Nebraska football got the first win of the Matt Rhule era on Saturday night against Northern Illinois and here are three takeaways.
There were a couple of problematic moments for Nebraska football on Saturday night, but for the most part, they were few and far between.
Nebraska’s defense was outstanding and if not for a turnover that gave Northern Illinois the ball in the red zone, the Blackshirts would have pitched a shutout.
They stuffed the run, holding a third straight opponent below 60 yards on the ground. In fact, Nebraska held NIU to just 149 yards total.
The offense won’t be confused for USC or anything, but the 14-play drive in the second half was beautiful. Heinrich Haarberg did have a fumble, but he played really well outside of that. I loved how the staff ran him at will. He also threw the ball well and more than anything, he was smart with it.
I don’t even remember a pass that was really close to being intercepted. The offensive line dominated in the second half and here are three takeaways from the Huskers’ 35-11 win.
Heinrich Haarberg was up to the task
I’m not quite ready to say that Haarberg should be the starting quarterback going forward, but he certainly made a case for himself on Saturday night. When he left the game, he had completed 14-of-24 passes for 158 yards. He also had two touchdowns and zero interceptions.
📍 Unleaded 88 pic.twitter.com/WVemmfdywm
— Big Ten Football (@B1Gfootball) September 17, 2023
There was a fumble on a strip sack, but it’s hard to blame that on him. He also carried the ball 21 times for 98 yards. His effectiveness on the QB sneak was a real weapon and he’s a punishing runner for a quarterback.
Frankly, it was fun to watch him lower the shoulder on opposing tacklers. He also threw the ball better than I thought. Is his deep ball great? No. But he throws well enough to win with.
My thoughts are that for now, the Huskers can allow Jeff Sims more time to get healthy because the kid from Kearney played pretty damn good in his first career start.
It was a MAC team however and one that lost to Southern Illinois last week. Still, it’s hard to complain about what Heinrich did. He made some plays on third down (Huskers converted 8-of-14) and got touchdowns in the red zone.
The defense is fun to watch
Northern Illinois doesn’t exactly have an explosive offensive, but this Huskies team did beat Boston College two weeks ago. This wasn’t a walk in the park and the Blackshirts were suffocating.
The Huskers allowed one yard per rushing attempt. One. There was absolutely nowhere to go and the pass rush was solid once again as Rocky Lombardi was running for his life much of the night.
— Nebraska On BTN (@NebraskaOnBTN) September 17, 2023
Nebraska was credited with just three sacks but the pressure was there all night. Nash Nutmacher and Ty Robinson owned the line of scrimmage. The linebackers — all of them — did some good things and the secondary did a great job of playing the ball.
The tackling has also been exquisite. There are five or six guys rallying to the ball on every play and this defense is going to keep the Huskers in a lot of games.
The O-line took over
Nebraska’s offensive line has gotten lots of criticism, yet they took over in the second half, rushing for 147 yards in the second half and getting more than five yards per attempt.
— Nebraska On BTN (@NebraskaOnBTN) September 17, 2023
Nebraska football ran the ball 48 times and got 206 yards total. The Huskers averaged 4.8 yards per attempt and had three rushing touchdowns in the second half to put the game away.
This time for @Grant4Anthony.
— Nebraska On BTN (@NebraskaOnBTN) September 17, 2023
Anthony Grant, Gabe Ervin, and Haarberg all scored rushing touchdowns in the second half. This was exactly the kind of fourth quarter Matt Rhule said he wanted Nebraska to be able to play.
Yes, there was a garbage-time touchdown for NIU, but Nebraska lived in the four-minute offense and controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
It was just Northern Illinois. I understand that. It was still a thing of beauty.
3 keys to a victory for Nebraska football vs. Louisiana Tech
Nebraska football will be looking for a second straight win on Saturday and here are three keys against Louisiana Tech.
For the second week in a row, Nebraska football will be at home. It’s the second of three straight home games and the Huskers will be looking to take advantage of their incredible home-field advantage once again.
Before big bad Michigan comes to Lincoln on Sept. 30, Nebraska football will have a final non-conference game against Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs are 2-2 but have been really up and down in the second season under head coach Sonny Cumbie.
Louisiana Tech runs an air-raid offense but does have a couple of talented running backs. Quarterback Hank Bachmeier is a Boise State transfer but is questionable for the game on Saturday due to a shoulder injury.
The defense ranks 100th in scoring defense. Louisiana Tech is 63rd in scoring offense and while Nebraska football has its own question marks, such as who will start at quarterback? The Huskers are a 19-point favorite and here are three keys to a win on Saturday.
Keep stuffing the run
When you think of Louisiana Tech, you don’t necessarily think of a running team, but the Bulldogs average 5.1 yards per attempt and 181 yards per game on the ground. True freshman Keith Willis has 240 rushing yards and averages 7.3 yards per attempt. Tyre Shelton averages 10.2 yards per attempt and is also over 200 yards for the season.
But if there is one thing Nebraska football has excelled at it is run defense. The Huskers have held each of their opponents to fewer than 60 yards rushing. They also rank among college football’s top five in rushing yards per game (46.3) and rushing yards allowed per attempt (1.7).
If that continues on Saturday, I feel really good about Nebraska’s chances of winning without incident. Yet, if the Bulldogs can find success on the ground, things could get interesting.
Hit the quarterback, whoever it is
Whether it’s Bachmeier or Jack Turner who has thrown for 146 yards and a touchdown this season, as well as an interception, Nebraska football needs to hit the quarterback and it should have an easy time getting home.
Louisiana Tech ranks 110th in the FBS in terms of sacks allowed per game. The Bulldogs have allowed 11 total and that’s an average of 2.75 sacks per game. Nebraska football is in the top five in college football with 14 sacks total and 4.6 per game.
The Huskers have done a great job of getting pressure from different levels. Tony White has done a great job of creating blitzes and the defensive line is also winning one-on-ones.
This feels like a game where the Huskers shouldn’t have a problem getting four or five sacks, especially if Nebraska football is able to build a double-digit lead and pin its ears back.
Run the damn ball
It’s not ideal that Nebraska football lost two of its top three running backs to season-ending injuries, but the Huskers should be licking their chops this week.
Louisiana Tech is allowing 4.9 yards per rushing attempt which doesn’t bode well against a Nebraska ground game that is second in the Big Ten, ranked in the top 25 nationally, and averages 5.1 per rush.
Nebraska is getting 209 yards per game and the quarterbacks have been a big part of it. Whether Jeff Sims gets the start of Heinrich Haarberg, I expect plenty of quarterback runs again.
With Anthony Grant taking over as the bell cow, Nebraska is going to need to lean on its quarterbacks and even if Haarberg isn’t the starter, I want to see both utilized in the running game, because it has been one of the most effective parts of the offense through three games.
Nebraska Football lands athletic playmaker in JD Crisp
Nebraska football continues to recruit for the 2024 class. They picked up a commitment from 2024 wide receiver JD Crisp on Wednesday afternoon. Crisp played both sides of the football in high school, playing both defensive back and wide receiver for Second Baptist High School.
He is not ranked in the 247Sports regular or Composite Rankings. However, he does have a solid offer sheet. Crisp had seven offers in total, including one from Minnesota. He was officially offered by the program on September 16 and quickly made his decision.
It’s also worth noting that his recruitment was active throughout the summer. He attended Texas A&M Aggies camp on June 14. At the very least, he garnered interest from a prominent Texas school. That is notable in of itself.
#Nebraska has picked up commitment No. 25 in the 2024 recruiting class from DB/WR recruit JD Crisp from Cypress (Texas) Second Baptist. Crisp recently visited Nebraska and committed to the #Huskers on Sunday following his visit. pic.twitter.com/IDzfYCw64e
— Bryan Munson (@BryanMunson_) September 20, 2023
What could he bring to Nebraska football?
It’s interesting that he is a two-way player. He played both the receiver and safety positions in high school. As far as Nebraska is concerned, I could certainly see him playing at receiver. He has as a tremendous amount of athleticism, and played mostly on the outside and high school. Crisp was very good at catching in space, and making contested catches and tight windows.
Playing receiver would make sense for him, given Nebraska’s lack of depth at the position moving forward. He has the agility and ability to become a solid piece if developed properly.
Nevertheless, he has overall qualities that could make him a good safety as well. This coaching staff loves the opportunity to work with athletes and molding them as they see fit. His ability to fire off the football and read a play certainly stands out.
The commitment of Crisp adds to a 2024 recruiting class that ranks 24th overall nationally. The class itself is stacked with talent. It currently has 25 commitments in total.
It will be interesting to see what Crisp can do for Nebraska football. He is definitely more of a project player. Nevertheless, his athleticism and speed is intriguing. One of this coaching staff’s strengths is identifying how players fit into the program. They will have to do that with Crisp.
5 things to watch for Nebraska football vs. Louisiana Tech
Nebraska football will be looking for win No. 2 on Saturday against Louisiana Tech and here are five things to watch.
As the Huskers get set for their second home game of the 2023 season, as well as the final non-conference game for Nebraska football, there are plenty of lingering questions.
We do know that Gabe Ervin and Rahmir Johnson are out for the season. That means Anthony Grant will be the bell-cow running back this week, although we don’t know who will start at quarterback.
There are some other things to explore in the Nebraska football vs. Louisiana Tech matchup and here are five things to watch for the Huskers on Saturday.
Who will start at quarterback?
It sounds like the quarterback reps are being split about 50-50 this week among Jeff Sims and Heinrich Haarberg. Last week, Sims was the No. 3 quarterback so it might be a stretch for him to play Saturday.
Matt Rhule even said that while Sims was throwing well, he wasn’t moving the way the coaching staff wanted. The quarterbacks have shouldered a heavy load in the running game so far this season and if Sims ankle isn’t 100 percent, there’s no sense in bringing him back early.
Haarberg completed 14-of-24 passes last week and had two touchdowns. He also impacted the game with his running ability and a similar gameplan to last week wouldn’t be a big surprise.
Can Anthony Grant protect the ball?
Anthony Grant is a proven performer. He was just shy of 1,000 yards last season, so there’s no doubt about his ability. Grant just needs to prove he can take care of the ball.
Even if he can’t, Grant is going to be the No. 1 back. He’s probably going to get about 20 carries per game. So far, Grant has 16 carries for 74 yards and a touchdown. Emmett Johnson is another talented dude who deserves some opportunities but the Huskers have to be able to rely on Grant and that starts this weekend.
Nebraska should be in line for a few more sacks
The Huskers are ranked third in the country in terms of sacks with 14 total and 4.67 per game. That’s good news for Nebraska football and bad news for Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs have played four games but have also allowed 11 sacks or nearly three per game. That ranks Louisiana Tech 110th per game.
We don’t know if Nebraska will have Cameron Lenhardt this weekend, but I don’t know that it matters. The defensive line has been winning against everyone and if the Huskers can apply pressure to Louisiana Tech Hank Bachmeier, it should greatly improve their chances of avoiding an upset.
Louisiana Tech can run the ball too
Sonny Cumbie is known for his fondness of throwing the ball, but the Bulldogs average 181 yards per game and have two running backs with more than 200 rushing yards and each averages at least 7.3 yards per carry.
Keith Willis Jr. has 33 attempts for 240 yards and three touchdowns. Tyre Shelton is also over 200 yards and has just 21 carries. Louisiana Tech is throwing for 225 yards per game. Smoke Harris is a dangerous threat at receiver and has 288 yards as well as 24 receptions.
But a huge key for Nebraska football will be the run defense. The Huskers are allowing just 1.7 yards per rush. The first three teams were also held under 60 yards rushing so Louisiana Tech will have its work cut out for it in terms of matching its season averages.
The Bulldogs haven’t seen a D-line pairing like Ty Robinson and Nash Hutcmaher so far this season.
Avoiding the turnover bug
With a defense that’s playing really well and a running game that’s second in the Big Ten going into conference play, the Huskers shouldn’t have problems with Louisiana Tech.
However, turnovers are a quick way to even the playing field. Nebraska football only gave the ball away once last week and it would be great to see them put up a zero in that category for the first time in 2023.
If Sims plays, we’ll see if he can take care of the ball. Grant needs to do the same and although Haarberg did well last week, it would be to get through a game without any turnovers by the quarterback.
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