Friday, December 31, 2010
Instant analysis: Washington 19, Nebraska 7
By David Ubben
That was pretty shocking. I didn't give Washington much chance to win, and I don't think I was alone there. The Huskies proved us all wrong with a 19-7 victory.
How the game was won: Washington got physical and overpowered Nebraska's defensive line up front for 60 minutes. The Huskies had some success doing it the first time around, but a poor defensive performance kept them from doing it enough to win the game. The defense got it done this time, Washington's offensive line got consistent pushes up front and Jake Locker only had to throw into the Blackshirts fearsome secondary when he wanted to. More often, he used his legs to make plays, on called runs and scrambles as part of that success running the ball. The Huskies rode Locker and Chris Polk to a 268-yard rushing night and a convincing win over a team almost no one picked them to beat.
The Huskers, meanwhile, made constant mistakes, lost the turnover battle 2-0 and were penalized 12 times for 102 yards. One of the most costly came in the fourth quarter after a goal-line stand that looked like it might swing momentum with the Huskers trailing 17-7. Cody Green ran for a first down, but All-Big 12 guard Ricky Henry was called for holding in the end zone, resulting in a safety, which stretched the deficit to 19-7 and gave the ball back to the Huskies. Blame the supposed scapegoat, the dreaded "lack of motivation" if you'd like, but the Huskers' lack of execution in all three phases of the game is a bigger reason for the loss. I never, ever would have pegged Nebraska for seven points against Washington's defense after ringing up 56 in Seattle with three 100-yard rushers back in September.
Turning point: Locker scored on a 25-yard run early in the third quarter to cap a four-play, 53-yard drive that put Washington up 17-7. The game teetered at halftime even though the Huskies had dominated the line of scrimmage, but Locker's emotional run shifted control of the game firmly in Washington's favor.
Turning point II: Locker's return. The quarterback took a nasty-looking hit and remained on the ground for several minutes early in the second quarter. He left the game for a few plays, but was able to return and lead his team to a big bowl win after a winless season in 2008 and no bowl appearances since 2002. I don't wear hats often, but if I did, mine would be off to Steve Sarkisian. This was impressive.
Stat of the game: This wasn't the prettiest passing game. All the quarterbacks combined threw for 170 yards, a touchdown and an interception on 16-of-40 passing.
Player of the game: Jake Locker, QB, Washington. Polk racked up the yards, but Locker played smart, tough, and made plays with his feet. Polk and the offensive line have a legitimate case for player of the game, but Locker kept the Huskies' offense rolling and did exactly what he had to do for his team to win. Considering the nightmare outing he had last time against the Blackshirts, it's even more impressive.
Record performance: Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David topped 150 tackles on the season for a single-season school record in just his first year on the field. The junior juco transfer broke former Blackshirt Barrett Ruud's previous record of 149 tackles in 2003.
What it means: Nebraska's season began with so much promise. National championship aspirations arose following a thorough Thursday night undressing of Kansas State to move to 5-0. A loss to Texas and Taylor Martinez's midseason ankle injury were speed bumps for the Big 12 North champions, but a pair of offensive clunkers against Oklahoma and Washington end the Huskers' season with a frustrating thud on the way to the Big Ten.
Conference-wide, it's another loss for the Big 12, who is now 1-4 in bowl games and no loss was more shocking. The Huskers entered as two-touchdown favorites, and were completely outplayed in every way.