The oft-praised Nebraska Cornhuskers did something nobody expected them to versus Fresno State Bulldogs on Saturday – they disappointed.
Coming into 2011, fans and critics alike worried about Nebraska’s offense, special teams and nagging injuries. The threats that a move to the Big Ten posed and Tim Beck’s offensive strategizing were also points of concern. Yet the one thing that absolutely nobody had any doubts about, the one thing that just about everyone was willing to all-in on was the squad’s defensive unit.
Heck, not even a noticeably different secondary or Alfonzo Dennard’s injury were points of pause. Bo Pelini’s defenses, after all, were just inherently able to win regardless of circumstance.
As it turns out, those guys are human too.
Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr had even more success on Saturday than even he probably expected. For the entire day, Carr seemingly took all the time in the world to find targets and, when in doubt, took off running. In a testament to how well his offensive line stood against their much more beloved counterparts, they didn’t allow a single sack of their quarterback. Not one.
And, mind you, Nebraska’s inability to get to Carr wasn’t because the latter didn’t play an active role in the game. On the contrary, the Fresno State passer threw the ball 41 times for 254 yards. As a direct byproduct of having time to throw and being rushed by the defense a mere four times for the outing, Carr completed 20 of his passes and provided ample opportunity for his run attack to get some freedom.
The team’s running back, Robbie Rouse pounded the ball into the heart of Nebraska’s defense repeatedly, racking up 36 rushes and what would ultimately add up to 169 yards.
In the end, the Bulldogs put together 444 yards of total offense.
Fresno State absolutely owned the time of possession in this one, holding the ball for 37:12. While that number may not jump off the screen, it’s a pretty glaring total – especially considering the fact that the last time an opponent held on to the ball longer against Nebraska was 2007.
Husker defensive end, Cameron Meredith was noticeably put off by Bulldogs’ wide-reaching offensive strategy, despite racking up 5 tackles for the game.
It was smooth sailing from the very beginning for Carr, though, who completed 7-of-11 passes in the first quarter to give his squad a 14-7 advantage. In a way, that set the tone for the rest of the game as it appeared to embolden the Fresno State offensive line, a group patched together with four new starting parts and without center Richard Helepiko.
Jared Crick, the anticipated leader of Nebraska’s defensive unit, was unexpectedly ineffective throughout.
One game is nothing to get crazy over, but it is something that’s worth dissecting. If for no other reason that out of sheer surprise that Pelini-led unit could get so overwhelmed, Saturday’s outing versus Fresno State will need to be one that the club learns from.
These early schedule games against Chattanooga, Fresno State and the like are set for a reason – and Nebraska (and Husker Nation) likely realizes that reason now. There is still plenty of time to work out the kinks but, make no mistake about it, there are kinks to work out.
On both sides of the ball.