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  1. 2011 Apr 16

    SPRING GAME: Report Card

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    By HuskerLocker

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    Report Card/Players of the Game for Nebraska’s Red/White Spring Game

    Offensive Player of the Game – White: Wide receiver/kick returner Jamal Turner. The kid’s got serious sizzle with the ball in his hands, a juke and jump to his game that can make something out of scratch. Good hands, too. Impressive numbers: 227 total yards on 7 touches.

    Defensive Player of the Game – White: Cornerback Joshua Mitchell. He didn’t even make the 105-man roster last fall; now he’s an aggressive, hungry playmaker with a little swagger to him. His back-side blow-up blitz of Taylor Martinez was impressive. It wasn’t the only play he made, either.

    Offensive Player of the Game – Red: Quarterback Ron Kellogg III. NU’s fourth-string walk-on did not have the benefit of throwing to Turner, but he completed 11 of 19 passes for 124 yards anyway. Kellogg is pretty capable for a sophomore walk-on. He sticks in the pocket, makes calm reads and doesn’t try to put a bunch of mustard on the ball.

    Defensive Player of the Game – Red: Defensive end Eric Martin. He ate alive true freshman tackle Tyler Moore. Ran around him and through him. Martin may not yet have the stamina to play end on every down, but in short bursts, there won’t be many tackles in the Big Ten who can slow him down.

    REPORT CARD

    Quarterbacks: C Not that Taylor Martinez and Cody Green had much help from a limited playbook, but their play was inconsistent at best. Martinez still struggled to progress past his initial reads in the passing game. Green lacks confidence and authority as a thrower. Neither had much of a chance to run. Brion Carnes played well, commanding the pocket with poise and throwing well on the run. He also was working against a weaker defense, too. Kellogg is a steady, efficient backup who threw the ball and got the team in and out of plays effectively.

    Running backs: B Rex Burkhead looked better than ever. Shifty in a tight spot, blessed with balance and good vision, he’s NU’s most consistent offensive weapon. Backups Austin Jones, Ty Kildow and Zach Taylor all had their moments; Jones also had a fumble returned for a touchdown. Collins Okafor played sparingly; he appears, at this point, to be behind perhaps even Taylor, whose no-nonsense running style doesn’t waste energy. Nice game from Tyler Legate, who looks a little faster in 2011. Nifty fullback traps.

    Wide receivers/tight ends: C+ Turner was excellent, as was, in limited play Kenny Bell, who flashed many of the same skills Turner did. Bell worked against better defensive backs than Turner did. Brandon Kinnie had a few many drops. He struggled to get open against Mitchell and other defensive backs. He did block well, however, on a variety of perimeter running plays. Quincy Enunwa and Stanley Jean-Baptiste both need to be more aggressive toward the ball. At tight end, Kyler Reed was blanketed by the defense and quiet. Ben Cotton made a few big plays, but had a penalty and a drop, too. Backup tight end Robert Barry established himself as a nice receiving target for Kellogg.

    Offensive line: C Hot and cold, this unit suffered from being split apart for the Spring Game. Some plays were nothing short of a fire drill, as defensive linemen penetrated with ease. On others, the line made an effective wall for running backs to run behind. False start and holding penalties aplenty, however. The discipline wasn’t very consistent, given all the gassers these guys had to run during camp as penance for their mistakes.

    Defensive line: B+. Martin was a terror for a handful of plays, but he wasn’t the only one. Defensive tackle Jay Guy tore up the backfield with quick, powerful moves past the guard and center. True freshman Kevin Williams, playing late in the game, notched two sacks, making a case to burn his redshirt next year. Overall, the defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage and did its part.

    Linebackers: C- This unit was inconsistent in stopping the run; again, you’d expect that because there wasn’t a lot of chemistry and the run fits weren’t great. Still, the backups consistently lost contain or overran plays, because running backs routinely turned an inside run out the perimeter.

    Defensive Backs: C+ Mitchell, Alfonzo Dennard and Courtney Osborne stood out among the top guys, while backup safety Harvey Jackson had a strong day, finishing with an interception and two pass breakups. Andrew Green had a strong pass breakup, as well. Antonio Bell had a fumble return for a touchdown. Other backups struggled in coverage, especially against fade and wheel routes.

    Tags: spring game 2011, report card

  2. 2011 Jan 28

    YEAR IN REVIEW: CB Report Card

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    By HuskerLocker

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    Samuel McKewon breaks down the cornerback play in 2010...and the highest grade just might surprise you. Check it out with a 30-day free trial of Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: year in review, report card, alfonzo dennard, prince amukamara, ciante evans, anthony west, anthony blue, lazarri middleton, dijon washington, charles jackson, jase dean, antonio bell

  3. 2011 Jan 24

    YEAR IN REVIEW: S Report Card

    611 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Our report card for the Nebraska safeties and their position coach, Marvin Sanders. Eric Hagg A Stellar season for the senior Peso, who won Team MVP from his teammates. Terrific, good-natured...

    Tags: year in review, report card, eric hagg, dejon gomes, courtney osborne, austin cassidy, pj smith, rickey thenarse, marvin sanders

  4. 2011 Jan 18

    YEAR IN REVIEW: DL Report Card

    460 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Sam starts on defense with the line. How was life without Ndamukong Suh? Find out with a 30-day free trial of Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: year in review, report card, jared crick, pierre allen, cameron meredith, baker steinkuhler, thad randle, jason ankrah, terrence moore, kevin thomsen, josh williams, chase rome, jay guy

  5. 2011 Jan 17

    YEAR IN REVIEW: OL Report Card

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    By HuskerLocker

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    Sam takes a long look at one of NU's most-criticized position groups, the offensive line. Is it earned for Barney Cotton? Yes and no. Check it out with a 30-day free trial of Husker Locker Pass

    Tags: report card, year in review, ricky henry, keith williams, mike caputo, jeremiah sirles, dj jones, andrew rodriguez, ben cotton, yoshi hardrick, barney cotton

  6. 2011 Jan 13

    YEAR IN REVIEW: WR Report Card

    630 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Here's our report card for Nebraska's wide receivers and receiving tight ends, plus its position coach, Ted Gilmore and Ron Brown. Brandon Kinnie B+ Good year for NU's “No. 2” receiver, who...

    Tags: report card, year in review, brandon kinnie, niles paul, kyler reed, mike mcneill, khiry cooper, tim marlowe, quincy enunwa

  7. 2011 Jan 12

    YEAR IN REVIEW: RB Report Card

    552 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Who grades out best? It's a tie! Why? Sam explains...check it out with a 30-day free trial of HLP!

    Tags: report card, year in review, rex burkhead, roy helu, tim beck, tyler legate, tray robinson, lester ward, collins okafor, austin jones

  8. 2011 Jan 11

    YEAR IN REVIEW: QB Report Card

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    By HuskerLocker

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    HL's Samuel McKewon breaks down individual grades for each of NU's quarterbacks, explains Shawn Watson's one big mistake and predicts a depth chart for next year. Check out a 30-day free pass of HLP!

    Tags: year in review, report card, taylor martinez, cody green, zac lee, shawn watson

  9. 2011 Jan 07

    YEAR IN REVIEW: Offensive Report Card

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    By HuskerLocker

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    Here's our season report card for Nebraska's offense. Stay tuned for position-specific report cards, available via a 30-day free trial with Husker Locker Pass!

    Two key things to remember about the report card:

    *Grades take into account all players at a given position.

    *Greater weight was given to “big games” and the performances in them.

    QUARTERBACK: B-

    Final combined stats
    : 160-276 for 2,073 yards 13 TDs and 8 INTs 1,104 yards rushing, 13TDs

    You could pretty much split the season in two – before Taylor Martinez's injury in the Missouri game, and after it. NU's play before it was a solid B+. After Martinez rolled his ankle, it was roughly a D+.

    But we give a little mercy and offer the Husker QBs the slight benefit of the doubt. The season as a whole could have been much better. But, for awhile there, it was pretty stinkin good.

    We rate Martinez's performances as follows:

    1. Oklahoma State (One of the great performances in NU quarterback history)
    2. Washington I (Nails in the passing department)
    3. Kansas State (Cats' D had no chance)
    4. Missouri (Excellent for a half)
    5. Western Kentucky (The auspicious debut)
    6. Idaho (Good, but mistakes aplenty)
    7. Kansas (Played hard on a bum wheel)
    8. Texas (Got yanked, but drops not his fault)
    9. South Dakota State (The Jackrabbits provided the blueprint)
    10. Texas A&M (Got hurt, got screamed at, couldn't recover)
    11. Washington II (One bad INT, sluggish running, got hurt again)
    12. Oklahoma (Plum poor game. INT, fumble and seven sacks)

    The first four were as spectacular as the last were decidedly not. The middle four games tilt just a bit in Martinez's favor. He didn't handle his injury well, but as a redshirt freshman, that's not a stunner.

    Cody Green started two games, finished a couple others, played in a few more. Green made progress from his skittish fumbles in UDub I to his solid work in a 45-17 win over Colorado. He set his feet more, progressed through his reads, and played with more confidence. He's still not an accurate enough passer, though.

    Zac Lee played the second halves of the Texas and Missouri games, making a positive impact in both. Strangely, he hardly played through the first five games of the year. Why? Only Bo Pelini can answer that. His grade is essentially incomplete.

    RUNNING BACK: B

    Final Combined Stats: 2,325 yards, 19 TD 23 receptions for 214 yards, 1 TD
    Roy Helu vaulted into the top five of NU's career rushing list, and he leaves the Huskers with a hard-to-top single-game rushing record of 307 yards. Running faster than he ever has, Helu was a big-play artist in 2010, ripping off huge touchdown runs in the Idaho, Washington I, Kansas State Missouri and Oklahoma games. In short yardage, he was a little less consistent. He also committed costly fumbles in several games: SDSU, Texas, Iowa State and Oklahoma. Fumbling is a problem Helu never solved. He'll have to work on it to stick in the NFL.

    Rex Burkhead became the Huskers' Swiss Army knife in 2010. He got the tough yards on third down, executed the Wildcat, three through three touchdown passes and served as the main receiving threat out of the backfield. Burkhead was seen as the steady of the Rex/Roy duo, but he, too, made costly errors. A drop of a sure touchdown in the UT game. A fumble out of the Wildcat in the OU game. Another fumble out of the Wildcat again in Washington II.

    Still, the production of these two was often stellar. Some 1-2 punch, the reinvention of the We-Backs. We'll miss it. It's Burkhead's show now.

    Tyler Legate did most of the work at fullback when Nebraska occasionally went to an I-formation or offset I in short-yardage situations, and when Burkhead operated out of the Wildcat. He played OK, blocking better in the Wildcat than he did out of the I. Legate isn't quite big enough to blow a guy out of a hole, but he's tough.

    Tray Robinson played some early and clearly didn't fit into NU's spread/zone attack. Austin Jones had spot work. Collins Okafor and Lester Ward are scholarship guys who work hard in practice and don't play.

    WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: C+

    Combined stats: 139 catches, 1,893 yards, 15 TD

    Such hopes for this bunch at the beginning of the year. Many of those hopes, let's face it, were fairly dashed by the sharp change in the offense from a spread passing attack we saw in the Holiday Bowl to a spread running game spearheaded by Martinez. Head coach Bo Pelini chose to trade in his senior pass-catchers for a rookie quarterback's running skills. In the end, we're not sure the gamble quite paid off.

    The wide receivers themselves had a hot-and-cold season. Asked to block more than they possibly could have dreamed, the execution and effort was decent-to-solid most of the time. The best of them turned out to be Brandon Kinnie in our view, even if Niles Paul often got more credit for his blocking.

    As receivers, their best total game was vs. Oklahoma State, when the passing game was most needed. The ugliest performance was vs. Texas, when drops by Kinnie and Niles Paul arguably cost the Huskers the contest.

    Paul regressed this year, becoming less of a deep threat than he ever was in 2009. He caught just one touchdown this year. He caught one less pass, but had 280 fewer yards, too. His primary big play was a long-developing crossing route. When he did go deep, he rarely shook his defender, and dropped a few touchdowns in the end zone.

    Kinnie improved. He showed he could catch the ball with his big frame and run after the catch. He, not Paul, eventually became Martinez's primary weapon as the boundary receiver.

    Kyler Reed was the team's most pleasant surprise. He bloomed into the deep threat that Paul wasn't, repeatedly beating linebackers and safeties for big plays and touchdowns. Reed also didn't drop the ball. Tough, athletic and only getting better.

    Mike McNeill was, in some ways, a forgotten man at times this year. He was often open, but running routes out of the slot that Martinez or Green apparently couldn't hit. But McNeill wasn't as forgotten as Khiry Cooper and Curenski Gilleylen. They combined for 30 catches and almost 400 yards last year. This year, with no real injury issues to speak of during the season, they barely played.

    This whole unit seems oddly coached. How could a former Husker baseball pitch in Joe Broekemeier, who never had a career catch, suddenly become the key guy in the Colorado game? Where was he all year? Another Ted Gilmore mystery.

    OFFENSIVE LINE: B-

    Spotty performances here, too. Terrific early in the year when they were healthy and sporting an offense most defenses hadn't seen. Merely average once wear-and-tear set in and the lack of depth was exposed. Once again, NU's offensive line struggled against defenses with some size to it.

    Ricky Henry landed on several All-Big 12 teams, and he deserved it. He's still a little raw, but he's tough and physical. Keith Williams battled injuries all year, but plowed them – and defenders – when he was healthy enough to do it. Rookie left tackle Jeremiah Sirles wore down toward the end of the year and needed more help than Yoshi Hardrick gave him. D.J. Jones wasn't pushed much by an injured Marcel Jones, but D.J. held his own enough to get through. Mike Caputo was terrific in space, but had a hard time when defenses lined up a nose tackle on him and barreled away.

    The alarming thing about Barney Cotton's bunch was the lack of depth. NU stuck that core six over the last half of the year without working in much of anyone else.

    More Year In Review Features
    The Best in Pictures, Part 1, Highlights and Lowlights, Ten Best Defensive Plays, Ten Best Offensive Plays

    Tags: report card, year in review

  10. 2010 Dec 31

    HOLIDAY BOWL: Report Card

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    By HuskerLocker

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    Here's our report card after the Holiday Bowl!

    OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: None. Kyler Reed made one excellent catch, but it's one play, not a whole performance.

    DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. Played his corner spot with verve and anger all night, and made the game's best defensive play by stuffing Jake Locker on a goalline bootleg run to end the third quarter. Dennard was a blanket on his receivers, and the pass interference penalty called against him was garbage.

    GRADES:

    QUARTERBACK: D Taylor Martinez didn't get much help from his offensive line – virtually none at all, in fact – but his decision-making in the pocket was often poor. He took bad sacks in the second half after he was told by coaches to hang in the pocket more and bail less. Gee, that was a good idea, taking away the kid's scrambling talents. Martinez is not an intuitive quarterback when it comes to managing a game, down and distance, play clock, huddle, all that. He'll have to learn it – fast. Next year's schedule will not be kind. Cody Green played OK in mop-up duty, but missed too many open receivers downfield. Asked to run a two-minute drill against a fired-up defense, Green didn't deliver.

    RUNNING BACK: C Rex Burkhead's first-quarter fumble was costly. He played OK for the rest of the game. Roy Helu seemed gimpy and uncertain and turned in another poor bowl performance. These guys just couldn't get untracked because of the lack of holes.

    OFFENSIVE LINE: F As bad as any NU offensive line performance since the 2005 Kansas game in Lawrence, when the Jayhawks humiliated the Huskers 40-15. Washington's defense, however motivated it was, was depleted and awful, and the simplest power plays that gained 8 or 9 yards per play in the first game didn't make a dent this time around. Barney's bunch looked beat up and tired to boot. Where's the depth?

    WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: C Kyler Reed made a nice grab, as did Mike McNeill on a fourth down play. As a group, the wide receivers fall down too much, leave their feet too often, and give away their routes too soon. Niles Paul was, as we predicted, a non-factor.

    DEFENSIVE LINE: D Pierre Allen made eight tackles and Jared Crick seven, but they were the quietest tackles you'll ever see. No push against Washington's power running game. No pass rush on Jake Locker. Poor pass rush discipline that allowed Locker to scramble. Two personal fouls on Crick and Allen, too. One of the poorest performances of the year, frankly.

    LINEBACKER: C Lavonte David got sucked inside on a couple of those zone read plays that Locker broke to the corner. He made his share of athletic tackles, too, capturing the school's single-season record in the process, but David didn't always make his run “fits.” Only a fair performance.

    SECONDARY: C The pass coverage was strong, as usual, although Eric Hagg got beat on a costly corner route that eventually turned into a Washington touchdown. The tackling was shoddy, especially from safeties Austin Cassidy and Courtney Osborne. Normally sure-handed, boy turned into Rickey Thenarse for a night with their one-shoulder takedowns.

    SPECIAL TEAMS: D Alex Henery shanked a punt and never got the chance to kick a field goal. NU struggled in kick coverage again, handing the Huskies 30 free yards thanks to two face mask penalties. This unit, as a whole, probably underperformed this year.

    GAME MANAGEMENT/PLAYCALLING: F Martinez doesn't manage a game very well, and the coaches can't do all of the game management aspects for him. Shawn Watson called a terrible game full of conservative power runs that never paid off and static-looking dropback passes that didn't pay off. He used the Wildcat sparingly, but it didn't hit for much. Time to put back the Rex Burkhead passing plays for the winter and think hard about dusting them off next fall – if Watson's still around. The 12 penalties have sadly become a common occurrence for the Huskers. NU looked flat, played like it, and lost soundly accordingly.

    Tags: holiday bowl, report card, alfonzo dennard

  11. 2010 Dec 05

    BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP: Report Card

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    By HuskerLocker

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    Here's our report card after the Big 12 Championship game!

    OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Running back Rex Burkhead. The fumble credited to him wasn't his fault; it was a terrible snap from center Mike Caputo. Burkhead ran with power and determination Saturday, completed a very hard pass for a touchdown and would have had another if NU's offensive line had given him the protection.

    DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Linebacker LaVonte David. Everywhere, as usual, to the tune of 17 tackles. Where Nebraska's defense would have been without this kid in 2010, who knows. He's some player for a first-year guy just figuring out the defense as he went along.

    GRADES:

    QUARTERBACK: F Taylor Martinez knows much better than to make some of the mistakes he did Saturday night whether he's 100 percent or 60 percent. Bottom line: He worries too much about making a play and not enough about the context of the moment – down, distance, field position, etc. He doesn't protect the ball. He doesn't find his check down receivers quickly enough. He seems disconnected from the larger game going on. He'll have to clean up his mental game a lot, because teams will look at a full season of tape and be ready in 2011. The days of 80-yard runs every week are over.

    RUNNING BACK: B Roy Helu's outstanding 66-yard touchdown run was offset by another costly fumble by the senior; it could be the thing that keeps him from getting drafted by the NFL. He whiffed on a couple pass blocks, too, but that's not new. Burkhead has grown up in the last month, and he's running with purpose and toughness. He could be poised for a big leap next year; he's also a workhorse, should NU ever want to return to a power offense.

    OFFENSIVE LINE: C- Carved out some holes and protected Martinez better than the sack numbers would suggest. Nevertheless – some of the power runs didn't get an inch. And a few of OU's pass rushes got right through. And when the line absolutely had to protect Burkhead on that halfback pass trick play, it didn't. Costly play there.

    WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: B Good effort, considering NU's receivers – aside from tight end Kyler Reed - are too slow to pose a serious downfield threat. They made their share of excellent catches and some decent blocks. This unit needs a serious upgrade in speed.

    DEFENSIVE LINE: B The four-man pass rush didn't get home until the fourth quarter, and, even then, it couldn't generate key pressure on 3rd-and-24. But Terrance Moore's deflection of a Landry Jones' pass set up an interception and touchdown. Against the run, the front four held up pretty well. The “diamond” gave them some trouble. You can't argue too much with their performance or production.

    LINEBACKER: A David was awesome. All over the place. He did well in pass coverage, pursued on outside running plays and got his nose dirty on power plays. He just might have a shot at some All-American lists. Will Compton played sparingly, but seemed to hang in. He'll get more playing time in 2011.

    SECONDARY: C Oklahoma won the battle, folks. Yes, Courtney Osborne picked off a pass that set up a touchdown, but 342 yards is a pretty fat figure, and the Sooners picked directly on Husker corners Prince Amukamara and Alfonzo Dennard to do it. OU's receivers were, by far, the best bunch NU faced all year. Great routes, good hands, and tough.

    SPECIAL TEAMS: B+ Alex Henery nailed his two field goals, Adi Kunalic did well on kickoffs and there were no major disasters in the return game. Too bad Nebraska didn't get off the fake punt; it looked like a nifty play. You can't help but think that NU still leaves some yards and points on the field in special teams, though. Something – that existed last year – is missing this year, and Henery and Kunalic's great legs won't be around to cover it up much longer.

    GAME MANAGEMENT/PLAYCALLING: C The defense played better than the plan was sound. Nebraska didn't blitz Landry Jones enough. When NU brought numbers, Jones rarely completed a pass. When he was given all day to throw, he found receivers open and running free. The Brothers Pelini trusted their coverage a little too much. On offense, Shawn Watson didn't call as poorly a game as his critics would assert. He used the Wildcat at the right times – saving some of the good stuff for the fourth quarter – and dialed up the right plays – even when they didn't work – in the red zone. But he was far too conservative on first down and didn't operate enough under center, either. Taylor Martinez gave Watson no help. None whatsoever. You can't call plays that account for your super-mobile quarterback not being able to scramble or being afraid to. Nice timeout/challenge by Bo on the Osborne fumble.

    Tags: big 12 championship, report card, lavonte david, rex burkhead

  12. 2010 Nov 26

    NU-CU: Report Card

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    By HuskerLocker

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    Here's our report card after the Nebraska-Colorado game!

    OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Running back Rex Burkhead. Since Taylor Martinez's injury, he's become, in many ways, the focal point of Nebraska's offense as a runner, blocker – and now thrower. It's pretty hard to believe that some teams in Big 12 South were skeptical about Burkhead's durability and toughness. When the chips were down this year, he's been NU's offensive MVP.

    DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Safety Dejon Gomes had an interception and returned a fumble to the CU 3-yard line. He remains one of the headiest players in the Big 12 – as do his mates in the secondary.

    GRADES:

    QUARTERBACK: B Cody Green was steady. He only let the play clock run down a single time, the fumbled snap wasn't his fault, and during money time – on third down – Green threw for two touchdowns and two more first downs. He still doesn't give Nebraska much in the running game – and he took a bad sack that pushed the Huskers out of field goal range – but, if needed to win the Big 12 title game, Green can do just enough with his arm to Oklahoma or Oklahoma State pause. A solid effort. Zac Lee came with eight minutes left and handled mop-up duty with class. He even completed two passes. That shoulder/elbow/whatever is healthy enough for that, I guess.

    RUNNING BACK: A Burkhead was very good, making two terrific passes for touchdowns and gutting out one tough run after another until it became clear that Colorado was ready to say “uncle.” He's such a versatile weapon, and patient runner, that he helps an offense make yards even when the execution isn't perfect. After a slow start, Roy Helu chugged out 75 yards for his final home game as a senior. He was nursing an injured calf, so some of the burst was missing, but Helu still busted a 21-yarder. Tyler Legate's lead blocks were fair-to-good. In the second half, Tray Robinson did a fine job in mop-up duty. He'll be of more use in the Big Ten, when a power running game is a must. Austin Jones got a few carries, as well.

    OFFENSIVE LINE: B+ Better! The big boys consistently paved open gaps for the three running backs; a gameplan heavy with inside counters and power traps certainly helped. First-half penalties gave way to a more focused, physical unit in the second half, when NU just lined and plowed away. You'd still like to see the Huskers punch it in from the 1-yard line, though. Pass protection was good, even against the blitz; of course, NU didn't throw it much, either.

    WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: B+ Excellent blocking from Ben Cotton from his tight end spot, and Kyler Reed caught two more touchdowns to continue his successful season. At receiver, Joe Broekemeier filled in capably for Niles Paul, catching two important third-down passes that kept alive touchdown drives. Brandon Kinnie caught two touchdown passes, although both were well-thrown balls. Perimeter blocking was just so-so, but NU tried to keep its game mostly between the hash marks.

    DEFENSIVE LINE: C+ Against a pretty solid CU line, NU's front four struggled some to get a push on pass rushes, although they did deflect a few Cody Hawkins passes. Colorado had some success in the running game but had to abandon it when the score got out of control. Nebraska will get a much stiffer test next week from the Cowboys or Sooners, whichever team emerges from the Big 12 South.

    LINEBACKER: B LaVonte David and Will Compton – who played extensively – filled their gaps well, for the most part, only letting Stewart out of the pen a few times. Both flowed to the ball without too much trouble. David made a nice play in pass coverage, breaking up a pass and nearly intercepting it.


    SECONDARY: B+ Gave up two long touchdowns and kept alive a drive with a defensive holding penalty, but also set up three Husker touchdowns with second-half turnovers. Prince Amukamara may have had his finest game of the year on Senior Day – but still no interceptions. He remains one whale of a player.

    SPECIAL TEAMS: A Nothing bad happened, so a clean grade. Alex Henery made a 42-yard field goal against the wind, NU fielded punts well, Henery punted well. Overall – fine.

    GAME MANAGEMENT/PLAYCALLING: B Penalties are still a major problem for the Huskers, and they didn't go away in this game, with 8 for 79. Fortunately, Colorado committed a few costly ones of their own. On offense, Shawn Watson called a smart, clean game. He saw that Colorado was struggled to adjust to NU's shifts, so he loaded up on them throughout the game. He put enough wrinkles into the Wildcat to keep CU off balance, and his “toss” package, complete with a halfback pass, was a very smart installation. Ditto on the fake jet sweep action to Tim Marlowe. When Taylor Martinez understands the playbook as well as Green and Lee do, Watson will be a more effective playcaller. On defense, Nebraska didn't try to get too fancy, nor did Carl Pelini have to. He kept it smart and simple. Nice call by head coach Bo Pelini to go for it on fourth down; he's becoming more willing to do that in recent weeks, and it's a good idea.

    Tags: report card, cu game, dejon gomes, rex burkhead

  13. 2010 Nov 21

    NU-A&M: Report Card

    3,116 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Here's our report card after the Nebraska-Texas A&M game!

    OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Running back Rex Burkhead. Ran hard in his home state – especially in the second half – never fumbled, and seemed to give NU that little spark it needed to get over the hump on its second field goal drive. He also pass blocked well.

    DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: LaVonte David frankly made a compelling case for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year with a virtuoso performance of 14 tackles, including a sack and three more for loss. He obviously won't get near the publicity, but he's been as good of a defensive JUCO recruit as Cam Newton was on offense. David's really come into his own here. He could be a very exciting player next year.

    GRADES:

    QUARTERBACK: D Taylor Martinez couldn't do much after he reinjured his ankle; he had played pretty well on the initial drive, you'll recall, leading NU to a field goal. But it's on Martinez if he insists he's OK to play when he's not really, and if he's going to press himself into service when he can't step into throws or scramble out of trouble, he has to take the hit for the grade. He looked confused in the loud atmosphere, he had to burn timeouts because he wasn't always picking up the plays, and he wasn't remotely an accurate passer. Cody Green threw an interception, nearly fumbled the ball away on an exchange and just generally doesn't inspire confidence in head coach Bo Pelini. You wish Zac Lee had been healthy tonight.

    RUNNING BACK: B Burkhead and Roy Helu both ran with toughness and poise, ripping off some long runs. Neither had much help in the way of holes from their offensive linemen until the second half. This tandem combined for 126 yards against the Big 12's best run defense. You can live with that.

    OFFENSIVE LINE: D The penalties! Oh, the penalties killed Nebraska, and several came right from this spot. Beyond that, the Husker offensive line didn't protect that well on passing plays and rarely created holes – until the fourth quarter – on running plays. It is not fun to watch this bunch try to zone block. They're much better at pulling and trapping on wide plays – even if none of those worked vs. A&M.

    WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: D One costly drop by Niles Paul, two by Brandon Kinnie and 30 yards in penalties from Ben Cotton. On top of that, Ted Gilmore's substitution system has guys getting on the field who have no business being there in a big game, or take too long to relay plays. The lone bright spots tonight were a nice catch-and-run by Paul and Kyler Reed consistently getting open.

    DEFENSIVE LINE: B+ Very good. With a four-man pass rush NU generated plenty of pressure, got to A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill often and gummed up the big holes for A&M running back Cyrus Gray. I thought this unit got a little winded in the second half at times and it showed on some of A&M's longer drives.

    LINEBACKER: A+ David, as often the lone linebacker on the field, was magnificent. The best player out there. Smart, fast, physical – this kid has truly bailed out NU this season. What a recruit.


    SECONDARY: B+ Gave up a few key routes – that 36-yarder to Jeff Fuller stung a little – and committed a couple pass interference penalties, one of which set up a field goal. Eric Hagg and Dejon Gomes probably the best. They were the most active. Corners Prince Amukamara and Alfonzo Dennard were their usual stingy selves, but they didn't create any turnovers.

    SPECIAL TEAMS: C Meh. A&M's specials were pretty awful, frankly. Picking up two personal foul penalties from Eric Martin – one on kickoff and kickoff return – was pretty costly to field position. Alex Henery nailed his two field goals.

    GAME MANAGEMENT/PLAYCALLING: D The sideline looked as it was just about to melt down during the game. There's chaos and frustration and I think NU picks up on both feelings. The lack of composure was pretty startling, as the Huskers caved in more than they needed to.

    Tags: tamu game, report card, lavonte david, rex burkhead

  14. 2010 Nov 14

    NU-KU: Report Card

    4,439 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Here's our report card after the Nebraska-Kansas game!

    OFFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE GAME: None. Not that Nebraska's offense played awful, per se, but every aspect of the unit had breakdowns and mistakes somewhere. Niles Paul and Brandon Kinnie probably came the closest to clean games.

    DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Defensive tackle Jared Crick. LaVonte David had flashier numbers – but Crick created some of that success with his terrific effort. Kansas quarterback Quinn Mecham wanted no part of Crick on one first-half pass, simply falling into the fetal position rather than let Crick crunch him in two.

    GRADES:

    QUARTERBACK: C Yes, Taylor Martinez battled through a pretty severe injury Saturday night with that ankle. But his two turnovers in the third quarter were entirely avoidable, killing Husker drives and basically handing Kansas three free points. In the first half, Martinez actually played better – in part because he wasn't running as much. He converted some key third-down plays that turned into first downs on both of the Huskers scoring drives. How much of a toll will this game take on Martinez's ankle. We'll find out in a week. Nebraska clearly needs him, though.

    RUNNING BACK: B- Tough sledding for Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead, who didn't always have very big holes through which to scoot. They also missed some holes, too. Helu once again put the ball on the turf, but he luckily recovered his own fumble. Helu's 20-yard touchdown run was a big-time highlight play down the sideline. It's hard to be too rough on this bunch. They weren't a big part of the problem.

    OFFENSIVE LINE: C- At some point, Nebraska should be able to simply blow defensive lines like Kansas four yards off the ball and run it right up the gut, instead of NU constantly having to pull linemen for Missouri-style sweeps and counters. Some of those plays worth beautifully. And some of them don't. A couple more costly penalties Saturday night. This unit still isn't great. It's pretty good. Sometimes very good. But KU got too much penetration at times, and you wonder why.

    WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: B+ Niles Paul and Brandon Kinnie made a bunch of tough catches and repeatedly broke tackles after the catch, too. Perimeter blocking was not the problem. Ted Gilmore shuffled a lot of guys in and out of the game and they didn't seem to miss much of a beat.

    DEFENSIVE LINE: A Yes, Kansas doesn't have much of an offense, but NU stuffed the Jayhawks' running game and consistently got pressure on Mecham in the second half with the front four. Crick had his best of the year. He's coming on, finally, poised to make the All Big 12 team. Cameron Meredith should, for all he does, but the coaches know how valuable he is.

    LINEBACKER: B+ LaVonte David still got sucked inside on a few wide plays and one pass play to the flat, but he blitzed well and filled the run fits effectively, too. Kansas was pretty versatile with its formations and play calls, but David seemed to keep up pretty well.

    SECONDARY: A+ Mecham had no options downfield, and Nebraska's blanket coverage was the reason why. Alfonzo Dennard's return made a clear impact; he shut down his side of the field and set the edge on an early outside run. KU rarely tested that play again. Dennard later made a terrific interception. This unit was simply surperb. As good as they've been all year, because KU has some decent receivers.

    SPECIAL TEAMS: C KU got two more kick returns on Nebraska than it should have. Alex Henery made his field goals, the Jayhawks' punts were uniformly awful, and Niles Paul had a few good kickoff returns. Kansas has the worst collective special teams unit in the America. None of this was surprising, really.

    GAME MANAGEMENT/PLAYCALLING: C Terrific work by the Brothers Pelini on defense; they had Kansas dead to rights, even when KU unveiled something the Huskers hadn't worked on yet. The blitzes got home tonight, as did the four-man pressure packages. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson didn't fare so well. He failed to create tempo with the offense with his constant shifting and substitutions; sometimes NU just needs to run the ball downhill, stay in the same personnel grouping, and rattle off 7 or 8 running plays in a row. Watson tries too hard, sometimes, to catch teams off-guard.

    Tags: ku game, report card, jared crick

  15. 2010 Nov 06

    NU-ISU: Report Card

    5,625 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Here's our report card after the Nebraska-Iowa State game!

    OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Running back Rex Burkhead. He ran the Wildcat with expert precision – and had to catch some pretty rotten snaps from Mike Caputo just to get the play going. In the second half, he bulled his way for tough yards. Burkhead was the spark – indeed, just about only one – NU had on offense Saturday.

    DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Safeties Austin Cassidy and Eric Hagg We knew that Austen Arnaud would finally make a mistake throwing the ball against NU's defense, and when he did, Cassidy was there to read the throw, step in front, and make the game-defining play, a 29-yard interception return for a touchdown. Hagg, meanwhile, had two terrific interceptions – including one of a two-point conversion that saved the Huskers' Big 12 hopes.

    GRADES:

    QUARTERBACK: C Cody Green is not a dynamic runner unless he gets a full head of steam. And he fumbles just too much. But it must be said: He made one big throw after another in the second half. Kid converted four straight third-down passes, and none of them were easy throws. Green showed in that second half that, yes, he can lead these Huskers in a pinch. Because he just did. If Green ever had a half-season to work out the kinks, he could be a pretty good starting quarterback.

    RUNNING BACK: A Man's game from Burkhead, who just ran like a plow through ISU's arm tackles. Roy Helu's one fumble was a joke – if five guys are holding you up for the sake of trying to strip the ball, the play's over – and he otherwise ran quite well. These two carried the offense, especially Burkhead.

    OFFENSIVE LINE: B A little leaky on a few pass plays when the rush got to Green, but the run blocking was pretty solid, considering Iowa State was sold out to stop the run. Keith Williams bravely came back in the game after getting hurt early. He wants a Big 12 title bad, you can see it.

    WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: B- Brandon Kinnie had a drop, but other than that, these guys played OK. Kyler Reed is quickly becoming the best receiving tight end in the conference. It's probably too late in the season for him to win any postseason rewards but he's really hard to cover one-on-one, and he's starting to gain confidence, too. The blocking, overall, wasn't great until Burkhead's touchdown run in overtime.

    DEFENSIVE LINE: B Did their job against the run, holding up ISU's offensive line to free up lanes for linebackers and safeties to come through. Iowa State ran the ball 48 times for 157 yards. That's 3.3 yards. Not much. Cameron Meredith and Pierre Allen arguably played their best games of the year. Against the pass, NU preferred to use the blitz to slow down Arnaud, and sometimes it worked. Nice QB hurry by redshirt freshman Jason Ankrah, which forced a holding call and an interception.

    LINEBACKER: C- LaVonte David had ten tackles – but he didn't play that well. He missed some tackles and allowed Alexander Robinson to beat him four times in the passing game, twice on third down and once for a 13-yard touchdown. He did cover a wheel route Robinson ran pretty well, though. Will Compton was only on the field for spot plays.

    SECONDARY: C Cassidy and Hagg raise the overall grade, but the secondary, without Alfonzo Dennard, missed some opportunities and tackles. Ciante Evans and Anthony West both got picked on pretty good. Dejon Gomes struggled to match up with tight end Collin Franklin. He's really not a fit for those guys; Missouri's Michael Egnew did the same thing last week. Courtney Osborne and Cassidy filled like mad men against the run, though, Nice job there. Osborne is an aggressive son a gun. I like him. When he figures everything out.

    SPECIAL TEAMS: C- Not good at all until Hagg's interception, which I don't even really count – since Hagg was the only one to sniff out the fake. Paul had the boneheaded fumble. Burkhead fair caught a punt on the 6-yard line. Alex Henery wasn't on his punting game Saturday. His boots against the wind were too high and errant to make much of a dent. NU botched two more kickoff returns. Iowa State frankly didn't play much better on special teams.

    GAME MANAGEMENT/PLAYCALLING: C Nebraska burned several timeouts because of having the wrong guys in the huddle. NU incurred two substitution penalties. The Huskers blitzed quite a bit and put themselves out of position on certain plays as a result. On offense, Shawn Watson called a decent game, given he has little-to-no confidence in Cody Green's ability to throw against the wind. Watson put Green in some empty sets in the second half, which seemed to make Green more comfortable throwing down the field.

    See also: Postgame Notes and What's Your Reaction?

    Tags: isu game, report card, austin cassidy, eric hagg, rex burkhead

  16. 2010 Oct 31

    NU-MU Report Card

    6,544 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Here's our report card after the Nebraska-Mizzou game!

    OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Running back Roy Helu. It's probably too late for Helu to make a push for first-team All Big 12 – those spots seem reserved for Daniel Thomas and Kendall Hunter – but he'll always this one game, one of the best in Husker history, on a huge stage. Helu was awesome Saturday, a combination of speed, power, agility and patience. All of his skills were on display.

    DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Defensive tackle Jared Crick. Mannned up. Crick played his best, most consistent game of his career against a big-name opponent. He repeatedly flushed Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert out of the pocket and toward the sidelines. Crick also played a huge role in slowing down Mizzou's running game. Overall, he had seven tackles and a sack.

    GRADES:

    QUARTERBACK: C Taylor Martinez had a terrific first quarter, completing 5 of 5 passes for 101 yards. He didn't play well at all in the second quarter, losing yards while trying to scramble around, taking bad sacks and finally getting hurt, leaving with a bone bruise. Martinez was trying too hard Saturday. Zac Lee played the second half. He didn't turn it over, and he hit one big pass to Kyler Reed.

    RUNNING BACK: A+ Helu broke the school record, while Rex Burkhead provided a few carries and Tyler Legate blocked well when he was in the game.

    OFFENSIVE LINE: A Barney's Boys mauled all over the joint, pushing around the Tigers' defensive front with regularity. Mizzou wasn't big or agile enough to get around some of the Huskers' big trucks. In pass protection Nebraska was a little shakier, especially in the first half, but Martinez's scrambling around and indecision did them no favors.

    WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: B+ Strong blocking on the edge from Niles Paul and Brandon Kinnie, while Ben Cotton cleaned up at tight end. Reed caught two passes, one of which went for a touchdown. He's quickly becoming one of the Huskers' best receiving threats, and certainly the best downfield threat.

    DEFENSIVE LINE: A Asked to stuff the Tigers' running game and pressure Gabbert, they did just that. Special kudos to Cameron Meredith and Kevin Thomsen for learning a stand-up linebacker role this week and playing it without too many busts. Dumb helmet-to-helmet penalty by Meredith that needlessly extended a Missouri drive by a few plays. The unit overall lost contain a few times, but Gabbert's scrambles downfield weren't entirely their fault.

    LINEBACKER: B- LaVonte David was again active and around the ball – until Gabbert started scrambling. David has to come back to the ball in some of those situations and find the ball carrier. He did a nice job of covering Mizzou's Micheal Egnew, however.

    SECONDARY: B Considering everything involved – three new players on the field, a complex passing offense to defend, long plays that featured Gabbert running out and around the pocket on nearly every snap – they did about as well as could be expected against the pass. Against the run, corners Ciante Evans and Prince Amukamara have fight back toward the ball and slow the guy down. But Mizzou never hit a deep pass, and that's saying something.

    SPECIAL TEAMS: B Adi Kunalic's kickoffs were a lifesaver – seven touchbacks! - while NU's kickoff return average of 28 yards per tote was solid, as well. The punt coverage was poor. The Huskers fielded punts, for the most part, OK.

    GAME MANAGEMENT/PLAYCALLING: A Great coaching staffs know when to make it count, and Nebraska most certainly did Saturday. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson called a brilliant first quarter, while Bo and Carl Pelini crafted a special, effective defense to slow down Mizzou's running game. NU botched the coin flip by electing to kick instead of deferring, but that's the fault of the captains on the field, not the coaches. The best-called game of the year in our estimation.

    What's Your Take On the Game? Click Here!

    Tags: mizzou game, report card, jared crick, roy helu

  17. 2010 Oct 23

    NU-OSU Report Card

    3,001 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Here's our report card after the Nebraska-OSU game!

    OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Quarterback Taylor Martinez. No brainer here. The best part about Martinez’s play was his ability to evade the rush and deliver key first downs with his arm on NU’s final touchdown drive. Not sure he grew up Saturday, but he showed he could throw big passes.

    DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: None. NU gave up way too many yards and points for that.

    GRADES:

    QUARTERBACK: A- Martinez made a couple of head-scratching plays – and got away with them. But he played with intelligence, toughness and poise. As defenses gear up to stop the zone read game, Martinez will have to make plays with his arm. He did so Saturday. Now – can he get off the roller coaster?

    RUNNING BACK: B Not much was asked of Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead – but both ran the ball with forward lean and aggression, and neither fumbled. Decent pass blocking both in the backfield and down the field.

    OFFENSIVE LINE: B Martinez bailed out NU’s pass protection on a few occasions by evading the rush. The rushing lanes were decent at best. But Nebraska found its stride in the second half, plowed out some pretty big holes in the fourth quarter, and gave Martinez some nice cushion early in the third quarter to hit some throws.

    WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: B+ Still a few drops – Mike McNeill, Brandon Kinnie and Niles Paul all had one – but several more terrific plays downfield. Kinnie and Paul both had career days. Kyler Reed just might be NU’s best deep threat, as he caught another long ball – and his third touchdown – Saturday.

    DEFENSIVE LINE: D+ The scheme isn’t doing the front four any favors, but NU’s linemen have to get more pressure on the quarterback and not get shoved off the line against the run. You may see NU retool this unit over the next couple weeks to free up guys like Jared Crick and Pierre Allen. Cameron Meredith is playing the best of the front four.

    LINEBACKER: C- They, too, didn’t get much help from the defensive line, which didn’t hold up very well. But LaVonte David and Will Compton missed too many tackles and seemed a step behind some of the Cowboys skill players.

    SECONDARY: D Worst game in almost two years. The tackling was bad, and the coverage wasn’t much better. OSU tested NU deep and found the bank open. The Huskers did a much better job on crossing routes later in the game.

    SPECIAL TEAMS: A A fake punt, a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and three field goals from Alex Henery. A banner day for John Papuchis and Co. NU dominated the third phase.

    GAME MANAGEMENT/PLAYCALLING: B+ Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson called a strong game – especially in the second half. He varied the formations and playcalling to keep Oklahoma State off balance and trusted Martinez to make the right reads and calls in the passing game. Watson also didn’t waste time with bubble and tunnel screens. On defense, the staff really struggled to manage substitutions and play calls against OSU’s no-huddle offense.

    Win Nebraska-Missouri Tickets

    Tags: oklahoma state game, report card, alex henery, taylor martinez

  18. 2010 Oct 08

    NU-KSU REPORT CARD

    2,288 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    Here's our report card after the Nebraska-Kansas State game!

    OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Quarterback Taylor Martinez. One of the best nights in the history of a Nebraska quarterback. Such breathtaking speed and playmaking ability.

    DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Linebacker LaVonte David. If you think Will Compton’s going to dislodge David from the field, think again. They’ll both have to play. David is clearly in the running for Big 12 Newcomer of the Year after 16 tackles.

    GRADES:

    QUARTERBACK: A Martinez had a few hiccups, but his huge runs and passes easily made up for it. He’s too good not to spy all over the field. Especially impressed with Martinez’s patience Thursday night. He took that extra half-second to read the defense or let his offensive line set up its blocks.

    RUNNING BACK: A- Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead ran the ball with authority and confidence. Helu is a home run hitter once again; he’s as dangerous as Martinez in the open field. Burkhead does the dirty work. Small demerit for a couple so-so blocks and Burkhead’s fumble and false start.

    OFFENSIVE LINE: A Best game of the year. Dominant, physical and no penalties.

    WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: B Weren’t called upon to do much in the passing game, but the receivers blocked pretty well. No drops. Ben Cotton recovered a key fumble by Martinez.

    DEFENSIVE LINE: B+ Jared Crick and Cameron Meredith had standout nights fighting against KSU’s line. Meredith was especially stingy. Pass rush wasn’t bad, although often not necessary, the way KSU was bailing on check downs.

    LINEBACKER: A- David had the best game of his young career. Dejon Gomes probably spent more than half of the game at a linebacker spot and held up surprisingly well for his size. NU appears to have an answer at this position that is a little unconventional, but effective.

    SECONDARY: B+ A bit leaky on the opening two drives, but the Husker safeties and corners did a solid job of spiking down to tackle Daniel Thomas. The coverage improved in the second half significantly.

    SPECIAL TEAMS: C- Alex Henery was his usual excellent self, nailing two field goals and having a 42-yard net punting average. The kickoff coverage unit, however, was very poor as was kickoff return. NU’s special teams will get a nice tongue lashing this week, we suspect.

    GAME MANAGEMENT/PLAYCALLING: A- We liked the offensive plan through and through, especially the balance early in the game. On defense, the Brothers Pelini got a little cute with the blitzes early, but righted the ship by the game’s third KSU drive.

    Want to Head to the Big Nebraska-Texas Game? Click here!

    Tags: report card, kansas state game, lavonte david, taylor martinez

  19. 2010 Sep 30

    Non-Conference Report Card - DB

    417 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    The Huskers' finest unit gets sparkling grades from HL's Samuel McKewon. Who's the standout? Find with a 30-day free trial from Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: report card, prince amukamara, alfonzo dennard, dejon gomes, rickey thenarse, eric hagg, pj smith, anthony west, austin cassidy, andrew green, courtney osborne

  20. 2010 Sep 30

    Non-Conference Report Card - LB

    379 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    The Husker linebackers have been thrown into some tough situations. How are they handling it? Check out Samuel McKewon's take with 30-day free trial of Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: report card, lavonte david, eric martin, alonzo whaley, mathew may

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