, and showed maybe how much he was missed not only last week, but last season.
AGAINST THE PASS (C)
Yes, Daniel Davie has been beaten often this season (two more bad ones Saturday), but it also seems the cornerback has been the victim of some impressive throws and catches. Davie was right there on the Jaguars' 55-yard completion, but again, a great reception by Josh Magee. Pressure seemed better, at times. Nebraska blitzed often early, with Rose-Ivey flattening Cody Clements on a third-and-long passing play.
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SPECIAL TEAMS (A)
I’d like to think I can tell the difference between Bronx cheers and real cheers, and Memorial Stadium seemed genuinely happy in their praise of Drew Brown’s 42-yard field goal after his rough season opener. That could stem from Brown meeting the media last week and taking ownership. That garnered respect. Nice work from punter Tyson Broekemeier in relief of Sam Foltz.
PLAY CALLING (A)
What was that offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said Tuesday about narrowing the running back rotation and letting one man find some rhythm? He meant business, and backed up those words. Nebraska was intent on establishing the run early, and did so successfully. That opened opportunities in other areas, too.
GAME MANAGEMENT/PENALTIES (A)
Well, well, well. Wasn’t that a crisp showing from the offensive unit? The level of competition can’t (or shouldn’t) dictate the number of penalties by an offense, so what Nebraska did Saturday — no offensive penalties in the first half, no confusion — earns strong marks. I was a bit surprised, though, Nebraska didn’t take one of its two timeouts on defense late in the first half when South Alabama was driving.
Any questions about the focus or mental makeup of this team after last week’s gut-wrenching loss were answered quickly and soundly. Nebraska did its job against an inferior foe, looked sharp, especially on offense, and corrected many kinks you hope to see from game one to game two. Now, is it ready for another step up in competition, especially on the road? Saturday night was a big, positive step.