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  • Johnson: Nebraska-BYU Quick React

    What's most disappointing about BYU beating Nebraska on a Hail Mary is that Nebraska had three guys around Mitch Matthews, and he still made the game-winning catch. Nebraska controlled most of the second half against the Cougars and still lost because they couldn't kick field goals and couldn't get one more first down. Let's react.
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    Biggest gut-punch loss since...probably Texas 2005. Last year at Michigan State, Nebraska was just lucky to be in it at the end. Minnesota 2014, they should have taken more chances. Northwestern 2011, they were exhausted in Big 10 Year 1, 2009 Iowa State they played scared. Today is the first time in years the Huskers lost with an extremely honest effort.
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    Did Mike Riley do the right thing in using his last two timeouts before the last two plays? I've often though Pat Fitzgerald made a mistake by using his last timeout right before Nebraska beat Northwestern on the 2013 Hail Mary. Nebraska's wide receivers had run down the field multiple plays in a row and must have been tired. I get why you'd use them, but timeouts always help the offense more than the defense. Certainly one of those timeouts could have been better used right before Drew Brown attempted his last field goal.
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    Was it the right decision to give the ball to Jamal Turner on the last third down? I'm torn on this one, because Nebraska hadn't overused the jet sweep, so they could go to it again. Yes, Turner danced as usual, but he wasn't the worst part of that play. Because Nebraska ran to the outside, they had to kick the field goal from the hash, which couldn't not have been helpful for Brown. Even if you just gain a yard running to the middle and Brown still misses, that yard could have mattered on BYU's last drive. And if Brown had made the field goal, Nebraska could have pinned BYU deeper on the kickoff.
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    Is Brown Nebraska's kicker next week? He won't be Nebraska's sole kicker. After all the rave reviews in camp, you have to wonder if he just clutches up in games. Whether it's Spencer Lindsay or Jamie Sutcliffe or whoever answers a discreet call for student tryouts this week, someone other than Brown will attempt a field goal against South Alabama.
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    Where Nebraska could have changed the outcome: the back-to-back drives were Nebraska fails to convert 3rd-and-1's. The offensive line got outmanned in both situations, especially on the quarterback sneak where BYU wasn't crowding the line of scrimmage. Also, if Nebraska gets a pre-first down tackle on two running plays, enough time comes off the clock to matter.
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    What Nebraska couldn't have changed: the 4th-and-1 conversion. If the ball flounders helplessly to the ground, Nebraska takes over with a great chance to score and press BYU.
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    Unrelated to the final play...

    Did Riley run the ball enough?
    Debatable. Certainly, Nebraska could have called 4-5 more runs in the second quarter, when Armstrong was giving into his bad mechanics. He'll fight his those horrible habits all year. Replace some incomplete passes with short runs, and maybe that tires the BYU defense just a little bit more, and Nebraska gets one more long play to win. Maybe.
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    This offense is more diverse and dynamic. Don't put a pro-style or spread label on it-Nebraska spread the ball around to a lot of running backs and wide receivers. The two faked screens were very effective. The big question is, will a more disciplined Big 10 defense give them more problems? Joe Ganz said that, when Nebraska moved from Big 12 to Big 10, it took them by surprise how disciplined even the lesser Big 10 teams are on defense. Stanford found that out the hard way today, against a Northwestern defense they had a huge size edge on.

    But as we surmised in preseason, Nebraska's strong at the wide receiver position, and should outscore a bunch of teams.
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    The defense that gave up 511 yards is boom or bust, but can other Big 10 teams exploit it? I'm officially worried about Illinois, who scored 52 today and could be cutting lose without their former head coach who was defensive-minded. BYU exploited one of Nebraska linebackers on their first touchdown drive with a long pass against him. Good news for the defense-Josh Kalu can give the kind of coverage Banker's defense needs to be successful. Against smaller, less-athletic Big 10 wide receivers, Kalu is going to be a shutdown corner.
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    Dedrick Young looks like he can be an answer at linebacker-if he can hold up against Big 10 blocking tight ends.
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    Hope Alonzo Moore isn't out for long. He had five great touches, half his number of total receptions all last year. He's dynamic, and finally showed it.
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    Tyson Broekmeier did his job. Even though his last punt wasn't great, he got it off. If Nebraska loses Sam Foltz for any length of time, it's a big deal.
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    I swear, this is the same officials crew that worked Nebraska-Texas A&M 2010. I get some of the procedural penalties on offense, but Riley's calling card was clean play. 12 penalties, even if some of it was the bad blocking Barney Cotton taught the offensive line, is way too much. Mike Cavanaugh had better have something to say about it this week. And the -1 in turnover margin doesn't help either.
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    Does this loss matter? Obviously, it doesn't count in the Big 10 standings, and Nebraska, more than likely, will not be in contention for the College Football Playoff this year anyway. If Nebraska suffers several close losses this year, we'll all remember this as the turning point. This is the danger of challenging yourself in the non-conference, which all of college football has to do now. Nebraska is going to wind up on the same side of the stick sometimes.
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    So, what do you think? Are you more worried about the offense or defense? Did Riley stick with the run enough? What's your biggest concern? Drop me a comment, or send me an e-mail with your thoughts. Thanks for reading!
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    Derek Johnson
    is a Seward, Nebraska native who works for his family's organic farm seed company, Blue River Hybrids, and is a freelance writer. He has been a contributor to HuskerMax since 2013, and is a former contributor to the website Husker Locker. He currently also hosts the Maximum Red Podcast, which you can find at his blog, derekjohnsonmuses.com. Follow him on Twitter @derekjohnson05 and email him at derek@derekjohnsonmuses.com
    Comments 11 Comments
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      That was a good match up. First game in a new system both offensively and defensively. The Defense looked like it played harder in a tough close game than they did in other losses from the past few years. Offensively they looked like they are supposed to with flashes of good and bad. Again, it was the Nebraska players beating themselves more than anything BYU did to them. Oh yeah, and we didn't look like a bunch of 3 year old brats having a temper tantrum on the sidelines every time something went wrong. Effort, Class, and learning a new system with new coaches...what more can you expect. I still love my Cornhuskers.
    1. CenTXHusker's Avatar
      CenTXHusker -
      I thought it was a good game, considering we've got 100% new coaches, new systems on both sides of the ball, lots of young players and we played a good team. Frankly, considering those circumstances, I'm darn proud we didn't get blown out. We nearly won!
    1. SoCalRed's Avatar
      SoCalRed -
      BYU is a good MWC-caliber school. Stop pretending they were that big a challenge. We play at least four teams that are better/more talented than BYU
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Most of our articles are ok except for the fact you can't write one without bringing up something negative about the previous staff. The comment about Cotton was uncalled for. Cav's had spring and all fall to correct Cotton's terrible coaching. Let it go, you will feel better in the long run.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Quote Originally Posted by SoCalRed View Post
      BYU is a good MWC-caliber school. Stop pretending they were that big a challenge. We play at least four teams that are better/more talented than BYU
      News flash, BYU is independent not MW. Second, they couldn't beat half (or more) of the teams on our schedule. Lay off the cool aid, this team was under prepared and out coached!! That is on the nicest coach in college football history and his staff. If we project this level of play through rest of season were looking at best a 5-7 season. Only games I think are true wins are next week and Perdue. Illinois, NW, Minnisota, Wisconsin, Miami, Iowa, Mich St., would have beat us today.. I'm not sure we could have taken Miss St with this teams output today..

      These have a lot of things to fix..
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      You rip the writer for bringing up something negative about the previous staff and then you mention "Cotton's terrible coaching." LMAO! That is laughably hypocritical! Maybe you should let go of critiquing these commentaries.
    1. rockitman's Avatar
      rockitman -
      No Abdullah, Bell, or Gregory with no obvious people to fill their shoes; inexperienced offensive line; new coaching staff. And we still almost won the game! The ending stung but I was pleased.

      One thing not mentioned in these forums with the consistent quick call to make short passing plays on every 3rd and long (3rd and 9, 3rd and 14th etc). Good teams don't do that; I wonder the reason.

      I was very impressed with the RB Wilbon. Newby and Cross are servicable. Armstrong's throws were impressive until he reverted back to his throw-from-the-back-foot style...if he hasn't fixed that now, he probably never will. At least it will serve him well as he retreats from the pressure due to our inexperience O-line.

      When we ran it on that 3rd and 3 at the end I just knew we were gonna get stuffed. We weren't that successful at the run. Poor call. Know your personnel and what's working/isn't.

      I'm hopeful for the future, but realistically not expecting great things in season 1 for Riley. I'll be watching to see the playcall in critical situations, how we adjust during a game, and overall how he gameplans given the mediocre talent (relative to top 25 teams). If he does well in those areas, we just need the recruits and can look forward to competing for Big 10 championships.
    1. bornredlivereddiered's Avatar
      bornredlivereddiered -
      I agree with socalred...but here is the UGLY truth...There is no NASTYNESS TO NEBRASKA FOOTBALL ANYMORE. We are an average at best team with NO RESPECT. You look at the teams in the past and they were real men. MEAN>>>NASTY>>>ACOUNTABLE...They owned up to their mistakes and took peoples heads off in practice. Every interview you hear anymnore its almost like watching Donald Trump tell the truth to the republican puppets. They say the same thing ..well it was something we need to cleanup,,,we weren't communicating...linemen fouls...(are you kidding) excuses,,,excuses..excuses...these kids now are part of the "time out" generation. They need to be taken out behind the woodshead and some FEAR of God input into their souls...ok..Enough said...predition as stands 6-7 maybe 7-8 if nothing changes..and NO more Mr. nice guy Reiily...at least BO said he was responsible. NOT ONCE did I hear Barney Fife "Reily" apologize to the husker faithful..
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Overall, I was pleased with the effort I saw and think I'm going to like the playbook. However, there is room for some coaching growth. I thought the same thing about the two timeouts. And not only did the Turner jet sweep take the ball to the hash mark for the kick, it was the RIGHT hash mark, from which Drew has struggled. You'd think they could have at least run it to the left to give him a better chance.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Remember complaining about option pitch to the short side of the field, a great play when it worked. Jet sweep to the short side is a good call, until it isn't a good call. Coach L. took responsibility for those calls in his post game presser. Defensive timeouts...we have had nothing but defensive timeouts for the last 7 years. I think they were great timeouts, even knowing the defensive job most players on a Hail Mary pass perform poorly, a quick reminder of responsibilities could help. Things like do not let a receiver behind you...!? SI said BYU is better than the other B1G West Division teams and Nebraska should do well in division play, I'm good with that.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      You mean 06? NU did not play Texas is 05.
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