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T A D    S T R Y K E R
October 31, 2009

Welcome to Big 12 football, Cody Green. Welcome to survive-and-advance football, Nebraska Cornhuskers.

The Huskers rode their defense to a 20-10 win over Baylor Saturday, moving to 5-3 overall and 2-2 in the conference. A loss in Waco would have pretty much gutted Nebraska’s chances to win the Big 12 North, so this less-than-impressive showing, pedestrian as it was, should gain nods of approval from Nebraska fans around the nation.

It seems almost humorous now, but last summer, I looked ahead to the Nebraska-Baylor game and predicted that it would be a trap game, one that would test the ability of Bo Pelini and his coaching staff to keep the team from looking ahead to Oklahoma. Of course, I hadn’t envisioned the offense self-destructing against Iowa State.

Well, it turns out there was no danger of overconfidence. Right now, it’s all the Huskers can do to take it one game at a time. Every game will be a struggle from here on out.

Because of its power on defense, there’s no game left on its regular-season schedule that Nebraska can’t win. Then again, because of its inconsistency on offense, there’s no game left in which Nebraska could be considered a decisive favorite.

After keeping their decision quiet throughout the week, Bo Pelini and Shawn Watson made the long-awaited change, and started Green at quarterback. It worked. Green made enough plays to drive NU to 13 points, and he gave the Blackshirts an opportunity to win the game, which they did. The spark that Pelini talked about for the past week was there at times.

For one half, Green and the Husker offense looked decent, which is a lot more than we’ve been able to say for NU’s offense against any BCS-conference opponent so far this fall.

At halftime, with NU leading 20-0 and Green leading three scoring drives, I think everyone felt pretty good about the Huskers’ direction on offense. The power running game was starting to develop (Nebraska had 87 yards rushing at the half), and the passing game looked promising.

But in the second half, the Husker offense bogged down completely, picking up only four first downs. After scoring his second touchdown in as many weeks, freshman Dontrayevous Robinson was injured, and we found out that NU is not very imposing with its fourth- and fifth-string I-backs in the game. And we found out that the Nebraska offensive line really hasn’t gotten much better with eight games under its collective belt.

We also found out that if an opposing o-line pays too much attention to Ndamukong Suh, Cozad native Jared Crick can make it pay. Crick had a career game breaking NU’s school record with five sacks. He added a team-high 13 tackles (including seven for losses) and broke up a pass.

The Blackshirts will make it a real slugfest next Saturday against the Sooners.

Just as Green did last week against Iowa State, Zac Lee stood on the sidelines and watched the entire game. Each quarterback faced a similar situation against a very beatable team. Except for the game’s biggest play (true freshman Eric Martin’s blocked punt and redshirt freshman Justin Blatchford’s 25-yard touchdown return on Baylor’s opening possession), the Huskers really didn’t play much better around Green than they did around Lee last week.

Green made several first-half plays with his athletic ability, including a perfectly-thrown 45-yard pass to Niles Paul in the second quarter that set up the only offensive touchdown of the game by either team. He scrambled for a couple of first downs early in the game that Lee never would have been able to get. With Green in the game, the Huskers started to work the vertical passing game more than they have the past few weeks, with some success.

Green was 12-for-21 passing for 128 yards and one crushing interception that Lee probably would not have thrown. He showed flashes of effectiveness throwing the ball, but his rookie mistake, the pick-six that became Baylor’s only touchdown, was a major gaffe, and his fourth-quarter fumble at Baylor’s 23-yard line ruined what should have been a game-clinching touchdown drive.

Overall, though, except for his one notable exception, Green didn’t try to force ill-advised throws, and hopefully learned a lot on the job. He’ll have a much tougher challenge next week against Oklahoma.

With a chance to clinch the game by running the ball, NU produced only 58 yards rushing in the second half. NU coaches played very conservatively, for good reason, but the NU line was outplayed by Baylor’s defensive front in the final 30 minutes. If either Robinson or Roy Helu Jr. comes back healthy next week and Watson continues to emphasize the power running game, however, this line should improve.

It was very disappointing to see NU’s offensive line feebly degenerate into a bunch of three-and-outs in the second half, but I’ll take ugly wins and uninspired offensive play over downright disastrous breakdowns at this point.


Formerly the sports editor at the North Platte Bulletin and a sportswriter/columnist for the North Platte Telegraph, Tad Stryker is a longtime Nebraska sports writer, having covered University of Nebraska and high school sports for more than 25 years. He started writing for this website in 2008. You can e-mail him at tad.stryker@gmail.com. | Archive