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September 24, 2011

Nebraska vs. Wyoming report card

LARAMIE, Wyo. - Nebraska improved to a perfect 4-0 after a 38-14 win over Wyoming on Saturday. Here's a complete report card breakdown from Saturday as the Huskers move into Big Ten Conference play.

Rushing offense: A

This is the aspect of the football game Nebraska completely dominated. The Huskers had 49 rushes for 333 yards, averaging 6.8 yards per carry. Junior running back Rex Burkhead had a career day with 170 yards rushing on just 15 carries, including a 45 yard touchdown run that set the tone for the day. NU's trio of freshmen running backs also got some good work in rushing for a combined a combined 88 yards on 15 carries. What I liked about this performance was it didn't feature a long runs from quarterback Taylor Martinez. This shows how far the offense has come and they didn't have to call on Martinez to break off home run plays to provide them with a spark.


Passing offense: B-

It by no means was a great day for Martinez in the passing game, but overall an efficient one. Martinez finished 12-of-21 for 157 yards and a touchdown. He made a few nice throws on third down, but had a couple of stretches where he struggled. On one particular series in the first half Martinez went 0-of-3 and NU was forced to punt. He also under threw Kyler Reed deep, which ultimately forced NU to settle for a field goal instead of a touchdown. It's little things like this that NU needs to get cleaned up in the passing game when they start to play some of their bigger games down the road.

Rushing defense: C+

Wyoming finished the game with 137 yards rushing on 31 attempts. NU had just three tackles for loss overall and at times struggled with the shiftiness of the Cowboy running backs when they ran laterally. With Jared Crick, I was impressed with how both defensive tackles Terrence Moore and Thaddeus Randle played in his place.

Passing defense: B-

Bo Pelini threw several new curveballs with his secondary by starting Corey Cooper at corner, P.J. Smith at safety, Alfonzo Dennard at corner and Daimion Stafford at nickel. Josh Mitchell, who started last week did not travel to Laramie. Andrew Green and Ciante Evans, who also both started last week played limitedly on Saturday. My thought is Pelini knew this was a game where he could afford to try some new personnel things. Smith, Cooper and Stafford give NU a much more physical tackling bunch for Big Ten play than Mitchell, Green and Evans. Cooper obviously struggled at times, as Wyoming went after him. Wyoming finished with just 168 yards passing, but there were still some concerns with communication and coverage busts that need to get cleaned up before Wisconsin.

Special teams: A

It's hard to knock kicker Brett Maher for his missed 50 yard field goal, because you can argue the kick was good. In fact a few of the NFL scouts in the box couldn't believe the kick was called no good. Maher was nearly flawless though other than that. He averaged 53 yard per punt, including pinning one on the 1 yard line. He also put 6-of-7 kicks through the end zone for touchbacks. Wyoming had just 9 yards on in total punt return and 20 yards on one kickoff return. The other play you also have to give the special teams credit for is sniffing out Wyoming's fake punt attempt. NU knew the Cowboys were going to try one fake in the game and they were clearly ready for what they saw on Saturday. The game was still 21-7 at that point and it was a huge momentum shift when they stopped that play short.


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