RUNNING GAME (A)
Nebraska appears ready to ride Roy Helu to a Big 12 North championship — provided Helu’s shoulder holds up. He showed few problems in running 28 times for 156 yards, including 86 in the fourth quarter. Granted, you wonder how spent and resigned KU’s defense was in those final minutes, but take nothing away from Helu and the offense line. The hole on the 20-yard TD run for the lead was the biggest we’ve seen in awhile, and Helu looked just as fresh in the fourth quarter as he did the first.
PASSING GAME (A)
That’s the best Zac Lee has looked since the Sun Belt Conference season. You wonder if this shot of confidence will boost Lee and the Huskers against K-State and Colorado. And what a great job by Niles Paul, whose four catches went for 154 yards. “The corners were coming up and trying to get in our face and jam us,” Paul said. “We just had to show them that they couldn’t do that.”
AGAINST THE RUN (B)
Kansas found something in the second quarter with running back Toben Opurum. The 6-foot-2, 235-pound freshman was bullish up the middle. He converted on two fourth-and-1 plays on the Jayhawks’ long second-quarter touchdown drive. But Opurum never had a run longer than 6 yards, and he averaged 2.9 for the game on 15 carries.
AGAINST THE PASS (B)
It should be noted that Todd Reesing is the first Big 12 quarterback Nebraska has faced this season that started a game last season. Reesing, a senior playing his final home game, tried to will KU to victory. Kansas did an admirable job keeping the Huskers’ front four in check, particularly Ndamukong Suh and Jared Crick. Nebraska’s lone sack came off a blitz by Prince Amukamara.
SPECIAL TEAMS (A)
Credit Paul for his work in the film room. “I knew by the way he was coming at the ball how he was going to kick it,” Paul said of Jacob Branstetter’s pooch kick. Expecting that, Paul fielded the ball at the NU 20-yard line and broke loose for a 44-yard return in the fourth quarter. Alex Henery had a tough start punting, but his 49-yarder into the wind pinned KU at its 6. Also, three more field goals for Henery. Nebraska’s coverage on punts and kicks was very sound.
GAME MANAGEMENT (C)
Nebraska continues to commit crushing penalties at inopportune times. The late, helmet-to-helmet hit by Larry Asante on Reesing was unnecessary and spurred the Jayhawks on their 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. Keith Williams’ tripping penalty pushed Nebraska back 15 yards after Paul’s catch set up NU at the KU 11. Of course, the Huskers also benefited from roughing-the-passer and facemask penalties.
PLAY CALLING (A)
Nebraska played conservative last week with success and took more shots this week with just as much success. With the corners playing up on Paul, the Huskers went deep immediately and set the tone. Loved the play-action pass off the option look. Some more bootlegs, too, including Lee’s 32-yard run on the field-goal drive in the second quarter.
Nebraska has to feel pretty comfortable in the driver’s seat of the Big 12 North race, considering the Huskers have yet to defeat a divisional foe at home. That’s what a 3-0 conference road record will get you. Credit Shawn Watson for a good offensive game plan, and a maligned offensive unit for rising to the occasion when facing a fourth-quarter deficit. Like last season, this team appears to be gaining confidence and momentum at just the right time.