RUNNING GAME (B)
Enough to get the job done, but too many plays for negative yards. Roy Helu turned in another solid game, and it was good to see Rex Burkhead get back in the mix after missing the past five weeks with a foot injury.
PASSING GAME (B)
Some of the play-action passes were effective, others weren’t, like the one off the option look that resulted in a sack. Mostly, Zac Lee looked comfortable and confident, but he made a bad decision on the interception in the end zone. “Zac feels terrible about the red-zone opportunity we let get away,” offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. “He’s still learning. He did a great job managing us from that point on. Really settled down and had no nerves. He was a totally different guy.”
AGAINST THE RUN (B)
Credit Daniel Thomas for some hard, tough running. He finished with 19 carries for 99 yards, wasn’t tackled for a loss of yardage and averaged 5.2 per carry. For sure, Thomas was one tough guy to tackle. “Coming into the game, I thought he was going to be the best back we faced all year,” Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said. “I’m convinced now that he was.”
AGAINST THE PASS (A)
Outstanding hit by Larry Asante, and the second week in a row the Huskers forced a turnover inside the Nebraska 5-yard line on the opponent’s first drive of the second half. Kansas State tripled-teamed Ndamukong Suh, and the senior nose tackle still worked his away around for a third-down pass deflection in the third quarter. As the game wore on, the Huskers’ pressure on Grant Gregory improved. Nebraska had a hard time figuring out those drag and crossing routes over the middle.
SPECIAL TEAMS (A)
How much of what Alex Henery does on those punts is skill, and how much is just plain luck? “There is a little bit of luck,” special-teams coach John Papuchis said, “and there is a little bit of ability.” Whatever the case, Henery had two more punts somehow hit inside the 3 and dart out of bounds — one that traveled 61 yards. “We want him to hit it on the half-yard line. He’s got to work on that a little bit,” joked Carl Pelini. Aside from a 22-yard punt return, the Huskers did a good job containing and kicking away from dangerous return man Brandon Banks.
GAME MANAGEMENT (A)
Nebraska did a good job of limiting penalties, especially on offense. Of the red-zone errors, at least none involved debilitating penalties (false starts, holding calls) that have plagued NU inside the 20 this season. Loved the decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 late in the fourth quarter (given the two-score lead). Nebraska was able to convert and run out the clock.
PLAY CALLING (A)
Run the football, throw in some play-action passes, play field position, rely on good defense. Repeat as necessary. “We knew it would be a slugfest,” offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. “It kind of turned out the way we thought it would. We told them it’d be another one of those 15-round fights.” The play-action pass for 47 yards to Niles Paul on the third-quarter touchdown drive was set up after a couple of nice runs by Helu.
Big 12 North champs. Has a nice ring to it. Now, can the Huskers hang with Texas? Oh, right. The trip to Boulder. For all intents and purposes, it’s meaningless. But you wonder how Nebraska will respond with a short turnaround, in the high altitude, against a team that targets Nebraska year in and year out. For now, congratulations to Bo and the boys for getting the Huskers back on top in the North.