After a second quarter hiccup, Nebraska cruised to a convincing 49-20 win over Southern Mississippi Saturday, appearing to meet coach Bo Pelini’s expectations in its season debut.
The fifth-year coach said he told the players that the victory was a nice way to start the year. The Huskers did more than enough to win. But this is the baseline standard. Pelini said his team has to get better going forward.
“It gives us an assessment of, kind of, where we are and what we need to get better at,” Pelini said. “I thought there were a lot of good things out there. I thought there were a lot of positives, but there’s a bunch we need to fix.”
We’ll start with the good stuff.
>> No turnovers. Just two penalties? “That’s a pretty good recipe for success,” Pelini said.
>> He said Taylor Martinez was “efficient.” The junior was 26-for-34 for 354 yards. He threw five touchdowns. But as Pelini noted, the guys around Martinez executed, too. According to Pelini, the receivers showed up. The running backs — especially after Rex Burkhead went down — “played really well,” Pelini said. The offensive line was “outstanding,” Pelini said. Overall, good day for the offense and coordinator Tim Beck, who called a great game.
>> Pelini was pretty positive about the defense. The Blackshirts were far from perfect, but they had to prepare for an opponent they knew nothing about. Here’s his take: “It’s not easy to deal with that, especially when you don’t know what sets and what structures they’re going to do it out of. There were some adjustments that needed to happen, and I thought our guys reacted pretty well.”
Now the bad. Unfortunately, Pelini didn’t share too many details about the mistakes mentioned above. He’ll have, presumably, plenty to say to his team after watching the film.
His biggest concern at this point: Special teams. Brett Maher missing two field goals, banging a kickoff out of bounds and shanking a punt — that’s uncharacteristic. The mistakes made in kickoff coverage are fixable, according to Pelini.
We all saw Martinez nearly throw an interception. There were some breakdowns in pass protection. Some missed blocks on the edge. The defense struggled to stop the QB run. Southern Miss’ zone read option caused some issues, too. Tackling wasn’t great.
But it’s Game One. Things can get corrected. Players can improve. Nebraska should be happy to be 1-0. Because in this wild world of college football, you never know what can happen.
We’ll end this blog with a quick injury rundown, as best we can do. We’ll know more Monday.
Burkhead has an MCL sprain, but it’s not believed to be a long-term injury. No idea how long he’ll be out, at this point. Pelini said his status is day-to-day or week-to-week. … Tim Marlowe has a broken collar bone and will be out for a “few weeks,” Pelini said. … Ben Cotton had “cartilage under his ribs,” Pelini said. … Kyler Reed, Jason Ankrah, Will Compton and Ciante Evans were all guys who left at some point during Saturday’s game. But all of them returned.