RUNNING GAME (C)
Nebraska’s running game obviously isn’t the same threat when Taylor Martinez is hobbled, as he was Saturday night. Roy Helu cracked the 1,000-yard mark for the season, and Rex Burkhead provided his normal tough yards up the middle. The offensive line didn’t seem in sync for a second straight week.
PASSING GAME (C)
Nebraska missed too many easy plays in the passing game, either because of dropped passes or overthrows on deep balls by Cody Green. The interceptions — one each by Green and Taylor Martinez — were costly, particularly the third-quarter pick by Martinez. Already at the A&M 34-yard line, Nebraska was within Alex Henery field-goal range before that turnover. Why not run for a few more yards and let the senior kicker do his thing?
AGAINST THE RUN (B)
A major concern entering this game was A&M running back Cyrus Gray, who’d run for 100-plus yards in each of the Aggies’ last four games. Make it five, thanks to some key second-half runs from Gray, who finished with 137 yards on 26 carries. The rest of A&M’s team, though, netted only 1 yard.
AGAINST THE PASS (A)
Ryan Tannehill’s success through the air before Saturday had come against pass defenses ranked 75th or worse nationally (Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Baylor). Nebraska was a different test. As it has throughout this season, the Blackshirts made life difficult for a quarterback who’d been on a hot streak. A&M made an adjustment at halftime and had Tannehill roll out more often to avoid NU’s pressure. The Huskers limited Jeff Fuller to one catch and collected three sacks.
SPECIAL TEAMS (A)
Nebraska didn’t kick off often, but when it did, the Huskers made sure dangerous returner Coryell Judie, who’d returned two kickoffs for TDs in the Aggies’ last two games, didn’t break a long one. Alex Henery did a masterful job on punts to pin A&M deep in its territory, as Nebraska, more times than not, won the battle of field position.
PLAY CALLING (C)
Nebraska defensive coaches have said in recent weeks that it seems like they’re seeing something new each week because the opponent keeps showing looks coaches haven’t seen on film. I don’t think we can say the same thing about Nebraska’s offense. I didn’t see anything Saturday from NU that I haven’t seen throughout the season. If there’s ever a time for a new wrinkle or a trick play, isn’t this it, especially when your biggest weapon is not a factor?
GAME MANAGEMENT (F)
Nebraska lost its composure in a rowdy environment, and because of horrible officiating. You can be certain Bo Pelini got his message across to officials, judging by the unsportsmanlike penalty on the Nebraska sideline early in the fourth quarter. There were four personal fouls/unsportsmanlike calls in the first half alone, although if I’m Ben Cotton, I’d have a hard time keeping my composure, too, if I’m getting punched where he was getting punched. Interesting, isn’t it, that Nebraska’s last two opponents have combined for three penalties? Three. (A&M, by the way, entered the game as the league’s second-most penalized team.)
I always knew Kyle Field was known for its 12th man, but I didn’t know he wore black and white. Granted, Nebraska didn’t keep its composure (including the head coach) through the mess, and that meltdown, ultimately, is to blame for the loss. But the roughing-the-passer penalty on Courtney Osborne was downright criminal, and the picked-up pass-interference call deep in Aggie territory was suspect, at least. Now, defeating an upstart Colorado team in Lincoln isn’t a given, which is why this was a big loss for Nebraska.