All season, former Husker and NFL linebacker Jay Foreman will be breaking down games for HuskersIllustrated.com on Monday mornings. This week, Foreman tackles Nebraska's win over South Dakota State.Try HuskersIllustrated.com FREE for the regular season
In recognition of this past week I think I'm going to write a little differently. Since this a bye week, I will be giving my general thoughts over the first third of the season. Obviously the bye week can't come at a better time because of all the turmoil or drama inside and outside the program. Some of the drama was self-inflicted and some due to injuries and circumstances.
In short, the first quarter-and-half was a hangover from the UCLA game. The defense looked slow and lethargic. And to be honest, the front seven looked pathetic at times. SDSU took the ball down and scored on three straight drives and at one point led the game 17-14. Thankfully, and to a great surprise, the offense started quickly and looked smooth and was able to out score the Jackrabbits. Once the game was out of hand for SDSU, the defense was able to make some big plays. Stanley Jean-Baptiste(again) and Randy Gregory both made huge plays. I will say the defense held SDSU to three points in the second half. All-in-all after a long week, they got the win.
Lastly, there are two very alarming things that have reared their ugly head so far this season. Tackling and communication are huge issues, and if not fixed, will be moving forward. Zach Zenner ran for 202 yards and wasn't stopped all game. SDSU's running game wasn't exotic, as a matter of fact it was easy to read. They came straight ahead and wanted to see if Nebraska could stop it. And Nebraska couldn't stop him. He's the nation's leading rusher regardless of level, but this was a game I would like to see the defensive line step up and be physical and stop the running game. I can't figure out why Nebraska can't seem to stop people. They have the size and more speed, but can't get off the blocks of inferior lineman. The communication is, and will be a problem, until a defensive unit is more concrete. I say this because the defense needs to develop some cohesiveness and that can't be done until the players get to know who they are playing with regardless of mistakes.
Players trending upwardI will say this: Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Gregory have played well all season. Vincent Valentine has shown flashes, but until he gets into better shape, he will not reach his potential. Zaire Anderson has shown some play-making ability and fire when in the game. I look for him to play well during the Big Ten season.
Coaching trendsFor the last two games I didn't see the infamous quick hook from the defensive staff, but it came back against SDSU. Josh Banderas made a huge mistake on the 41-yard touchdown run by Zenner. I understand that you have to shake players up and pull them if they make mistakes, but my feeling is that if you chose him as a starter then he should be able to redeem himself and make plays. I didn't see Bando until the third quarter when the game was already decided. They inserted David Santos and he did OK. I know the coaches had a plan for if this game got lopsided and could get a lot of players reps, but headed into a bye week I'd like to assume that they will self-scout themselves and come back out with a lineup they are comfortable with.
I understand the "daily competition" thing and that's fine and all. My thinking is by now you have to have a good idea of what you have individually and collectively from your defense. My thinking is if I am a starter, then I should be motivated by that alone to do well, let alone playing for my teammates and University.
-- Glad to see Gregory get a sack and take an interception to the house because he's been close all year.
-- The offense looked totally different yesterday regardless of who they played. The tempo wasn't rigid, but smooth. Just FYI.
-- The DE combo of Moss and Gregory is by far the best Nebraska has, I wonder when both will get the starting nod they deserve.
-- Who will start next to Corey Cooper after the bye week? I think if someone can step up and be consistent next to him, that will give the coaches more flexibility in coverages.
-- Let's not forget that Nebraska won, but let's not be blind to the areas Nebraska has been lacking in for the first few games.
-- There is no QB controversy. Taylor Martinez will be starting and logging all the minutes. Nothing is going to change that.
-- I personally think this week was good for our players. The stress and drama could help them in the long run. It was unfortunate, but I also think some people needed a wake up call. I think the sooner everyone understands that this is the closest thing to professional sports and it should be thought of, and treated as such, then there won't be as much shock when something comes up. I also think that the players need to understand that in this day and time of social media, fans can see or access you regularly. If they can only accept the cheers, and not the rants or negative thoughts, then they probably should not be on there. Granted some fans go a little too far, but is that any different then society today?
Jay Foreman spent eight years in the NFL with four different teams, and starred at Nebraska as a four-year letter winner who played on Nebraska's 1995 and 1997 National Championship teams. For more takes and opinions from Foreman, check out Jay's Blog or follow him on Twitter.