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The grades: Nebraska 35, South Alabama 21
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The grades: Nebraska 35, South Alabama 21

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Nebraska vs. South Alabama, 8.31

Nebraska running back Dedrick Mills (26) scored two first-half touchdowns against South Alabama on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

RUNNING GAME (D)

Nebraska's offensive line had trouble getting Dedrick Mills or almost anyone else much running room. Center snap issues seemed to throw the offense out of whack at times. Mills' fourth-quarter fumble was emblematic of a tough day all-around for the offense.

PASSING GAME (C)

Adrian Martinez wasn't pleased with his performance, which was surprisingly uneven. He gunned a strike to JD Spielman on third-and-14 for a first down on the first series, then a few plays later found Jack Stoll open for a 42-yard gain to South Alabama's 5. However, Martinez nearly threw an interception on the second series and was picked off late in the third quarter, and the Jaguar offense turned the mistake into a TD. What's more, Martinez and Wan'Dale Robinson failed to hook up on a third-down pass that should've gone for a touchdown.

AGAINST THE RUN (B)

Nebraska was just OK against the run early in the game, allowing 48 yards on 14 carries in the first quarter. However, in the second quarter, outside linebacker JoJo Domann twice came up big with stops behind the line of scrimmage. The Huskers tightened up as the game progressed, and South Alabama finished with 83 yards on 44 carries (1.9 per attempt).

AGAINST THE PASS (A)

Senior safety Eric Lee had a quiet August, but he made some serious noise with his pick six early in the third quarter, giving Nebraska a 21-7 lead. Coverage was generally strong most of the day. Meanwhile, Lamar Jackson came up big late in the first quarter when he crunched Cephus Johnson in the pocket hard enough that the QB lost a fumble. Cam Taylor-Britt did the same to Johnson early in the fourth quarter, and this time Alex Davis recovered the ball and scored a TD. Taylor had a clutch interception in the fourth quarter, and Lee tacked on another for good measure.

SPECIAL TEAMS (C)

Really a mixed bag here. Spielman brought the crowd to its feet with a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown, but then muffed the next punt, with South Alabama recovering at NU's 13 and capitalizing with a TD. Place-kicker Dylan Jorgensen, filling in for the injured Barret Pickering, caught a break when his opening kickoff smacked into the pylon for a touchback. But Jorgensen was wide right on a 31-yard field goal. Punter Isaac Armstrong twice benefited from long rolls on short punts, but he uncorked a 57-yarder in the third quarter when NU really needed it.

GAME MANAGEMENT (C)

Hey, it's an opener. Some sloppiness was expected. Matt Farniok was whistled for a false start on the first series, but Nebraska overcame it with a first down on third-and-14. Later in the first quarter, Deontai Williams handed South Alabama a first down with a late hit, and the Jaguars capitalized with a touchdown. It wasn't the best look when Brenden Jaimes was whistled for a false start on an extra-point try. All told, the Huskers committed eight penalties for 64 yards.

PLAY-CALLING (B)

Interesting choice by Scott Frost to go for it on fourth-and-5 from South Alabama's 49 late in the first quarter. Nebraska failed to convert because of a broken play that led to an incomplete pass. Execution throughout the day was a bigger issue than play-calling.

OVERALL (C)

In short, I expected more from Nebraska. Based on preseason ratings, I think a lot of people expected more, particularly from the offense. But, hey, it's always better to learn from a win.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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