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Knee-Jerk Reactions: Oregon

Alright, let’s get to it. /Mike Riley

Before the season began, I predicted Nebraska would lose to Oregon and well, here we are. The main reason I felt this way is that the Ducks’ new head coach (Willie Taggart) is one that players get behind very quickly. First, he gets top-quality athletes by making sure the guys still there are all in and wraps up highly-coveted recruits who are feeling his energy. Taggart had that taken care of from the get-go.

Now, take that talent and couple it with hires like former Alabama offensive line coach Mario Cristobal and former Colorado defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Jim Leavitt. The result is an offense that rebounds from an atrocious 4-8 season with talented skill players and a defense that had absolutely nowhere to go but up following last season’s debacle led by Brady Hoke.

For Nebraska, factor in Tanner Lee’s first big-time road test and the Huskers’ second game running Bob Diaco’s 3-4 defense. The timing made me favor the Ducks. Looking at these two teams, I’d say that analysis is accurate, but let’s go a little deeper.

1.) Oh, the wailing and gnashing of teeth during the first half. If you didn’t keep up with the back-and-forth on Twitter, I don’t blame you nor do I encourage you to go back and check. Everyone needed to be fired. Bob Diaco, Mike Riley, Shawn Eichorst. It all fell short of demanding the university be burned down and the earth salted. I received plenty of salty responses myself.

And then Oregon didn’t score a point in the second half. Suddenly things got very quiet.

2.) After six quarters, it looked like Handsome Bob’s 3-4 Defense was a hot mess. 389 yards and 42 points given up in one half? “It’s Texas Tech 2004 all over again,” one person cried. “2007 Kansas!” said another. The public demanded Diaco make adjustments. So he did.

The Ducks gained 142 yards in the second half and scored no points. No bend, no break. Maybe it’s worth giving this transition more than six or even eight quarters before judging it entirely. After all, the bigger the sample size, the more impactful your case.

3.) It finally happened. We were all waiting for it and it finally happened. Tanner Lee had a bad game. Given, two of his four interceptions weren’t really on him, but his throws were too high, too unsure or too — well, off. Much like a telegraphed pass, the talk about his time at the Manning Passing Academy cropped up, because that’s the kind of thing you throw in a guy’s face when he struggles. It’s just part of the game.

Lee had plenty of homework following last week’s win against Arkansas State. He’ll have even more to study back in Lincoln following Saturday’s loss.

4.) I said last week that Tre Bryant is legit. He came out and reinforced my beliefs with 20 carries for 107 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately, there may be issues with his knee which he’s been fighting for quite some time. It would be absolutely terrible for him to be sidelined so soon when his spotlight is just warming up. Hopefully, there’ll be good news before too long.

5.) Where art thou, Devine Ozigbo? Mikale Wilbon’s great once he gets to the edge, but I feel Zig would’ve been much better down the stretch against Oregon and could’ve eventually given Nebraska a chance to win. The fact that he hasn’t seen a single snap and no injury has been reported makes me think something happened off-the-field that has led to his absence.

6.) Despite Stanley Morgan, Jr.’s 102-yard game that featured two touchdowns, it feels like he left so much on the field. He was targetted 14 times and several of those were throws that he has to bring in if he’s going to play on Sundays. Receivers were having difficulty looking into the sun and I understand it’s hard to battle. However, Morgan had the opportunity to at least get more chunk plays for his team.

7.) Does anyone want to give it up for Aaron Williams? When Joshua Kalu went down, the defense needed some leadership and boy, did he step up in tremendous fashion and provide it. His team-best 12 tackles and a pick of Justin Herbert gave the Big Red a badly-needed jolt.

8.) Another solid week for Caleb Lightbourn. No boots over 50 yards, but three of his seven punts did land inside the 20-yard line.

9.) Nebraska gave away a number of opportunities to win the game, but one way they didn’t add to that was through penalties. The Huskers had all of three flags that resulted in 25 yards worth of help for Oregon. The Ducks, on the other hand, gave up over a football field’s worth of yardage to Nebraska, racking up 12 dings for 103 yards.

To comment or keep up with the author, follow Brandon on twitter at @eightlaces

A member of the Football Writers Association of America, Brandon has spent over a decade reporting on and researching college football, both the sport itself and recruiting.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Chris

    09/09/2017 at 9:07 pm

    Brandon, I am not a gloom and doom type, but when you talk about the defense in the second half you also need to mention that the ducks took the foot off the gas. Clearly they were not playing the same in the second half, how, many times did you see them run on first and second down in the first half?
    The defense is not doing well, and it does need to find a comfort zone.

    • John Swedlund

      09/11/2017 at 7:30 pm

      I actually agree. Oregon wanted to control the game and walk away with a W, but they didn’t abandon the pass either. Oregon tried to get something going that would wear the clock down. The Huskers showed a lot more of the dime package in that second half as well and I thought Lamar Jackson had a much better showing that half.

  2. Bob Myers

    09/09/2017 at 9:35 pm

    Big penalty on Pierson-El on the fourth down cost us a drive. The little mistakes really add up.

    • John Swedlund

      09/11/2017 at 7:28 pm

      Definitely! I wouldn’t even call it a false start either. He was lined up off the line and needed to be on it and took a step forward to correct the error right as the ball was hiked. Tough break on what should have been an easy 4th and 1 conversion.

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