Huskers Win Battle Of Top Defenses

  • Tuesday, November 10, 2009 2:14 PM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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Oklahoma's visit to Nebraska represented the top two defenses in the country taking on offenses with more than their fair share of offensive struggles. The Sooners' issues are well-documented: the careers of Sam Bradford and tight end Jermaine Gresham were prematurely ended by injuries, putting a freshman quarterback behind a sub-par offensive line. Nebraska's woes are largely from a tactical point of view -- they haven't settled on a starting quarterback because neither is able to move the ball down the field, though that assignment has grown tougher as the season has progressively neutered the running game. First Quentin Castille was dismissed for failing his fifth drug test, and then Roy Helu Jr., probably their best offensive weapon, is hampered by a shoulder injury that's reduced his effectiveness and caused him to miss snaps.

So there shouldn't be much surprise that the game was low-scoring, a 10-3 Nebraska win, given their offensive reputations. Oklahoma finished first nationally in scoring last season, averaging more than 51 points per game. The Huskers scored 35.4 points per game and were ranked 25th nationally.

The game was also significant in regards to the disparity between the Big 12 North and South Divisions. Nebraska's win was the first time since 2007 a Big 12 North team beat Oklahoma, and the first Nebraska win over the Sooners since 2001, when Eric Crouch caught a touchdown pass on his way to a 20-10 win and a Heisman.

It's a down year for Oklahoma, but if the North wants to rebuild its reputation, games like this must be won. Nebraska can rest easy, now that it has a signature win under coach Bo Pelini.

This week: 3-3 overall, 2-3 Big 12

Overall: 55-23, 22-9 Big 12

Hits

Oklahoma State 34, Iowa State 8: Keith Toston is a nice storyline in the Big 12. The senior got his chance to start after running back Kendall Hunter went down injured in the second game of the season. He had his day in the sun against the Cyclones, rushing for 206 yards and three touchdowns.

Kansas State 17, Kansas 10: Manhattan and Lawrence are only a few hours apart, but they might as well be at the North and South poles. You'd think they're cashing each other's checks every weekend, with the Wildcats soaking up all the success the Jayhawks were supposed to have and KU wallowing in KSU's shoulda-been failure. Back to the same old mantra for Kansas: When does basketball start?

Texas 35, Central Florida 3: I can't help but feel that a game against Central Florida after a schedule featuring Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech has to feel like a vacation. I doubt Jordan Shipley would disagree. The wide receiver decimated the school record for receiving yards in a game, finishing with 273.

Misses

Nebraska 10, Oklahoma 3: How many teams can upset a ranked team with only 39 passing yards and seven first downs? About as many as can boast the top defense in the nation. Nebraska's offense was completely inept, but it took care of the ball and did what it needed to win. Best stat: The lone touchdown drive was one yard long.

Colorado 35, Texas A&M 34: There's just no telling what these teams will do. A&M had the win and was running away with it, but they tripped over themselves and let Colorado surge back for the win.

Baylor 40, Missouri 32: I can tell you Gary Pinkel's having trouble sleeping. This was supposed to be the Tigers' "let's get back on track" game. Instead, Baylor quarterback Nick Florence turned it into the "who's Robert Griffin?" show. Next up for Mizzou: Kansas State. Uh oh.

Texas' McCoy Responds To Challenge

  • Thursday, November 5, 2009 2:45 PM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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There was no question whose game it was to win or lose last Saturday between Texas and Oklahoma State. Colt McCoy was the man of the hour, the one with Heisman and BCS Title hopes resting squarely on his performance. And after a 41-14 victory -- after he passed, ran, and led his team to not just a win, but a convincing one -- there's no doubt that McCoy is a Heisman front-runner entering the all-important November.

It's too early to pencil Texas into the BCS Title Game, but if any team has a clear path to an undefeated season, it's the Longhorns. Their regular-season schedule is filled with heavy underdogs, and the conference title game probably won't present much of a challenge the way it could decide the conference title game representative in the SEC. On second thought, pencils come with erasers. Go ahead and put down Texas in this year's national championship game.

This week: 6-0 overall, 6-0 Big 12

Overall: 52-20, 20-6 Big 12

Hits

Texas A&M 35, Iowa State 10: Texas A&M gets a win it badly needed and does so in style. The Aggies surpassed 500 offensive yards and played an efficient game that kept their punter out of the game. The Cyclones did fine for their part, given who and what they are. Both teams are just one game from bowl eligibility.

Texas Tech 42, Kansas 21: The Jayhawks tried to give Tech a run for their money, even taking a quick lead in the game, but the Red Raiders put it together with enough time to amass 42 on Kansas. Pretty good for an offense undergoing some rare struggles, even if it came against an overrated defense.

Oklahoma 42, Kansas State 30: If you're Kansas State, you've got to be happy about the way it battled, falling behind by 21 early but clawing back to within five points in the second half. If you're Oklahoma, you take the win over an upstart team that habitually plays you close, and you breathe easy. Because the way things are going in Manhattan, games against the silver-and-purple are only going to get tougher.

Texas 41, Oklahoma State 14: Texas should spend the next few games working on its running game. It's dangerously one-dimensional. As great a player as McCoy is, if he's the leading rusher with 34 yards, top teams -- say Florida or Alabama -- will find a way to neutralize the passing game, and the offense with it.

Missouri 36, Colorado 17: The Tigers got back on the right track against Colorado, and the defense continued to show improvement over last year, forcing four turnovers and collecting eight sacks. The Buffs continued to look miserable, but there's a silver lining: If they kick it into high gear and get on a win streak, they might be able to hit the 10-win mark before October 2010.

Nebraska 20, Baylor 10: Cody Green's first start for Nebraska started fast, but the final three quarters of the game showed little departure from Nebraska's offensive struggles of the past few weeks. They need a healthy Roy Helu Jr. and to utilize Green's running skills. Credit to Jarred Crick, who set a Nebraska record with five sacks.

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Disappointment Plagues Big 12

  • Monday, September 14, 2009 11:13 AM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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The Big 12 Conference didn't do much to improve its reputation nationally. Far more teams performed well below expectations than those that played like they should have. Three programs lost to teams outside the major BCS conferences, and one had their fledgling national championship hopes all but crushed. Only Kansas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma met expectations (so did Iowa State, though losing by 25 shouldn't be praised.) But the rest of the conference showed why no one should look ahead. It's only week three, and we've seen two of the projected top three teams lose, and one team that expected to be near the top smoldering at the bottom as the conference's only winless team.

Week 2 record: 7-3

Overall record: 14-7

Hits

Kansas 34, UTEP 7: Total rushing yards: Kansas 255, UTEP 4. That's four on 20 attempts. As good as the offense is, the team's defense will be the determinant in its success this season, as it has been in the past. So far, so good.

Oklahoma 64, Idaho State 0: Kind of expected, but Landry Jones did a great job in Sam Bradford's absence. The Sooners are smart enough to know their season is far from over.

Texas Tech 55, Rice 10: I expected more scoring from Rice, but I'm not heartbroken over it. Quarterback Taylor Potts was more comfortable this week than last, throwing for seven touchdowns in typical Red Raiders fashion.

Missouri 27, Bowling Green 20: This doesn't seem like a Missouri win, and I'm sure the Tigers don't feel like it after scrapping to rally and save their season at home, no less. A week after trouncing Illinois, the Tigers nearly botch a sure-win. So we're back to having no clue what kind of a team MU is.

Texas 41, Wyoming 10: After a rough first half and a three-point halftime lead, Texas put together a solid second half to reassert itself as the dominant team. I'd chalk it up to a mix of lack of focus by the Longhorns and a mad crowd in Laramie. But unlike other teams yet to be mentioned, Texas shook off the dust and refocused with plenty of time to spare.

Nebraska 38, Arkansas State 9: It would have been a bigger blowout if not for some questionable calls favoring Arkansas State, but the Huskers were never threatened by the Red Wolves. Zac Lee had a solid game to balance Roy Helu Jr.'s relatively quiet one. If he can carry the load against teams of relevance, the Huskers will be in great shape down the road.

Iowa 35, Iowa State 3: Iowa State sure can make people's careers, as it did for the Hawkeyes' Tyler Sash. Sash collected three interceptions and a fumble recovery against the Cyclones. Sad day for Austen Arnaud, who threw for interceptions and got pulled.

Misses

Toledo 54, Colorado 38: Holy Toledo, the Buffs are terrible. Giving up 624 yards to Toledo is inexcusable (and the defense is supposed to be CU's strong suit). Few 0-2 teams rally for a 10-win season, and I guarantee you that team does not believe it can win even close to 10 right now. More on this later in the week.

Houston 45, Oklahoma State 35: In my predictions, I talked about Oklahoma State fans too lost in the smoke standing from the Georgia game to care much about Houston coming to town. Apparently, that went for the Cowboys, too. They got down early, put it together in the third quarter and took the lead, but couldn't lock down on defense in a fourth quarter they lost, 21-0. They've completely erased everything gained from the Georgia win.

Louisiana-Lafayette 17, Kansas State 15: I knew it. Knew it, knew it, knew it. At least I had the foresight to bet against my bet when I picked KSU in this game. His recruiting may be great, but the suggestions Bill Snyder made in the preseason about letting his coaches have lives outside of football -- I admire it, for sure. But it doesn't win football games. I'm not sure this won't be par for the course this year.

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Big 12 Preview | Nebraska No. 4

  • Sunday, August 30, 2009 7:05 PM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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2008 record: 9-4 overall, 5-3 Big 12 Conference, co-Big 12 North champions

2009 projection: 10 wins and division supremacy, but NU will need another season to climb back among the elite.

Reason to get excited: The defense made a huge leap in Coach Bo Pelini's first year, cutting its average yards allowed by more than 125 yards per game, and finished the season on a 6-1 tear.

Reason not to get worked up: The secondary will have to prove it can defend against big arms.

The gist: Nebraska is ranked in most everybody's preseason Top 25 with an unknown, unproven quarterback. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson raves about quarterback Zac Lee's abilities, and he has the arm strength and passing abilities that Joe Ganz lacked last year. He's also got a bulked up Roy Helu Jr., who looks ready to become a star all-purpose back. Fellow running back Quentin Castille's dismissal from the team will put more pressure on Helu, but the impact of his loss on the run game has been exaggerated. The offensive line loses Matt Slauson and Lydon Murtha but reloads to form one of the strongest O-lines in the Big 12. The receivers are loaded with talent but a little light on experience. Defensively, Ndamukong Suh is one of the best players in the country. He led or was tied for the team lead in sacks, tackles and interceptions last season, and leads a strong defensive line. The Huskers' secondary and passing game is the point of concern. Even with senior safety Larry Asante and returning cornerback Anthony West, Nebraska might struggle if the passing defense can't get stops -- and picks.

Rallying point: Suh. They're already engraving his name on the Lombardi Award trophy.

Cover your eyes: If Helu's hamstring troubles put him on the bench.

For what it's worth: The only game on Nebraska's schedule that is a highly probable loss is Oklahoma. The division is getting better, but NU is getting better, faster. They've got Texas Tech at home, and the game at Virginia Tech looks much more winnable with Hokie running back Darren Evans out for the season. Watch out on the road at Baylor and Kansas, but if they win every game they should, Nebraska will end the regular season will 10 wins, maybe 11.