Instant Analysis - Nov. 7
Nebraska 10 ... Oklahoma 3
How many teams have picked off five passes in a game
and come up with just ten points? Iowa State was
able to pull off eight turnovers against the Huskers
and only came up with nine points, but in the
Nebraska win over Oklahoma, the Blackshirts, the
Husker defense, made life miserable for OU QB Landry
Jones, yet the offense couldn't do anything with
them. So while many will praise a Nebraska defense
that gave up 325 yards, many will gloss over just
how good the Oklahoma defense was allowing just 180.
Put in a bad position time and again, the Sooner
defense played at a championship level to keep the
game alive, But Nebraska's defense helped out its
struggling offense, while Oklahoma couldn't change
the game. With a young quarterback like Landry Jones
under center, the Sooner defense has dominate games
at times, and the running game has to pick up the
slack. Neither happened enough to bail out Jones,
and now the Sooners will have to scramble for a
bowl. Oh sure, they're likely to be favored against
Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State, but those
are going to be battles. Meanwhile, Nebraska has the
North there to grab, and with this defense, all the
team wants is a shot at Texas. But if the offense,
particularly the quarterback situation, doesn't come
around soon, everything that happened in this game
might not matter.
The D line will continue to generate pressure and
the secondary will keep making big plays, but now
the team, as bad as it has been at times, has to be
thinking about how to win the Big 12 championship,
and not just get there. The defense won't be able to
hold up for a full sixty minutes against the
Longhorns without a little bit of support. But on
the flip side, if you're Texas, do you want to see
the Huskers and their D? Bring on Kansas State.
As inconsistent as Nebraska has been this season, losing to Iowa State and struggling with Baylor the last two weekends, the same cannot be said for the defense. The unit has been vintage Blackshirts throughout the season.
Without a ton of recognition outside of Lincoln, defensive coordinator Carl Pelini has done a terrific job with this group. The staff challenged this group before the season, and it's responded, allowing a mere 22 points over the last three games and just 10 points a game for the season. Up front, Ndamukong Suh and Jared Crick form one of the nation's best set of defensive tackles, routinely blowing up plays behind the line of scrimmage and obstructing the vision of opposing quarterbacks. On Saturday night, LB Phillip Dillard was everywhere, helping hold the Oklahoma ground game to just 80 yards. And in the secondary, CB Prince Amukamara neutralized the Sooner receivers and FS Matt O'Hanlon showed great range in centerfield, picking off three of Landry Jones' passes. From top to bottom, this is one of the four or best defensive units in America, which is going to make Big Red a big nuisance down the stretch.
If Nebraska can win out against Kansas, Kansas State, and Colorado, it's going to represent the North Division in the Big 12 championship game. And if the Huskers can somehow locate a pulse on offense between now and Dec. 5, they might be the foil for Texas that teams, like Cincinnati and TCU, will be praying for in November.
1) Nebraska had to have heard all the comments about the Big 12 North. More importantly, the Huskers – upon resuming their classic rivalry with Oklahoma – knew that if they were going to upend the Sooners, they'd need to produce something special. Amazingly yet undeniably, that's exactly what Bo Pelini's defense did: Five interceptions of Landry Jones, one of them essentially (just not technically) scoring a touchdown, and repeated stands inside the Nebraska 30 against a Sooner offense that moved the ball in fits and starts, but never with enough consistency to get the job done. Kansas State leads the Big 12 North, but Nebraska – who has the Wildcats firmly in its sights – has just taken the inside track to a coveted date with Texas on the first weekend of December.
2) If this win is cause for justified elation in Nebraska, it has to hurt just as much on the other side. Perhaps anyone under 30 years of age might not fully appreciate the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry, but for most age demographics in Sooner Nation, falling short to this Husker team – whose offense is (still) markedly inept – has to cut very deep. Beating Nebraska figured to be one small achievement, one point of pride for old-time Sooners, in the final stretch of Oklahoma's trek through 2009. Now that that opportunity has gone begging, all that's left for Bob Stoops's bunch is to win the Bedlam Series against the Sons of Stillwater.
A couple of weeks ago, when Nebraska surrendered 31 points to Texas Tech, there were those who doubted whether the Black Shirts defense was indeed back. Saturday night in a 10-3 win over Oklahoma, there was no doubt. The Cornhuskers forced five turnovers and harassed Sooner QB Landry Jones into a 26-of-58 night throwing that proved the defense and were in complete control of the proceedings. It didn't matter at all that NU was able to manage a mere 180 total yards and had a wishbone-like 39 yards through the air. The defense was overwhelming, and that was enough.
Of course, it started up front, where tackles Ndamukong Suh and Jared Crick were impossible to contain. When the two of them are terrorizing enemy lines and QBs, things get pretty easy for everybody else wearing a "black" shirt. The win keeps Nebraska in the running for the Big 12 North title, since it has a date with resurgent Kansas State in two weeks, in Lincoln. It would be good if one of the Cornhusker QBs could establish himself as a relatively competent passer by then, but as long as the defense continues to be so good, maybe the Huskers can continue to get away with playing so poorly on offense. Oklahoma, meanwhile, needs to get its offensive front in order, or it risks finishing the season on a huge down note, since its remaining three games (Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State) are all dangerous. Maybe not as dangerous as the Nebraska defense was Saturday night, but few things in the Big 12 are.