Nebraska lost a week’s worth of experience when bad weather canceled its opener on Sept. 1 against Akron. The Cornhuskers lost something far more tangible last Saturday.
In the wake of a 33-28 defeat against former Big 8/Big 12 rival Colorado, Big Red Nation members will wonder how their team can bounce back heading into this week’s game at home against Troy. On paper, the Sun Belt Conference opponent should be no match for the Cornhuskers — but the paper on which record books are printed says that the Trojans strolled into Baton Rouge last September and knocked off LSU on their way to an 11-win season.
Nebraska’s offense looked fine against Colorado — but of course a lot of concern surrounds Adrian Martinez and whether he can play Saturday after leaving last week’s game with a knee injury.
For the Cornhuskers defense, the questions are a bit trickier even though Nebraska outgained Colorado 565-395. Here are some things that Nebraska’s defense can take away from its season debut:
The Cornhuskers can bring the pressure: Nebraska had seven sacks and 14 tackles for loss against its old rival. Outside linebacker Luke Gifford had 11 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a team-high three tackles for loss. Defensive lineman Khalil Davis (pictured at top) led the Cornhuskers with two sacks. In all, the Buffaloes lost 43 yards in sacks alone.
Some good hits: As one would expect when a once-fierce rivalry is renewed, there were some major hits by both teams. For example, Davis laid out Colorado quarterback Steven Montez for one of his sacks:
Tough when needed: In the first half, Nebraska’s defense stiffened when it needed to the most. Turnovers set up Colorado’s first two touchdowns, but after their 86-yard TD drive to start the game, the Buffs found it tougher to move the ball. Nebraska forced them to punt on four consecutive drives. On the next two drives, on either side of halftime, Colorado drove well into Nebraska territory but had to settle for field goals.
Needs to be fixed
Missed tackles: Colorado sustained some key possessions by making Cornhuskers defensive players miss. This was a prime example early, on Colorado’s first touchdown drive:
Fewer penalties would help: It was bad enough for Nebraska that Colorado started its second drive at the Cornhuskers 24-yard-line after a turnover. But a hand to the face penalty made it worse, putting the ball on the 12. The Buffaloes scored a touchdown three plays later to go ahead 14-0. That was just one example of a poorly timed flag; the Cornhuskers committed 11 penalties and the defense was responsible for four of them.
Make smart plays: This ties in somewhat with the item above. The most costly penalty all day for Nebraska was the personal foul called on Antonio Reed on third down late in the game. The Buffaloes would have faced fourth and 24 at their own 45; instead they got a free first down at the Nebraska 40. On the next play, Montez hit Laviska Shenault for the winning touchdown with 1:06 remaining.