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Oct. 10, 2001

The Desert Husker • Bill Marks

Desert Husker Deep Thoughts

Watching the Oklahoma/Texas clash this past weekend, I came away with two observations. The first was that my television remote control really sucks.

Held together with about 12 yards of duct tape and some nightly prayers, the old RCA remote has struggled ever since someone (possibly me) hurled it against the wall after Nebraska’s 1999 loss to Texas. Now, the channel buttons don’t work, the mute button doesn’t work, and the volume buttons don’t work. The "do nothing" button seems to be operating perfectly.

The second observation was that the Sooner defense is really good. The OU safeties attack with blinding speed, the defensive tackles border on unblockable, and the linebacking crew lead by Rocky Calmus is equally adept at stopping the run and the pass. The ferocity with which the Sooners dismantled the hapless Chris Simms-led Longhorns was both impressive and a little frightening.

However, after watching the Huskers dismantle a decent Iowa State team — probably the best team NU has played this year — I felt better. I’m not ready to say the Huskers have a good chance of beating OU, but if Solich’s squad keeps progressing, it should be a heck of a game.

But, to at least give the impression I’m not looking ahead to October 27, let’s review this past week’s destruction of the Cyclones.

What Went Right?
Overall, the Husker offense had its best game of the season. The offensive line finally looked worthy of wearing a big red "N" on their helmets, Dahrran Diedrick and Thunder Collins were effective when they got the ball and Eric Crouch looked smoooooooooth running the option. Pretty much everything Solich called was money.

You’ve got to hand it to the ISU defense though, they really shut down John Klem and Troy Hassebroek.

Crouch continued to throw the ball effectively, although NU was unable to get Tracey Wistrom involved in the game. It was also great to see the coaching staff find some innovative ways to get Collins and Josh Davis into the ballgame.

The offense lost some intensity after the half, but it was tough to be too critical after the explosive performance in the first 30 minutes.

The defense again looked to be in its "bend but don’t break" stance. Although Iowa State signal-caller Seneca Wallace (who reminded me a lot of Michael Bishop during his junior year — quick, elusive but unpolished) had a few moments of brilliance, the secondary kept him off balance the whole game.

What Went Wrong?
Not much. A 34-point victory against a quality opponent is pretty much always a good thing. Fortunately the Desert Husker has an uncanny ability to point out the flaws in others while ignoring his own.

While the Blackshirts had another good performance, I’m somewhat concerned by the consistent lack of a pass rush. NU was able to get more pressure against the Cyclones than in the previous week’s outing against Missouri, but much more will be needed against the likes of Oklahoma and Kansas State. Demoine Adams has been sharp against the run, but still doesn’t seem to have the power to do much quarterback tipping. I’d like to see more of Justin Smith and Benard Thomas in his spot.

The most frustrating part of Saturday’s game was the defense’s propensity for giving up the big play on third and long. If the Blackshirts are going to be a big-time defense, they have to be able to put teams away when they’ve got them on the ropes.

Finally, even though the offense looked great, I’d still like to see the game plan focus more on the running backs and less on Crouch. Against great defenses Nebraska is going to have to make the opposition respect the backs in order for Crouch to be truly effective.

The Desert Husker Offensive Player of the Game
While it’s tempting to give this one to E.C., I’m gonna give my props to the Husker offensive line. Toniu Fonoti and Co. slammed through the Cyclone defense like hot knife through a bunch of overused cliches, and opened huge holes for anyone who wanted to run through them. If this group keeps improving at this pace the Big Red could be making holiday vacation plans in Pasadena.

The DH Defensive Player of the Game
Despite injuries to DeJuan Groce and Willie Amos, the Husker DBs were mucho studly. Therefore it only seems appropriate to recognize the leader of the D-back pack — Keyuo Craver. Craver led the D in tackles and set the tone for Seneca Wallace’s horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day with an interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter.

Question answered
What will happen when NU faces a top-25 caliber team? Even though the Cyclones blew pretty hard on Saturday, not many teams would have stood a chance against the Husker team that showed up last weekend. Dan McCarney has a solid team in Ames. Don’t be surprised to see Iowa State be more than competitive in future games against Kansas State and Colorado.

Question remaining
What will happen when NU faces a national champion caliber team? The answer looms in a few weeks.

What will this week’s game teach us?
Kevin Steele needs to recruit more grizzlies and fewer Yogi and Boo-Boo’s for his Baylor Bears. This said, the Cornhuskers still need to avoid looking past this week’s foe. Granted, it should be a blowout with even Lil’ Red getting in for a few snaps, but sometimes these "should be’s" turn into "should’ve been’s."

Unfortunately, this one won’t be on the tube, so unless you’re making the trip to Waco, you’ll have to decipher the ramblings of Warren Swain and Adrian Fiala. Maybe this week’s game will teach us never to take televised broadcasts for granted.

Well gang, that’s all the wisdom I’ve got. See you next week.

Bill Marks, a.k.a. the Desert Husker, is a professional business writer and consultant living in Chandler, Ariz. He is a longtime Husker fan and can be contacted at [email protected].

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