Well, I think we can say that we did not earn any style points last night. I realize a win is a win but we can do better than that, kudos to the offensive and defensive lines for really stepping up.
It's no secret that we have been spoiled in watching one of the most productive offensive units in the history of college football. This year is different. It is important to keep in mind that with all the new faces on the offense it will take time for them to gel into a cohesive unit. The defense has also had their share of new faces in particularly in the secondary but things seem to be coming together.
The Running Game:
We are sill a little inconsistent at this position. Gable showed that he has the moves; Washington showed he's got the speed and Moody has the skills to be a power back. There are already comparisons of Moody to LenDale White. Each of these guys brings something to the table but they all need to step up and add a little more to their game. The Fullback position is now a major question. With both Hancock and Powdrell out for the season the coaches will make this priority #1 this week. The ability to throw to the fullback in this offense is key to confusing opposing defenses; this option gives JDB the option to open it up. The current talk is that either Stanley Havili or Allen Bradford moving to Fullback, Mike Brittingham saw a lot of playing time but is he big enough.
Jarrett and Smith really stepped up in this game. Obviously Kiffin got Jarrett motivated with his public criticism and he was a major factor. Smith also had some key plays and showed why this is the best receiving corps in the country. The Nebraska corners were outsized and out matched. I was a little surprised that when Nebraska brought their safeties up to the line putting the corners in single coverage that Callahan didn't have the safeties blitz in order to hurry JDB. McFoy and Davis also had some key catches. There were just too many weapons for their secondary to cover.
John David Booty:
JDB is starting to come into his own. He went 25 of 36 257 yards, 3 TD's 0 int. He had a couple balls get away from him and was lucky that the Nebraska defenders dropped some easy balls for int.'s that surely would have lead to some easy scores. That being said he spread it around last night with catches going to six different receivers. He hangs in the pocket but when its time to move he moves. He was only sacked once and was hurried a few times. He is starting to take control of this team and is getting more comfortable in his role.
The Offensive Line:
They played outstanding. With 3 new starters that had all they could handle with the Nebraska Defensive line. This is the same group that had an NCAA leading 50 sacks in 2005. They had a little bit of trouble when Nebraska rushed their outside LB's but for the most part they did a great job. In my Q&A with Corn Nation before the game I stated that the O line was key making it all fall into place. I realize that it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out, but with 3 new starters that can be a tall order when you go up against the likes of a great D line like the one Nebraska has.
With all the talk we heard about the Nebraska passing game its simply stated that it was non-existent for two reasons. 1) Coach Callahan abandoned it because he wanted to establish the run. 2) Zac Taylor never got the time he needed to get the ball off because of the speed of the front 7. Rey Maualuga has shown that he will be one of the leaders of this unit. He lead all with 4 tackles and 7 assists. I don't think Taylor expected to see the speed and talent that the defense showed; Callahan may have actually done Taylor a favor by sticking with the running game. If he stays in the pocket he may have sacked many more times. The D line only allowed 67 yards rushing and when Nebraska went wide there was no where to go.
Except for the Nebraska scoring drive in the late third/early forth quarter the secondary did a pretty good job. To be fair though, because of the lack of a Nebraska passing attack it wasn't the truest test that one would want in order to conduct a full evaluation. Cary Harris and Taylor Mays made their first starts, Harris first start at cornerback, and SS Kevin Ellison made an impact as he was playing just days after hyper extending his knee.
The kicking game remains extraordinary. Van Blarcom once again boomed the ball into the end zone with 3 touchbacks. Punter Greg Woidneck had 4 punts for 167 yards.
This was a bigger test for SC than Arkansas was. Things are starting to come together but there is still some work to do. The running game while having a ton of talent needs to have someone step up and take charge. The receivers really showed why they are the best in the country. Both the offensive and defensive lines really played well and continue to be one of the reasons for SC's success. The linebackers continue to excel and Maualuga is emerging as a great leader. The secondary while not terribly tested in this game need to continue to keep the coverage tight. This was a good win but they need to put it behind them and focus on improving on their weaknesses. Great game Guys!
Next up Arizona.