World-Herald staff writer Rich Kaipust breaks down the Huskers’ play on both sides of the ball during NU’s 59-20 win over SDSU.
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TRACKING THE OFFENSE
The game plan: With Taylor Martinez sitting out for the first time in 33 games, Nebraska trimmed it back and kept it simple for Tommy Armstrong and Ron Kellogg. Fewer plays, fewer formations, fewer reads. Armstrong got a few option plays to run, and Kellogg some of his favorite throws.
The adjustments: To be honest, offensive coordinator Tim Beck didn’t have to make many as Nebraska scored on six of seven possessions in the first half. And the attack was balanced: the Huskers went over 300 yards both rushing and passing (645 total).
NU star: Not a bad day for Armstrong, the redshirt freshman making his first career start. He completed 12 of 15 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown and also ran five times for 38 yards.
Stat of the game: Three fumbles, including two lost by Husker veterans — I-back Ameer Abdullah in the first quarter and receiver Kenny Bell in the third. Those will be balls NU won’t be allowed to put on the turf in Big Ten play.
Final word: Take it for what it’s worth considering South Dakota State was an FCS opponent that had allowed 506 yards the week before to Southeastern Louisiana, but Nebraska needed to put together a start-to-finish effort like it did Saturday. The Huskers averaged 8.4 yards per play and picked up 34 first downs, with a little less of the hot-and-cold feel of past weeks. It should be a nice springboard into the Big Ten schedule, and might also give Beck a better feel for what his backup quarterbacks can do.
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TRACKING THE DEFENSE
The game plan: Nebraska aimed to try to take away South Dakota State tailback Zach Zenner, so it obviously was a disappointment when the junior already had 148 yards four minutes into the second quarter. The fact that quarterback Austin Sumner started off 10 for 11 passing only made it worse.
The adjustments: So frustrated were the Huskers that defensive coordinator John Papuchis said they went to having defenders play assigned running lanes. There also were some regular changes in personnel, especially at linebacker, in search of somebody to help stop the bleeding.
NU star: Stanley Jean-Baptiste keeps making plays in the secondary. The senior cornerback now has interceptions in each of the Huskers’ first four games, with 134 yards in returns.
Stat of the game: South Dakota State had 205 total yards on its first 17 offensive snaps. It easily could have had 21 points after three possessions, too, if not for two costly penalties after the Jackrabbits had first-and-goal at the NU 4 on the third one.
Final word: Whoa, golly, this was not exactly what head coach Bo Pelini and Papuchis had in mind as the Huskers head into a bye week. Pelini referenced attitude, sense of urgency and focus in his postgame press conference, and said: “I’ll get this fixed.” There’s no other choice right now, because the numbers are staggering against a nonconference schedule that wasn’t all that difficult, save for UCLA.