09.14.2011 / The Husker Offense continues to live and die with big plays. Blog posting by Mike Babcock, Huskers Illustrated Magazine.
Husker running back Rex Burkhead carried six consecutive times, five of the carries inside the tackles, picking up two first downs and gaining 34 yards. The offensive line was getting a good push. And the Memorial Stadium crowd was rocking. Fresno State took a timeout.
"It was not anything we did not expect, Pelini said. We just did not execute. We did not tackle. We did not play well defensively. I am pretty sure we know how to fix that."
When play resumed, Nebraska faced third-and-3 at the Bulldogs’ 46-yard line. Husker quarterback Taylor Martinez took the snap and skirted his left end, with Burkhead trailing. Martinez didn’t stop until he had reached the north end zone. The clock showed 2:02 remaining in the game.
In desperation, Fresno State’s sophomore quarterback, Derek Carr, threw three incomplete passes, with the line of scrimmage his own 17. Then the Bulldogs punted. Nebraska downed the ball three times. Game over.
Those closing possessions were how Husker fans figured the game would go from the opening kickoff. They expected reserves to finish up against an overmatched Fresno State that was dealing with off-the-field distractions. But Nebraska had to battle to the end for a 42-29 victory.
“Sometimes you’ve got to get humbled,” said coach Bo Pelini. And this was such a time for the No. 10-ranked Huskers. “It wasn’t anything we didn’t expect,” Pelini said. “We just didn’t execute. We didn’t tackle. We didn’t play well defensively. I’m pretty sure we know how to fix that.”
There appeared to be plenty of things to fix on both sides of the ball. Nebraska’s offensive inconsistency was no surprise. The Huskers are, after all, learning a new system. But the defensive struggles were unexpected. Fresno State ran 81 plays to Nebraska’s 56. The Bulldogs finished with 444 total yards, including 169 rushing by Robbie Rouse.
And Carr was nearly flawless, completing 20-of-41 passes for 254 yards and a touchdown. The Bulldogs had a good game plan, and “they executed better than we did,” said Pelini. “It’s not magical. You have to make plays. You’ve got to do what you’re being coached to do. Time and again, we took turns not doing that. That’s very uncharacteristic of our guys. And I’m not talking about young guys. I’m talking about guys that have been around here and played a lot of football.”
Still, Nebraska did enough to win, with a 28-point second half. “Every year you’re going to have some games like this,” Pelini said. “You’re going to have some games where you have to find a way, and we did.” Pelini called it “a good wake-up call.”
The Huskers will have to be wide awake when Big Ten play begins, opening at Wisconsin and then playing host to Ohio State. And the Wisconsin game is only three weeks away.
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