RUNNING GAME (B)
Roy Helu had some great reads and ran tough. The offensive line blocked well. Zac Lee got into the act with a couple of sizable gains on draw plays. The only thing that would’ve been better than 207 rushing yards on Virginia Tech’s home field? How about 208 rushing yards? Nebraska need only one more yard on the ground to gain a first down and run out the clock, but couldn’t finish.
PASSING GAME (D)
Well, that wasn’t very pretty. We wondered how Lee would hold up in his first road game, and the 11-for-30 stat doesn’t lie. The same Lee who was so accurate through two games was errant on several throws and seemed to have some miscommunication with his receivers. Much of that was obviously Tech’s disruptive defense, but Lee was definitely off. When asked if this was an experience from which Lee will grow, Shawn Watson’s response was “He has to.”
AGAINST THE RUN (A)
Not everyone in the press box agreed going into the game that Tyrod Taylor was the great, threatening dual-threat quarterback that some of us made him out to be. But we questioned whether Nebraska could keep him contained, so let’s give an ‘A’ for Taylor’s minus 22 yards on 9 carries, and no run longer than 4 yards. Ryan Williams had a strong start but Nebraska adjusted and shut down the Hokies on the ground after halftime. Virginia Tech had 86 total rushing yards.
AGAINST THE PASS (B)
Can’t really grade on just one play — and we all know what play we’re talking about here. The coverage bust involving Matt O’Hanlon and Anthony West was a major hiccup, obviously, in what was otherwise good pass defense. Nebraska’s defensive line did an outstanding job of keeping Taylor in the pocket and forcing him to throw — which he did badly at times.
SPECIAL TEAMS (B)
Adi Kunalic came back with some outstanding kickoffs into the end zone after Dyrell Roberts returned the opening one 76 yards. Credit Alex Henery for some crafty —and effective — punts off bad snaps. In general, Henery’s leg practically won this game. Niles Paul’s 55-yard punt return set up Nebraska’s first score. The Huskers survived a game against Virginia Tech with no blocked kicks or direct special-teams scores. That’s a plus.
GAME MANAGEMENT (D)
Virginia Tech killed itself with penalties in the first half, and Nebraska took its turn in the second half. The holding call on Ricky Henry, negating the touchdown pass to Mike McNeill, was blatant. Then three more penalties on that drive turned a first-and-goal from the 6-yard line into a punt from the 37. Was the near-TD pass to Menelik Holt worth a challenge with only one timeout remaining? At the very least, it should’ve been reviewed without a challenge.
PLAY CALLING (B)
I’m not in the huddle or at the line of scrimmage, but it sure looked like Lee changed a lot of plays — and for the better. Credit him for recognizing trouble and getting NU into something better. Why not go to Helu near the goal line? Is this where Quentin Castille would’ve come in handy? The draw plays with Lee were nice, and nearly allowed Nebraska to run out the clock.
Nebraska had its monumental road victory against a ranked team, and lost it because the Huskers couldn’t finish. Couldn’t finish drives with touchdowns, and couldn’t finish the game. This looked a lot like the Gator Bowl — overcoming an early deficit, reeling off a bunch of big runs between the 20s and settling for a bunch of field goals. Only difference was the final defensive stand. We saw Nebraska bounce back admirably from a heartbreaker at Texas Tech last year, and I’d expect the same again, but in the meantime, who’s got some Neosporin to ease the sting?