There is a saying in college football that the biggest change you will see in a team happens from week 1 to week 2 of the season. Nebraska needs to put in some work this week. On the way to a 37-34 nailbiting win, Nebraska extends their season-opening win streak to 28, a lot of question marks emerged on the new turf at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.
Wyoming, coming off a 4-8 season last year, had the offensive chops to put the Huskers defense on their heels early. A team that average 390 total yards per game on offense in 2012, the Cowboys galloped to 602 yards against the Nebraska defense that was expected to be young, but much improved in, 2013. Quarterback Brett Smith passed for 383 yards and four touchdowns in addition to 92 yards of rushing.
Nebraska went with a largely conservative rushing game that became increasingly effective as the game went on. I don’t know if the gameplan was too keep the passing game short, primarily with outside screens and 10 yard in and out routes, but there didn’t seem to be a lot of big downfield attacks by the passing game. Particularly worrisome was the apparent return of the fumbles; putting the ball on the carpet three times, but only losing one.
And the defense. Nothing but question marks. They are young, but this was supposed to be a speedy defense with a lot of natural talent. I don’t care how fast you are, if you are playing catch-up to your receiver, you’ve already been burned and that was happening a lot. Zone coverage was slow to react to incoming receivers leaving enough gaps for the seasoned QB Brett Smith to find them when he needed. At the line, Wyoming was winning the push. Smith’s zone read options appeared to turn in to simple left-right reads at the snap. Nebraska did put some pressure, but not enough to force hurries and break plays. The only time they got to Smith for a sack, a personal foul negated the loss.
But enough with the negatives. Husker football season is here. Nebraska needs to win the games they are expected to win. They did that last night. The score wasn’t what most expected, but the W is a W and there are at least 11 more games to build upon.
There are enough positives from the offense to know that they can score the ball when needed. If this season becomes a “last-team-to-score-wins” type season, Nebraska can step up their game. Freshman running back Terrell Newby showed he has what it takes and could be an exciting player for the next few years to come.
Aptly, it is Labor Day Weekend and no doubt the Huskers will be putting in the labor to learn from this opener as they get ready for Southern Miss next week.