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NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Top Five Things We Saw Against Minnesota

By Huskerlocker @huskerlocker

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By Erin Sorensen
A common sentiment by Gopher fans before kickoff last Saturday was, “Nebraska is going to destroy us.” Minnesota fans had already thrown in the towel before the game had even began. For Husker fans, confidence wasn't so easy to muster. Even though Nebraska was a 24.5-point favorite going into Saturday’s game, fans had a number of worries.
Could the defense survive without senior Jared Crick? Will quarterback Taylor Martinez make big plays, or will he revert back to old habits? Questions plagued Husker fans. What did fans ultimately see Saturday?
1.) A Step towards a Dominant Defense
The defense had one mission last Saturday and that was to stop Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray from running. They managed to do just that, but some major questions marks remained.
One of the biggest head-scratchers was why there was never any real pressure put on Gray. While Minnesota's running game was stopped, there were no sacks against the Gophers. Gray also never appeared rushed to make a decision. This alone is worrisome, considering that many Nebraska’s remaining opponents will be much more dominant on offense.
There were still bright spots for the defense on Saturday. Lavonte David continued to be a strong, vocal leader, the secondary stepped up and Nebraska held Minnesota scoreless until halftime. It wasn’t a perfect game and it wasn’t a completely dominant performance, but it was a step in the right direction.
2.) Defensive Line Unity without Crick
While Jared Crick’s presence on the field will be missed, Saturday afternoon proved that the senior is not the only necessity for the defense’s success. The leadership Crick provided during his playing days at Nebraska gave way to a new group of men who will be more than capable of holding down the fort up front. Between Chase Rome and Terrence Moore, the talent is there.
Minnesota helped to provide experience that the line will need before facing the Michigan State Spartans this Saturday. While the Gophers’ offense isn’t the toughest, it gave this unit an opportunity to work out the kinks left by Crick’s absence.
With No. 94 on the sidelines as a player coach, the line should have no issues adjusting. It’ll take a little time, but with some confidence under their belts, they has an opportunity to be stronger as each game passes.
3.) Stability in the Secondary
While the secondary still has a lot of work to do, Saturday breathed some life into the cornerbacks and safeties. TCF Bank Stadium was a good testing ground for a struggling secondary to find their footing once again. It was not pretty during the whole game, but their efforts showed a step in the right direction.
Lance Thorell got a chance at cornerback on Saturday and played arguably one of his best games. Austin Cassidy picked up a fumble and ran it into the end zone for a defensive touchdown, something Nebraska fans have seen little of this season. Harvey Jackson even saw some time at safety, collecting four solid tackles in the fourth quarter.
Again, the performance wasn’t always crisp, but it showed far more stability. For a secondary that has been plagued by poor play all season, this contest was a good one to build confidence and get back on track before Michigan State.
4.) Continued Growth on Offensive Line
Despite the fact that a group of Nebraska’s offensive line was stuck in an elevator for nearly 45 minutes Friday night, the frustrating situation had little affect on the unit's play. Led by led by senior offensive tackle Yoshi Hardrick, the offensive line was dominant and united. This group continues to grow each and every week, making the offense more efficient and stable.
For quarterback Taylor Martinez, the big men up front are providing more time to make decisions. It is no surprise the Nebraska offense managed a time of possession advantage over Minnesota (31:52-28:08). As the line continues to play with confidence , the offense will improve week by week and play efficiently, which will help against stout teams like Michigan State.
5.) A Convincing Win
Nebraska fans were able to walk away from Minneapolis feeling good for two reasons: A big win and a dominant crowd. Looking around the stadium, it was easily half-red and “Go Big Red” chants drowned out the Gophers’ attempts at crowd noise. What some are calling “Memorial Stadium 2.0” took on a bigger meaning for Cornhusker fans: Nebraska is on its way back.
While it would be somewhat of an exaggeration to call the 41-14 victory over Minnesota “big,” it was definitely a performance worth applauding. Martinez played a very smart game that resulted in long drives.
Even if every series didn’t result in points, proper ball management made Saturday’s win so convincing. While Nebraska’s wide receivers did drop a number of potential catches that could have resulted in more scores, 41 points on the board isn’t a stat worth being upset over.
With Minnesota now behind Nebraska, it is time to look forward to Michigan State. With the Spartans’ win over Wisconsin, this weekend’s contest may the biggest of the year thus far for Nebraska. Will the Huskers be able to keep up? If Saturday’s game against the Golden Gophers proved anything, it’s that Nebraska has the will to win and the talent to do so. When they can properly execute, that is.
Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
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