Sunday, September 22, 2013
What we learned: Week 4
By Mitch Sherman
LINCOLN, Neb. -- South Dakota State scared Nebraska early, but the Huskers dominated over the final three quarters in a 59-20 win on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. What we learned from Nebraska's third victory of the year:
The Huskers have three solid quarterbacks: OK, maybe they’re not a threat to Taylor Martinez's position atop the depth chart, but Tommy Armstrong Jr. and Ron Kellogg III provide Nebraska depth at the position like it has not enjoyed since 2010. Armstrong is the future, and Kellogg is a stabilizing force. They combined on Saturday to complete 20 of 24 passes for 305 passes and two touchdowns without an interception as Martinez sat out with turf toe. Not bad, regardless of the opponent. Coach Bo Pelini said he expects Martinez to return in two weeks against Illinois. His healthy presence is best for the Huskers, but if they need to turn to Armstrong or Kellogg, it’s OK.
They’re not having fun yet: Pelini’s suggestion last week that the Huskers must to turn football into a fun game again didn’t exactly produce the defensive results for which he had hoped. South Dakota State churned out 186 yards in the first quarter, stunning Nebraska with two long touchdown drives. From there, the Blackshirts stiffened, but SDSU still finished with 465 yards, including 202 on 21 carries by running back Zach Zenner. Apparently, there’s no switch to turn on the fun. And Pelini wasn’t in the mood to show his fun side after the game as he discussed the defense. In fact, he was unhappy, calling this performance the worst of the season. That’s saying something, in light of the 602 yards surrendered to Wyoming and 38 unanswered points scored by UCLA.
Fan support is not a given: Nebraska fans are the forgiving types, for sure, evidenced by their ovation for Pelini on Saturday after the events of the past week. But empty seats speak loudly at Memorial Stadium, where the Huskers have sold out 329 consecutive games, dating to 1962. A few hundred seats in the student sections of the southeast corner went unoccupied on Saturday. Maybe the students stayed away because it was South Dakota State -- or maybe because the weather was so nice and they preferred to stay ... inside. Or maybe it had something to do with Pelini’s choice words from 2011. Overall, the feeling in Lincoln was a positive one. The Huskers’ performance in Big Ten play will shape the mood in the season’s second half.