Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Midseason analysis: Nebraska
By ESPN.com staff
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Record: 4-2, 1-1
It’s been a season of wild mood swings and highs and lows for the Cornhuskers. They lost on a last-second pass-defense bust at Virginia Tech and came back to celebrate their 300th sellout with a 55-0 blowout over Louisiana-Lafayette the following week. They assumed the role of Big 12 North favorites after a dramatic comeback at Missouri. But they followed that with a crushing 31-10 home loss to Texas Tech last week that left Bo Pelini considering changes in the offense and a possible quarterback switch from Zac Lee to freshman Cody Green. The Cornhuskers are banged up in the backfield with Roy Helu hobbling and Rex Burkhead out for several weeks with a broken foot. And the strong defense, keyed by Ndamukong Suh, was blistered for 31 points by the Red Raiders after giving up only 40 in the first five games of the season. It came only a day after Pelini had awarded the unit Blackshirts for earlier achievement in the season. With a couple of weeks to build confidence before a tough finish, the Cornhuskers have their opportunity for a fast finish. But to do so, they have to improve their efficiency on offense and get their mojo back on defense.
Offensive MVP, I-back Roy Helu Jr.: Despite struggling with a chronic shoulder injury, Helu has emerged as the Cornhuskers’ most versatile offensive weapon. Helu leads the team with 620 yards rushing with a high of 169 yards against Virginia Tech. His recent production has suffered and he’s averaging 83 yards per game over the last three games after producing an average of 127 yards in the first three games. Helu has also added 12 catches for 118 yards to lead Nebraska in receiving. He needs to get healthy to take pressure off of whoever is playing quarterback for the Cornhuskers.
Defensive MVP, DT Ndamukong Suh: The massive 305-pounder had a chance to turn pro after last season, but decided to return to Nebraska for one more season. The result has been a fast start that has some considering him as a Heisman Trophy candidate before his team’s big loss last week against Texas Tech. Suh does things that most defensive tackles don’t do like lead his team in tackles and passes broken up, along with customary statistical categories like sacks and tackles for losses. His pivotal interception against Missouri helped set up that late comeback. Suh is definitely in line for a lot of awards after the season. And if he returns to his form of the Missouri game, he will finish off what could be one of the greatest seasons by a Nebraska defensive player in history.