Sports Magazine

NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: What The Cornhuskers Showed Against UTC

By Huskerlocker @huskerlocker

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By Erin Sorensen
Last Thursday, we took a look at what Nebraska needed to show against the Mocs. Now that the game has come and gone, were fans surprised, disappointed or a combination of both? Regardless, there were five key areas that were put under the microscope.
1.) The Offensive Line
The line has been a hot topic for fans after Saturday’s game concluded. Concern weighed heavy on many minds, while a brave few offered the opinion that this is just a young team that needed time to gel. It’s true that the line is inexperienced with three unseasoned guys up front – true freshman Tyler Moore, walk-on sophomore Spencer Long and sophomore Andrew Rodriguez. Talent can help make up for lack of experience, but proper execution needs to happen soon.
More often than not, the offensive line was caught off guard. It wasn’t unusual to find linemen on the ground with defenders rushing by them. Quarterback Taylor Martinez was often left scrambling to make a play when his protection failed. Memories of the 2010 season came flooding back to the Nebraska faithful and by day's end, it was clear that the line was one of the offense’s most glaring immediate weaknesses.
However, this was Tim Beck’s first outing. With Barney Cotton in the booth and John Garrison on the sidelines, the coaching adjustment may have had some side effects. Attitude of the coaches and players show faith in the system and the resolve to make it work. This offensive line is raw and ultimately, fans need to give them time to find their groove.
2.) Taylor Martinez
He’s still growing. After a rough latter half of the 2010 season, many were unsure if Martinez could improve to a beneficial level. Many fans believed the young quarterback simply might not be able to lead his team. On Saturday, a new Martinez walked the sidelines. He often spoke with teammates and was far more vocal than last year.
His presence on the field, while still shaky, showed some improvement. While Martinez appeared nervous and insecure in the first quarter, there were signs of a more matured athlete. He began to look at all of his receivers and while his passes weren’t stellar, there were drops on the receiving end. With practice and team support, Martinez can prepare himself for a strong season.
3.) Fumbles and Penalties
After being ranked No. 119 last year in penalties earned, Nebraska fans were looking for immediate improvement. By game’s end, the Cornhuskers had three penalties – one being a false start. This alone was a dramatic upgrade in performance. While the game may have been cleaner in terms of penalties, fumbles were still an issue.
Nebraska fumbled four times while recovering two. This was bad enough against an FCS opponent. Teams like Wisconsin and Ohio State will take full advantage of poor ball-handling. Bo Pelini equated a lot of mistakes to first game jitters, but it’s necessary for the Cornhuskers to address this problem repeatedly during practice this week. With the offensive line already struggling, coughing up the football will only make a bad situation worse.
4.) Kicking Specialists
Big Red fans can finally breathe easy. There’s life after Alex Henery and Adi Kunalic. Brett Maher proved that not only is he a fine replacement, but that he truly deserves the job. The atmosphere in Memorial Stadium before Maher’s first field goal was one of deep concern. The mood was quickly lifted when Maher hit all four field goal attempts, including ones from 48 and 50 yards. He also averaged 52 yards on four punts.
What made Maher’s debut even more impressive was the wind he contended with. His first field goal was kicked into the breeze and cleared the crossbar easily 50 yards out. While his stats were impressive, it’s concerning that the Huskers required so many field goals against an FCS squad. However, it’s comforting to know that if necessity calls, Maher can handle it.
While it may be too early to call him the next Alex Henery, Maher made one thing very clear: He’s got a leg on him and will make Husker Nation very proud.
5.) Memorial Stadium
On a day that sure felt like fall had arrived, Memorial Stadium sat mostly quiet. Once the excitement of the Tunnel Walk had worn off, many fans were back in their seats, opting for silence over cheers. When fans would stand, they were scolded. “I can’t see through you,” was a popular phrase. At times, it felt like there wasn’t a game being played at all. Players’ overly-exaggerated motions riled up the crowd, but only momentarily.
It would be easy to blame this on the fans themselves, but the reason for the silence was out of the crowds’ hands. Media breaks killed momentum that had the crowd standing and yelling. Ads on the Husker Vision screens drowned out crowd cheers. During one segment, the crowd even began to boo. While television timeouts are out of anyone’s control, marketing isn’t. This may be where lost momentum can be replaced – by using pauses in action more efficiently.
A good place to start would during the upcoming game. It’s time for all fans, not just the student section, to take back game day. When the students start chanting, “Can’t be beat, won’t be beat!” before the fourth quarter, join in. Excitement in Memorial Stadium never hurt anyone, except maybe the opponents.
The Mocs are in the rear-view mirror and it’s time to concentrate on the Bulldogs. Pelini believes that the team will continue to improve. It’s apparent that fans will hold him to that.

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