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Making the Grade – Nebraska vs Troy

Grading out each Husker position group

There is a wide variety of position grades from Nebraska’s loss against the Sun Belt’s Troy University on Saturday.  The 24-19 loss was a blow to the Huskers morale and puts ending the season with a winning record in serious jeopardy.

Each facet of the Huskers game had its share struggles against Troy and contributed to the loss. We take a look at how each position grades out below.

Offense

Quarterback: C-

Looking at the stat sheet sophomore Andrew Bunch had a pretty efficient day passing the ball going 19 for 27, 177yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. One of his interceptions was a tipped ball that while thrown high and behind his man.

The real story of Bunch’s performance is how the coaches decided to utilize him, or rather TRY to utilize him in the running game. He had 10 carries for 5 yards and was much less mobile than Adrian Martinez. Several times Bunch was forced by pressure to roll out and cost the Huskers yards on a few runs out of bounds instead of throwing away the ball.

Running Back: B-

One of the Huskers few bright spots was the running game of true freshman Maurice Washington. The nimble back had excellent vision on the day rerouting on several runs when the offensive lines blocking broke down. Washington had 14 carries for 92 yards averaging out to 6.6 yards per play. Transfer running back Greg Bell had a nice day as well rushing on 14 carries for 64 yards for a respectable 4.6 yards per carry.

Nebraska’s rushing attack struggled all day behind a beleaguered offensive line and seemed to be telegraphing its plays based on personnel packages. Troy frequently attacked the line of scrimmage and forced an offensive line that relies heavily on pulling lineman into bad decisions. Overall the Husker rushing attack went for 48 carries and 187 yards, without a single score and were unable to convert on several third and short situations.

Tight End: C+

Kurt Rafdal and Jack Stoll each had timely catches and did a serviceable job in supporting the blocking of the offensive line. Stoll threw a key block early in the game to spring Andrew Bunch on a keeper that allowed him to pick up a big gain with his feet.

While the tight end group was serviceable, a costly fumble from Stoll while pushing for extra yards helped Troy take away some of the Huskers momentum in the first half.

Offensive Line: 

There will be mixed official reviews on this, but the Huskers offensive line went from playing a good game against Colorado to having a poor performance today.  While they only gave up three sacks on the day, the Huskers running game was virtually non-existing along the interior and right side of the line. Several times running backs had to bounce the ball away from its intended hole and improvise as the offensive line couldn’t open things up.

More critically, the Husker offensive line couldn’t muster much of a push against what should have been an inferior defense. They came up short on several short yardage plays throughout the game and Bunch was flushed from the pocket all day by the Troy defense.

Defense

Safety: B+

The Huskers secondary played a solid game allowing only 110 yards of passing on the day. Tre Neal had a timely 4th down deflection and Aaron Williams and Antonio Reed were all over the field in both run support and pass support. The secondary gave up a few big runs that got past the linebackers but overall played a good game.

Tre Neal was second in tackles on the day with 7 tackles and 1 tackle for a loss, followed by Antonio Reed with 5 tackles and Aaron Williams with 5 tackles and a pass breakup of his own.

Linebacker: C+ 

This is a tough grade to hand out to a linebacking corps that felt like they had a really solid game, but the fact of the matter is that Mohamed Barry had a costly targeting penalty and the unit as a whole had several coverage breakdowns and missed tackles.

Will Honas would lead the team in tackles with 8 but also had a timely missed tackle allowing a big Troy run after coming in to replace Barry in the game.

Defensive Line: B+

Carlos Davis and Freedom Akinmoladun both had timely big sacks for the Huskers against Troy but it was too little on the day.  It was a good effort by a defensive line that featured a heavy rotation on the day but overall with Troy regularly keeping 6-7 guys in to block they were largely ineffective in creating constant pressure.

Special Teams: C

Another missed field goal for freshman Barret Pickering on the day and a costly late shanked punt by Caleb Lightbourn brought the special teams grade down.  Toss in a largely lackadaisical effort in blocking on punts and kicks and you can see why the grade is in the middle of the road.

Coaching: B- 

Normally I wouldn’t place a grade on the coaching staff, but it was evident with all the RPO plays that the staff was trying to fit a square peg fit into a round hole. Bunch is a solid backup but doesn’t have the athleticism of Adrian Martinez and it showed today. The staff missing on bringing in a guy like Joe Burrow or convincing Tristan Gebbia to compete for the starting spot may haunt the Huskers all season.

With only one quarterback on scholarship, the Huskers are crazy thin depth at quarterback which falls on the coaching staffs shoulders. The delay of game penalty on Pickering’s missed kick falls on the staff, as does getting this team to take a step forward every week.

The staff would be smart to go ahead and schedule that December game against Akron as it looks like it will be tough goetting to 5-6 wins without it.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Justin Fielder

    09/16/2018 at 8:42 am

    Great stuff. Maybe we shouldn’t schedule Akron though. They just bear Northwestern!

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