First off, hats off to Nebraska for coming into Stillwater and playing a terrific game. Their secondary is by far the toughest I have seen in a long time. Bo Pelini had a very good game plan and stuck with it. On the offensive side, there isn't enough you can say about Taylor Martinez. The kid is a flat out stud and will only get better as his passing game develops.
Overall, I think each fanbase has a little more respect for the other side than they did before the game. To top it all off, I'm not sure if anyone thought it was going to be as much of a shootout as it was. Up until late in the 4th quarter, the game was a pretty exciting rollercoaster ride with momentum swinging back and forth throughout. Unfortunately, on the OSU side, it seemed like I was watching two completely different teams at times. Moments of brilliance immediately followed up by head scratching mistakes from coaches and players seemed to be the theme. Even so, OSU is still 6-1 and has a very legitimate shot of representing the South in the last Big 12 conference championship. Who else wants to see a rematch of these two teams??? But let's not get ahead of ourselves. First, let's analyze the match we just witnessed. Click the jump to read the ups and downs of last Saturday's game against the Huskers.
What Went Right
Justin Blackmon - Talk about making the most out of a little. 5 catches, 157 yards, 2 touchdowns. Is there anyone out there that is still questioning this guy's talent? If he wasn't firmly in the Heisman discussion before, he is now. What made his performance special in this game was his ability to make adjustments to the ball thrown. On his two biggest plays, he had at least two steps on his defender only to stop, adjust to an underthrown pass and come down with a jump ball. Did that look familiar to anyone else (Zac to Dez)? At this point, it may be wise to start hoping he sticks around for another year before going pro.
Kendall Hunter - Not be overshadowed by Blackmon, Hunter showed why he is the best back in the conference and perhaps even the entire nation. 26 carries for 201 yards and 2 touchdowns. In the first half, Blackmon may have had the bright flashes, but Hunter was the constant light of the offense. He simply refused to be taken down by the first defender. Nebraska has the most athletic linebackers in the conference and there were times where Hunter simply made them look silly. It cannot be said enough. He is the force of this offense and any success that is had will be because of what he brings to the field each weekend.
The Offensive Line - Talk about a group of guys that have gotten better and better each and every game. This is definitely not the same unit that played in the Troy game. They were physical. They opened holes for Kendall. They allowed only one sack on Weeden in which he held the ball a little too long anyway. The improvement of the line is by far the most impressive of any unit on this team this season. They continue to gel and work more as one complete entity rather than five separate forces. This is extremely important as the schedule continues and the road games become more difficult.
Most of the First Half - No matter what Nebraska did, OSU didn't get rattled. They stayed composed and brought the momentum back their way. Kendall kept the ball moving at a consistent rate, Blackmon used his athleticism to make huge plays, and Brandon Weeden, after starting 0 for 5 through the air, found his stride and went on his own run where he completed 9 of 10 passes for over 150 yards. For the most part, the play calls were great. OSU attacked with the running game when the box was light and threw the ball downfield when receivers were in one on one situations. The flea flicker was a thing of beauty. Unfortunately, it only took one bad play call to swing the moment back Nebraska's way--and that brings us to the negatives.
What Went Wrong
Coaching Blunders - If your All-American running back has torched the defense for over 150 yards in the first half and it is 3rd and 2 with three minutes left before haltime, give him the damn ball. OSU had the momentum going their way. They had just taken a 3 point lead and forced Nebraska to punt. The opportunity was perfect to go up 10 points or at least 6 while keeping the ball away from the Nebraska offense. 3rd and 2: What do they do? Attempt a passing play that looks broken from the start. What follows? Incompletion. Clock stops. OSU punts. Nebraska marches down the field and scores before halftime to regain the lead. AND they get the ball back at the beginning of the second half. Give the ball to Hunter and none of that happens. He's good for two yards. In fact he was good for at least seven all game long. There's more to be covered on the play calls in a bit but first...
Horrible Tackling - My God I haven't seen such poor tackling in a long, long time. The worst part is that a lot of it came from our most dependable tacklers: Orie Lemon and Markelle Martin. Orie missed on several easy tackles involving Taylor Martinez. Markelle Martin got juked out of his shoes by a punter. A PUNTER. It seemed everyone was guilty at one time or another. Granted, Nebraska has some great athletes but there was really no reason for the amount of tackles missed by a Bill Young defense that prides itself in fundamentals.
Defense on 3rd and Long - Everybody is to blame for this. Bill Young and the players alike. It is really sad when it is 3rd and 14 and you would rather it be 3rd and 5 because your odds might be better to get a stop. There was absolutely no pressure brought to the QB in the 3rd and long situations. Three down linemen are not going to cut it. They simply do not have the strength. Martinez had a field day because all he had to do was wait long enough and a receiver was bound to get open. Whatever scheme Coach Young is using is obviously not working. Change it. On the field, the players were no better. Both the corners and safeties were out of position on many pass plays and as stated before, they simply could not wrap up Martinez on his scrambles. These things have to get better and fast.
Special Teams - Well this is becoming a very ugly trend. At what point does Gundy say "Enough is enough?" Let's not pull any punches here. The special teams coverage units have been bad for a number of years. Let's stop blaming it on the youth and start where it stems: Coaching. Coach Deforest is an outstanding recruiter. But as the special teams' coordinator, he is simply not getting the job done. 100 yard kick off returns and successful fake punts from the opponent's own 30 yard line are simply unacceptable. Having to pooch kick the ball the entire game when you have one of the nation's best kickers is ridiculously embarrassing. It may be time to make a change.
What did everyone else see? Anything I missed? Leave some comments for discussion!