Nebraska Gives Away Another One

Nebraska held Northwestern’s star running back to 40 rushing yards, allowed their quarterback to complete less than 50% of his passes, and nearly doubled Northwestern’s time of possession. Despite all that, Nebraska still found a way to lose to the Wildcats 30-28, dropping the Huskers to 3-5 season and putting their bowl hopes in serious jeopardy. Here are the final grades for Nebraska’s performance as well as some personal observations (they aren’t positive).

Nebraska Gives Away another one


Quarterback: D-

All members of the Tommy Armstrong fan club will point out that he scored three touchdowns, created some big plays with his scrambling, and wasn’t given very much help from his offensive line and receivers. There is a bit of truth to those claims, but it doesn’t hide the fact that Armstrong is one of the biggest issues holding Nebraska back this season. Armstrong’s footwork was terrible, his ball placement was terrible, and he made one of the most idiotic decisions of the season that led to a Northwestern pick six. With the exception of a brief glimmer of hope when Nebraska played Minnesota, Armstrong has been a complete liability in Big 10 play.

Running Back: C-

Nebraska running backs were not very effective against the Wildcats, rushing for just 69 yards on 25 carries. In fairness to them, they were given absolutely no help from a Husker offensive line that allowed Dean Lowry and CJ Robbins to live in Nebraska’s backfield. Newby did have some nice moments in the screen game, catching three passes for 18 yards, but he was hampered once again by poor blocking at the second level. The only gripe that I have is the Huskers not going to their misdirection run game a bit sooner, that was the only time the backs could find any running room.

Tight Ends: B

Cethan Carter has quietly been Nebraska’s most consistent performer during Big 10 play, as the junior caught two passes for 17 yards and did a solid job of blocking on the edge. Carter also had a pretty sweet truck stick moment on Nortwestern safety Traveon Henry, but that got ruined by a illegal block penalty on Zach Sterup (we’ll get to him).

Wide Receivers: D

Jordan Westerkamp’s five catches for 92 yards is the only thing keeping this grade from being an F.

If Jamal Turner gets any snaps next week against Purdue, I honestly think that my head will explode. The 5th year senior dropped five passes and quit running on a sure touchdown pass that would have given Nebraska the lead early in the third quarter. Brandon Reilly caught four passes for 83 yards and a touchdown, but he also dropped a wide open touchdown pass, while Demornay Pierson-El only averaged 6 yards per catch while dropping two passes. Add in the fact that Alonzo Moore got hurt in the first quarter, and you have a pretty awful day for the receivers.

Offensive Line: F-

The Nebraska offensive line got whipped on Saturday, as Dean Lowry, CJ Robbins, and Ifeadi Odenigbo made a living in Nebraska’s backfield. Nick Gates cannot come back soon enough, as senior Zach Sterup was a liability in pass pro and run blocking, as he allowed Lowry to rack up nine tackles, five TFL, and a sack. Starting guards Chongo Kondolo and Dylan Utter played almost as bad Sterup, and that’s saying something. I have a hunch that next week we may see as many as three freshmen on the starting offensive ine, because the veterans simply aren’t cutting it.

Defensive Line: C

Nebraska’s D-line did a solid job defending the run and consistently got pressure on Cayton Thorson. Nebraska allowed 156 yards rushing to the Wildcats, with most of the yardage coming on scrambles by Thorson during which linebackers failed to spy him correctly. Nebraska was able to get one sack Saturday, as walk on Ross Dzuris sacked Thorson in the end zone for Nebraska’s first safety of the season. Nebraska’s defensive line somehow got worn down late in the game despite playing just 21 minutes, allowing Nortwehstern to mount a nine play 50 yard drive to seal the game, so that drops their grade to a C.

Linebackers: F

Northwestern had four plays that won them the ball game, and all four have something in common. The two Thorson runs, Thorson’s touchdown pass to Vitale, and Justin Jackson’s eight yard run to give Northwestern the 1st down they needed to seal the game. All four plays happened due to breakdowns at the linebacker position, as Josh Banderas and Marcus Newby lost contain on Thorson’s run, Dedrick Young got beat by Vitale, and Newby filled the wrong gap on Jackson’s run. Overall, a rough day for a linebacker corps that had been making strides through the first three games of Big 10 play.

Secondary: C+

For the first time in their five losses, Nebraska’s secondary wasn’t the main reason that Nebraska lost. Northwestern’s wide receivers accounted for just four catches for just 55 yards, as Daniel Davie was solid in his first game back from injury and Joshua Kalu took some steps forward from a rough game against Minnesota. Nate Gerry and Byerson Cockrell had a quiet game, continuing what has been a weirdly quiet season from Nebraska’s safeties.

Special Teams: C-

Drew Brown was 2 for 2 on field goals against Northwestern, both from 40+ yards. Foltz pinned Nebraska inside their five yard line in the first quarter that led to Nebraska’s safety. Unfortunately, Foltz missed three chances to pin Northwestern deep, as he had three touchbacks despite punting from midfield. Pierson-El was a complete non factor in the punt return game, and true freshman Jordan Stevenson continued to disappoint as a kick returner. Nebraska’s coverage units were pretty terrible, the only thing that saved them was Northwestern committing penalties.

Final Grade: F

Coming into Nebraska’s game Saturday, Nebraska fans have had three games that have left them heartbroken (BYU, Miami, Wisconsin) and one that left them very angry (Illinois). After today, Husker fans now have a second game to put into the angry category, as Nebraska somehow found a way to give away a game to a less talented foe. Tommy Armstrong struggled, the receivers dropped to many passes, the offensive line sucked, and the linebackers made some crucial mistakes. Nebraska has now found a way to lose five games by five points or less, and they have no one but themselves to blame for that.


Tommy’s job in trouble?

Let me start by saying that I like Tommy Armstrong, he’s a good athlete and a tough kid, but he shouldn’t be Nebraska’s quarterback. Armstrong is to inconsistent with his footwork, ball placement, and decision making to be counted on as the focal point of any offense. There is a reason that Nebraska’s offense fell apart in 2014 when Ameer Abdullah got injured and the playmaking responsibility fell onto Armstrong’s shoulders. With Nebraska going to a less than stellar Purdue team, now would be the time if Nebraska wanted to give AJ Bush or Zack Darlington a chance at starting quarterback.

Bring Back Nick Gates…. Please

Zach Sterup was absolutely embarrassed on Saturday, as Dean Lowry and Ifeadi Odenigbo dominated Sterup for the entire game. This performance made Nebraska fans realize how lucky they were with Nick Gates starting at Right Tackle, as the redshirt freshman was a consistent and reliable presence on the offensive line. Sterup is a member of Nebraska’s supremely disappointing 2011 offensive line class, as he is joined by Tyler Moore, Ryan Klachko, Givens Mordi Price as players that failed to live up to their recruiting hype.

Never Let Nebraska Wear Black Again

The first time that Nebraska wore black alternates was in 2013, when Nebraska gave up a 21-3 first half lead to UCLA and got torched 41-21. Nebraska is now 0-2 wearing the backs, and both losses have been ugly and painful ordeals. Lets stick with Red & White from now on.