Rex Burkhead’s absence certainly wasn’t the difference Saturday, although it’s painfully clear there’s a huge dropoff between Burkhead, a true freshman, and those behind him (if we didn’t already know that). The concern now is the health of Roy Helu, who didn’t play in the fourth quarter. When he played, Helu ran hard and gave Nebraska’s ground game some hope.


There’s plenty of blame to go around here. Protection was spotty at best. Zac Lee overthrew Niles Paul in the end zone. Cody Green threw an interception and could’ve had two more. Receivers dropped passes, none more crucial than the lateral to Niles Paul (although that was technically a run). That turnover turned the tide in the first quarter, and Nebraska never seemed to fully recover.


When it wants to, Texas Tech can line up and run the football. The Red Raiders proved that in the fourth quarter by pounding Baron Batch up the middle and running clock after Nebraska had closed within two touchdowns. Other than that series, Nebraska stopped Tech’s ball carriers near the line of scrimmage.


Nebraska had outstanding pressure on Steven Sheffield, sacking him five times and harassing him numerous other times, with eight hurries. Jared Crick, in particular, was a force early. But the Huskers’ inability to get off the field on two third-and-long plays on the Red Raiders’ first drive was costly. A missed tackle on an out pass led to a 58-yard gain and a field goal before halftime. The final results, though, were good: The nation’s No. 2 passing offense held to 234 yards — more than 200 yards short of its season average.


Even Alex Henery didn’t have it this day, missing wide-right on a 51-yard field-goal attempt and averaging a mere 35.2 yards on five punts. But the real killer was the bad tackling on Eric Stephen’s 40-yard kickoff return, after Nebraska had scored to pull to 21-10. The last thing the Huskers needed was to surrender field position, and that’s exactly what happened. Niles Paul bounced back from last week’s tough game, though, and had a better handle on punt returns.


Nebraska showed a lack of focus and attention to detail. Two players stood unaware within a yard of Tech linebacker Daniel Howard as he alertly picked up a live ball on a dropped lateral and returned it for a touchdown. Penalties have become a very concerning trend. A holding call on first-and-10 at the TT 25. A false start on third-and-4 at the TT 11. A personal foul on second-and-goal at the 4. Nebraska scored zero points in those situations.


This offense is in far worse shape than I thought. No rain to blame here. Saturday wasn’t as much about play-calling as it was execution, although it seemed Nebraska got very conservative down 24-3 late in the third quarter. The Huskers didn’t show much urgency in eating more than 7 minutes off the clock — and then not scoring. Glad to see coaches give Cody Green a chance, if for no other reason than to show fans that Green isn’t the cure-all to this wounded offense.


That was sloppy. Nebraska didn’t look like a very well-coached team. The 12 penalties — for a second straight game — are a sign of lack of discipline. The mental blunders help explain how Nebraska outyarded a high-powered Texas Tech team and still lost by three touchdowns. The defense is sound, but the offense has suddenly become a major concern. Credit Texas Tech for being far more prepared and for executing in areas Nebraska couldn’t. Big 12 North title, anyone? No, really … anyone?