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NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Top Five Things We Saw Against Michigan

By Huskerlocker @huskerlocker

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By Erin Sorensen
A few weeks ago, Husker fans were planning their trips to Indianapolis for the inaugural Big Ten Championship game. Nebraska had just come off a big win over Michigan State and the Legends Division appeared to be locked up.
Then Northwestern came to town and stunned the confident Cornhuskers. Since then, it’s been a rollercoaster season. Nebraska faced a Michigan team who stole momentum early and added another loss to the Big Red’s record. Five things stood out in the loss to the Maize and Blue.
1. No Control or Containment of Denard Robinson
Rumor had it that Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson was injured. In fact, ESPN analysts spoke about how much differently he had been playing versus last season. Based on film, it was clear that Robinson had not been his old self. That should have been a comfort to Nebraska.
It seemed that all it would take was stopping Robinson from getting his feet going. His passing hadn’t been worth noting. Containing an already one-dimensional quarterback seemed like something the Cornhuskers were more than capable of doing.
By the end of the game, senior linebacker Lavonte David had 17 tackles. Of those, only three were assisted. A former high school rival of Robinson, Nebraska’s premiere linebacker was out to get the Michigan quarterback on nearly every down. It’s too bad no one else on the defense decided to join him.
David spent the majority of the game chasing his rival down. Often successful, one man was just not enough. Take the All-Everything linebacker out of the game and Robinson would have run for miles. Fans saw a defense play without heart this past week. For those used to the dominant Blackshirts that showed up against Michigan State, it was another unwelcome sight.
2. A Lopsided Offensive Attack
Offensive coordinator Tim Beck has his strong weeks. Unfortunately, this was not one of them. The offensive strategy was often bizarre. While there were a few shining moments (the double option in the red zone, anyone?), it was a sluggish offensive attack overall.
All of the blame cannot fall on Beck, as the Huskers found themselves making costly mistakes on plays that should have worked. There were many opportunities for Michigan to give up big plays to Nebraska, only to have a receiver drop a Taylor Martinez pass. It was a painful reminder of the ineffective offenses the Huskers have produced in recent years.
Give credit where credit is due. Senior wide receiver Brandon Kinnie scored his first touchdown of the season bringing Nebraska back in the game for a short period of time. It was an impressive catch and score considering the Michigan defenders clearly held the big-bodied senior.
In addition to Kinnie’s big moment, junior I-back Rex Burkhead somehow managed to keep his legs moving after the massive workloads of the past several weeks. How they have not fallen off, Nebraska fans will never know.
3. Lack of Leadership from Taylor Martinez
It would be unfair to say Martinez completely lacked leadership on Saturday, but he was definitely not the “T-Magic” many have grown to appreciate. Coming off a big win at Penn State, Martinez managed to make his life more difficult with a showing reminiscent of several breakdowns from last year.
His inconsistency is worrisome, but it’s not his biggest concern. If anything should raise an eyebrow, it is Martinez's attitude following the game. When asked in the post-game press conference how he felt Nebraska’s first year in the Big Ten was going, Martinez simply said, “Going all right. So far, I guess.”
Say what you will about his passing mechanics and decision-making, but if Martinez continues the season with a lackadaisical attitude, it will transfer to the field. He was more than likely upset over the loss. However, a starting quarterback of a championship-caliber team never lets a loss faze him. These are the things Martinez needs to begin learning now.
4. Poor Clock Management
By the start of the game on Saturday, the “Big House” was without power. There was no play clock on one end of the field. Both quarterbacks were required to watch the referees count down the seconds. When it tripped up Robinson, it seemed inevitable that this system would do the same to Martinez. Thankfully, it didn’t. However, that was the least of a Nebraska fan’s worries.
The offense simply appeared slow on Saturday. Clock management seemed to be of little concern as Michigan pulled further and further away. That may have been one of the biggest disappointments, as it seemed the team began to give up. By game’s end, fans couldn’t even blame the refs for the countdown issues as the power had been on for some time.
5. A Team Meltdown after Penn State
The win over Penn State was an emotional one. While Nebraska no longer controlled their destiny in the Big Ten following the loss to Northwestern, a win over Michigan would have kept the Cornhuskers in the running. Based on how Nebraska handled their emotions after the Michigan State win, the lopsided loss does not seem as surprising.
The team that took the field against the Nittany Lions was not the same one in Ann Arbor last Saturday. A team that has continuously showed they are capable of playing in the big leagues has let their emotions tackle them instead of the opposition. Blame the lack of focus on whatever you wish, but it’s something that needs to be addressed.
It wasn’t the game Husker fans had hoped for. However, there is still the game against Iowa on Friday and a bowl game to look forward to. Football season isn’t over yet, whether some fans wish it were or not.
At this time, the young men on the field need the fans’ support more now than ever. It might not be easy, but it’s imperative. A Big Ten Championship is not in the cards this year, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything left worth playing for. Fans need to continue watching and cheering. This is their team too.
Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
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