Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Huskers demanding more from offense
By Adam Rittenberg
Read the following quote from an FBS offensive coordinator and then ask yourself how many points his team scored in its season opener.
"We didn't play very well. We made a lot of mental mistakes. We did a lot of things that we haven't done since last spring. It blows my mind. We just made a lot of mistakes."
Need a little help? Here's another sound byte.
"We got to play with better effort. We have to play sounder fundamentally and technique-wise. And that's what I'm most displeased with."
Want to hear what the head coach thinks?
"The sense of urgency's got to pick up."
So how many points did this team score? A couple of field goals, perhaps? Maybe a safety?
Nebraska put up 40 points in its opener against Chattanooga, but no one in Lincoln -- players, coaches, fans -- left Memorial Stadium feeling too giddy about the offense. Coordinator Tim Beck didn't hold back in his comments to reporters following Monday's practice, and coach Bo Pelini, while a bit more restrained, clearly wants to see improvement from the unit.
Despite the points total, the concerns about Nebraska's offense are justified.
- Quarterback Taylor Martinez, while doing his thing on the ground (135 rush yards, 3 TDs), completed just 50 percent of his passes against an FCS defense.
- Nebraska had seven negative-yardage plays in the first half and two more before the starters exited in the fourth quarter. The offensive line didn't consistently generate push for the power run.
- Before scoring two touchdowns on two plays midway through the third quarter, the Huskers had four sustained drives stall in Chattanooga territory. While kicker Brett Maher converted field goals on all four possessions, showing that there will be life after Alex Henery, Nebraska needs to get the ball in the end zone.
To be fair, Nebraska played its first game with a new scheme. But Pelini wasn't about to make excuses.
"I don’t think it has anything to do with the new system," he said. "We had some young guys in some spots, some older guys who didn't play as precise as we'd like them to play. But it's early in the year.
"It gave us a good benchmark of where we are and what we have to do to get better."
Nebraska's offense is being so closely scrutinized because many folks, including yours truly, think it once again will determine how far the Huskers go. The defense once again appears to be a championship-level unit, as it recorded 11 tackles for loss, three sacks and two takeaways in the opener.
It's critical that the Huskers take a step forward Saturday night against Fresno State, which didn't look good in its opener against Cal. The Bulldogs surrendered 36 points and 417 yards.
There's little doubt Nebraska will win, but a more polished passing performance from Martinez, along with greater consistency from a young offensive line, will go a long way toward easing concerns in Husker Country.