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  • Johnson: Nebraska-South Alabama Quick React

    So that was fun. A week after losing in what could have been debilitating fashion, Nebraska came out and quietly put away a lesser opponent this week. While the Huskers shouldn't get special credit for beating South Alabama, it does make you feel good that the game was relatively smooth in an era where most Power-5 schools struggle with lesser conference opponents on a semi-regular basis. And the best thing that happened tonight was that Nebraska addressed its biggest problem from a week ago right off the bat.
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    Is Terrell Newby the answer at running back, or was he just piling up garbage yards against a lesser defense? Certainly Newby showed a burst he had not previously shown. Langsdorf kept the run/pass ratio at 50/50, and it paid off. But the offensive line didn't show the big pushes that a great line does all the time, and they probably won't until they've played several games together.

    The real question about the running game is whether or not Riley is committed to it. It's easy to keep calling runs when you're playing South Alabama. In the middle of the second quarter against Wisconsin when he's down seven, will he stick with the run through short gains to wear the Badgers out, or will he chuck it around like he did against BYU?
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    Is Michael Rose-Ivey the key for Nebraska's defense? He definitely brings an energy that Nebraska didn't have as much of against BYU. Even considering the opponent, Nebraska played a much tighter game on defense without Dendrick Young and Josh Banderas and with Rose-Ivey than they did without Rose-Ivey and with Banderas and Young against BYU. Get all three of them on the field together, and it can be one of the best Nebraska linebacking corps since the 90's.

    But one thing is for sure: Nebraska can't afford to lose one of their starting linebackers in conference play, with given how undersized Luke Gifford and Chris Weber are.
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    Is Daniel Davie going to be a liability at corner? Before he allowed the touchdown that was called back, Davie had been burned twice when he was in position to make a play. You have to wonder, with the depth Nebraska has at corner, why Banker didn't just give someone else a shot. I'm guessing Banker wanted Davie to play through the mistakes, given the opponent.
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    Where are the tight ends and fullbacks in the passing game? All off-season, we heard about how Riley likes to use tight ends and always has multiple tight ends on the field. Fall camp, it was the story of how Andy Janovich would be used as a receiver at H-back. Two games, and one catch by a tight end. Saving some red zone plays for Miami?
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    The rest of the Big Ten West must kick themselves that Nebraska got Brandon Reilly and Lane Hovey as walk-ons. When Hovey came out of ADM Adel High School near Des Moines in 2012, Iowa signed five wide receivers, none from the state of Iowa. Tevaun Smith was the only one of those players who has made an impact as a wide receiver, not to mention the meager wide receiver corps at Minnesota and Wisconsin respectively. Meanwhile, Hovey and Reilly are thriving in a deep wide receiver corps, whose lack of drops is helping Tommy Armstrong's completion percentage.
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    Mick Stoltenberg is very broad-shouldered.
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    What will be the keys against Miami next week?
    Whether or not Brad Kaaya can beat Nebraska's corners deep. If the Huskers can get a good enough rush from Greg McMullen and Freedom Akinmoladun against Miami's weak offensive line, they have a really good chance to win. Nebraska should be encouraged by the sluggish performance of the Hurricanes at Florida Atlantic on Friday. As Dave Bartoo of College Football Matrix says, “Al Golden gives everybody a chance” to win against Miami.
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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 leave feedback at facebook.com/DerekJohnsonMuses , and email him at derek@derekjohnsonmuses.com
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Thanks for the write up. Always hard to tell after playing a team like USA, but the question you posed about tight ends seems like we'll have a real answer once we get more of them healthy and Carter back from suspension. Really interested to see what happens in the secondary. Almost seems like Davie has regressed from last season. Secondary was always a strength of Bo's defense, so maybe we'll have a tougher time going forward without all conference type players
    1. SoCalRed's Avatar
      SoCalRed -
      I am always amused when a critic questions a starter being pulled for the back-up, at any position. If the second string guy was better he'd be starting. Beside, Davie was given a breather after three long attempts at him (only one of which was successful).
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