By Adam Carrikerhttps://twitter.com/AdamCarriker94
As a former Blackshirt, it was fun to watch the defense play their best game of the season!
1- This was a very good win for the Huskers. Not because they beat a mighty Rutgers team, but because they avoided a let down and went on the road and beat a team they were supposed to beat, something that didnt happen at Purdue. Its a very good win, because if we dont win were sitting at 4-7 and we have to beat Iowa just to have a chance at a bowl game. Its not what wed ideally like, but after that victory were 5-6, with a chance of ending the regular season on a three game win streak with the possibility of beating two undefeated teams ranked in the top ten and top five in those three games. Its a very good win, because if we are able to end the regular season on a three game win streak with two of the biggest wins in the past 14 years, that changes the entire outlook of this season. It also gives Nebraska great momentum going forward into the bowl game, recruiting, off season workouts and next season.
2- I was asked how a defense that was ranked 95th in the country and 11th in total defense in the Big Ten going into the Rutgers game, keeps their intensity level high? My response was very simple, its all about pride! The Blackshirts have not had the kind of overall season any of us would like them to have. But to me, being part of a defense ranked in those positions should be the exact thing that fires you up! The Blackshirts came out on Saturday and played with relentless passion and pride. They held the Rutgers offense to 81 yards in the first half (only 259 yards total), they had 6 sacks, 11 TFLs and two interceptions. They gave up just over 100 yards rushing, but they still played their best game of the season. Its no secret the defense has struggled this year against the pass and getting consistent pressure on the quarterback. I still believe when guys like Nate Gerry, Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine play like we know they can, the Blackshirts are better than their body of work this season. I enjoyed watching defensive end Greg McMullen and linebacker Josh Banderas both turn in arguably their best performances of the season. But once again on Saturday, the biggest difference I saw was the heart, passion and emotion out of our defensive unit. Thats what Im the most proud of, thats what being a Blackshirt is all about!
3- The running game wasnt dazzling on Saturday, but it was affective. The backs and receivers combined for 173 yards on 28 carries, which produced a very good 6.2 yards per carry average. Imani Cross got the start and had 90 yards on 20 carries, which is an average of 4.5 yards per rush. He is not a speed burner, but he is a big bruising back and if he can get you 4-5 yards a rush, thats almost halfway to a first down every time he runs the ball. Mike Riley, Danny Langsdorf and the offense seem to be much more in sync the past two games with a balance of run/pass and letting Tommy Armstrong use his legs within their scheme. It took nine games to get there, and outside of several deep passes when we had a nice lead, the coaches and players finally seem to be gelling.
4- The only real concern I came away with from the game on Saturday were the three interceptions thrown by Tommy Armstrong. Tommy is not a guy whos going to complete an incredibly high percentage of his passes, nor is he a pocket quarterback for a west coast system. But he has a very strong arm, great ability to run and hes an incredible leader whos tough as nails. Ive become a fan of him over the course of this season in short...because hes a warrior. I love him as our quarterback because of that, but the one thing he needs to work on is consistency. Without those three interceptions, the Scarlet Knights never had a chance against us. We are clearly the better team. With the effort the defense put forth, without those three interception, Rutgers might not have even scored. 5- The special teams had an outstanding performance on Saturday. Special teams get overlooked sometimes, but its an equal third of the game and determines which team gets a lot of the hidden yardage in a football game. Rutgers has a star return specialist Janarion Grant, he was held to just 43 total return yards in the game. Punter Sam Foltz put four punts inside the 20-yard line. Field goal kicker Drew Brown made his eighth straight field goal, kicking another one in from 44 yards away.
6- I was glad to see the tight ends get more involved in the offense. They can create all sorts of match up problems for a defense. A good tight end in the pass game can either be too big for safeties to cover or too fast for linebackers. The tight end reverse to Cethan Carter was a new wrinkle that I liked. People have always known he had potential, Saturday was the first time we really got to see it. At times on Saturday he reminded me of Matt Herian, a guy I played with for four years. Thats a lot to live up to, and maybe its just because Cethan wears number 11 like Matt did, but well have to see how he does going forward.
7- No Nebraska player has ever won the Fred Biletnikoff Award (the nations best receiver). Jordan Westerkamp is a well deserving finalist this year for the award. Hes not only been our most reliable and best receiver this year, but hes been known for making big time plays since his freshman year. Hes a very good kick returner and an extremely tough kid. From what Im told hes one of the favorites to win the award at this point, and I think itd be really freaking cool if he won it. Not only would he be very deserving, but hes a great representative of the Nebraska football program. Im sure Husker Nation is behind him and I wish him good luck.
8- I was surprised to find out that we may already be bowl eligible, even though we could possibly end up 5-7 (not that we will, but we could). Apparently there are 40 bowl games this year, which means that there will inevitably be some 5-7 teams that get in. From what I understand well almost undoubtably get into a bowl game. This particular issue has nothing to do with the Rutgers game, but I hate this. There are now officially way too many bowl games. In my opinion, the only way a team should be guaranteed a bowl spot is if they go 7-5, a winning record. Then the left over spots go to the better 6-6 teams. I understand the bowl games are about money and rewarding the kids, but there needs to be something special about a bowl game, instead of all these extra games people dont play attention to. I do understand if what I just described were the case, the Huskers for example could possibly be out of a bowl game this year. In my unbiased and objective opinion (as much as I can be), then so be it. Ive never been crazy about the idea of ribbons and trophies just for participating (unless there are special circumstances) and I hate the idea of 40 bowl games. Ok...rant over.
9- My wife had an interesting idea after watching the entire team do the hip hip hooray cheer in the locker room after beating Michigan State two games ago. Her idea was, if the Huskers beat Iowa, the entire team (players and coaches) should stand at the 50 yard line and do the hip hip hooray cheer with all the fans in the stands. At first I thought, who still does the hip hip hooray cheer and I wasnt really sure about it. But after thinking about it, I think its a great idea. Now who knows if it will ever happen, but if it does, it would be a show of unity and strength between the players/coaches and the fans like we havent had here in a long time and maybe nobody has ever seen. You want recruits and the nation to see that Nebraska fans and all of Husker Nation along with our football program are on the same page and stronger than ever? I have no doubt thats exactly what would happen. But first things first...Beat Iowa!
10- YES, THERE WILL BE A CARRIKER CHRONICLES NEXT WEEK. Im aware the Huskers have a bye week, but there is always plenty of things to talk about when it comes to Nebraska football. Knowing that we will most likely go to a bowl game, there will still be a Carriker Chronicles every Sunday night at 7pm CT all the way up until the bowl game. Next week Im going to give my humble thoughts and opinion on the current state of the Nebraska football program. The following week Ill discuss the results of the Iowa game. After that I will (presumably) discuss our bowl game opponent and the bowl game we will (once again presumably) be going to. The next Carriker Chronicles after that, will be the most personal one yet. I will be discussing something that is of personal importance to myself. Like I said, there will continue to be a Carriker Chronicles each week, just like there has been every week the entire season, until the Huskers stop playing football this year. So tune in each and every Sunday night at 7pm CT, as always, I post the Chronicles here on my new Facebook Fan page.
So until next week Husker Nation...Go Big Red!