I never really understood how the Ducks got so good over the years to be honest. I remember a joke I read in Sports Illustrated a few months after legendary coach Bear Bryant died. It went like this: Why did Coach Bryants wife want her husband buried somewhere between Corvallis and Eugene Oregon? Answer: She wanted him to be as far away from College Football as possible. Now we are playing one of those teams (and probably will be the underdog) with a coach we got from the other.
So far so good for the Big Red. Two wins against lessor opponents including a pesky Wyoming team who, had they kept their poise might have made it a close game. Indeed it was until they freaked and continually put the ball up for grabs, resulting in five interceptions and direct scores. Speaking of which, the huskers demonstrated a noted lack of said poise at some crucial times that kept the game close until the fourth quarter. Nate Gerry has to grow up and be the leader his teammates elected him to be. Late hits, handing the other team's QB the ball after an interception, not to mention getting disqualified two times late last year for helmet to helmet contact cannot continue. He has to play more disciplined. Coach Riley, I am sure, is not happy with the penalties and some of the undisciplined play from his team. It is just not the type of play I grew up watching out of the Huskers and will end up costing them games when we get into conference play, if not Oregon.
The Blackshirts overall still must improve. But they came up with some big plays which contributed to what in the end was a blowout. Part of it was good pressure defense with the blackshirts attacking the ball, part of it was sloppy panic driven passing by Wyoming's Josh Allen late in the game. But holding the Cowboys to 131 yards rushing was pretty good. The pass defense must improve next week. Wyoming had too many receivers open and came up with some big plays early as they came back from a 17-0 deficit and threaten the Huskers late. It did however seem like a blast from the past when the Tom Osborne and even Bob Devaney coached huskers would wear their opponents down by the end of the third quarter and blow them off the field in the fourth quarter.
No. 22 Oregon will not hand Nebraska the game in the fourth quarter next week. A win against a not-so-impressive Virginia team exposed a vulnerability in run defense and could be a good sign for the Huskers. However, that is only if the Huskers defense can keep Oregon from jumping out in front to where Nebraska must go to the air to catch up. Nebraska did not run the ball too well against Wyoming and frankly did not control the line of scrimmage on offense in the first half. Oregon is not Wyoming and will come prepared to force the Huskers to pass hoping that Bad Tommy shows up. If the Big Red loses control of the scoring and has to play catch up there could be trouble in Lincoln. The Ducks running back, Royce Freeman, has already rushed for 294 yards this season after going 1836 yards last season. He is fast and powerful. The Huskers will have to game plan against him and if that is successful will have to deal with freshman quarterback, Dakota Prukop. Freshman or not, he passed for 331 yards against Virginia and is the real deal. This game is going to be decided on the Blackshirts and their ability to keep the scoring down. I don't think the Huskers can win a high scoring game.
All summer we heard that Tommy Armstrong was working on his fundamentals and especially working on minimizing his turnovers. I am no quarterback expert but so far he has done a fair job of holding on to the football and so far interceptions have not hurt him. I am not convinced he has made any great strides in improving his passing however. Keeping in mind we are only two games in and the two wins were not against world beaters I want to see a more disciplined Tommy. He has made some good passes certainly but his 56.8 completion percentage is only slightly better than last years 55.2%. He threaded the needle a couple of times against Wyoming impressively. However, he still has a tendency to throw off of his front foot under pressure once in awhile trying to make something out of nothing when he should have thrown the ball into the stands. He simply has too many good receivers to put up sloppy passes. I actually thought it was a pretty good idea to throw that 60 yard bomb to Brandon Reilly on the first offensive play of the game even though it was incomplete. As we know Reilly had been suspended for the Fresno St game so Wyoming may not have had too much film on him. Reilly is a good receiver among many good receivers and it will be interesting to see how Oregon approaches trying to cover all of them.
The announcers during the Wyoming game surmised that if the Huskers could beat Oregon they could possibly be 7-0 going into the Wisconsin game at the end of October. That would certainly put the Huskers in the top 20 in the polls but they are going to have to earn it. This is not going to be easy. Karma for me laughing and repeating that joke so many times.