After only needing two and a half quarters to make quick work of the Minnesota Gophers this past Saturday, the Nebraska Cornhuskers are understandably riding high.
With their 41-14 victory on the road at TCF Stadium, the Huskers started off the second half of their year boasting a certain level of aggressiveness, emotion and excitement that they’ll need to sustain all the way to the finish if they want to compete for the Big Ten championship.
"You saw a team in there [locker room] that wasn't hooting and hollering," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini told reporters after the game. "They were happy. Another day at the office is kind of their approach.
"I thought we played a good football game. I thought we did a lot of good things, but there's still a lot of things we can do better, obviously. But I thought it was a pretty complete effort in the first half. In the second half, we played a little differently, a little bit by design."
Most importantly, though, Pelini loved that the players seemed to be working for every little bit.
"I love our approach right now," Pelini said. "We're going to get what we earn."
It was a joint effort, with both the offensive and defensive players contributing to the onslaught.
Offensively, quarterback Taylor Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead spearheaded an attack that put up 27 points and 330 yards by the halftime. Then, even though the Huskers took all of their major pieces out of the game by the fourth quarter, they still finished the day with 34 points, 346 rushing yards and 515 total yards – all via the offense.
Not that the defense was shabby, mind you. In the second quarter, safety Austin Cassidy capitalized off a fumble by Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray and took it back 11 yards for a score. As a whole, the defense completely stifled the Gophers’ aerial assault, holding their opponents to only 9 passing yards by the end of the second quarter. Things didn’t improve much in the second half, as Gray finished with 122 yards and no passing touchdowns for the day.
After the game, it was all compliments and grins from the Nebraska players. When asked about Kenny Bell’s 82-yard reverse for a touchdown, the longest scoring run for a Husker play in history, Martinez didn’t hold back.
"I think he is the fastest player in the NCAA," Martinez said.
The sweet talk wasn’t just reserved for Bell, though.
"I think we have a lot of momentum and a lot of swagger," Martinez also went on to add.
The Huskers will need that positive ideology as they prepare for a very tough month. A month, mind you, that may ultimately make or break this entire 2011 season.
If the squad can capitalize off of the momentum they built up from this Saturday’s 27-point romp and apply it to games versus the Michigan State Spartans, Northwestern Wildcats, Penn State Nittany Lions, and so on, and so forth – then they’re golden. Then again, if this was just a flash in the pan because the Huskers stumbled upon an inferior opponent in Week 8, then the last win will be worth a lot less.
Will the Huskers be able to build off of the momentum and do something special in the coming weeks?
Only time will tell.