Nebraska football lost a heartbreaker to Minnesota on Thursday night and here are five things we learned about the Huskers.
Being a Nebraska football fan isn’t easy. That’s one thing we were reminded of on Thursday night.
The Huskers should have won that game, which is something we said all too often during the Scott Frost era. We don’t want to say that anymore.
Nebraska football is too good for moral victories. You either win or lose and despite a lot of really good things, the Huskers are 0-1 under Matt Rhule.
With about five minutes to go, Nebraska had about a 95-percent chance to win. Then, Anthony Grant fumbled and the night turned into another Cornhusker-style twilight zone.
A facemask penalty, a missed false start, a fourth-and-10 touchdown, an interception, and a game-winning field goal. All in a matter of minutes.
My prediction of a three-point loss proved to be right, but it didn’t happen how I thought it would, and here are five things we learned from the Huskers’ 13-10 loss to Minnesota.
The style of play was different
Nebraska needs to win games. That’s the bottom line, but the way the Huskers played was impressive at times. They allowed just 55 rushing yards to Minnesota and controlled the second half until the late turnovers.
You can’t give games away and that’s exactly what Nebraska did. Two costly penalties inside the five-yard line kept Minnesota in the game.
However, the tackling was legit. The defense was physical and the Huskers were able to establish a running game with Jeff Sims. Gabe Ervin had seven attempts for 55 yards. Sims had 91 yards and the team had 181 rushing yards total.
You could definitely tell this team has been tackling in practice and it’s one thing I feel good about going into the Colorado game, as long as Nebraska can learn how to finish.
The Huskers didn’t do that on Thursday, but they did play the brand of football Rhule talked about since becoming the head coach.
The offensive line is still an issue
Let’s give credit to Minnesota because it was third in scoring defense last season nationally. But the Gophers defensive line got a lot of penetration.
There’s a reason Nebraska had to rely on so many quarterback runs. Minnesota was winning the battle up front and notched three sacks. The performance was better, but the tackles worry me.
The line deserves credit for the 181 yards. Nebraska’s tight ends did a nice job, but they ran a lot of counter-type stuff. You can’t blame the front five for the fumble, but the penalties were their fault and that just can’t happen. Sims was also pressured a lot in the fourth quarter, including on his final throw.
It’s one thing to get physically beaten. That happens. But to make mental mistakes near the goal-line is inexcusable and I for one am still very worried about the O-line moving forward. Getting Teddy Prochazka back would be huge.
Multiple reasons for concern with Jeff Sims
Jeff Sims had some great runs. He also made some big-time throws. However, all three of his interceptions could have been avoided and were more about bad decision-making than anything else.
The interception in the end zone just can’t happen. Points are like gold in a low-scoring game like that and Nebraska gave away three that proved to be costly.
Yes, the play before should have been called a touchdown. But you can’t force the ball into traffic there. You also can’t throw the ball across the middle of the field, off your back foot with a minute left.
Throw is out of bounds. Take a sack. Anything.
Sims has played 26 games in his career and has 26 career interceptions. He also completed just 57.9 percent of his passes Thursday and last season, Minnesota was 7-0 when quarterbacks completed less than 60 percent of their throws.
The transfer quarterback is probably Nebraska’s most talented player, but he has to learn to play mistake-free football or it won’t matter. I also don’t think he can carry the ball 19 times a game and make it through a Big Ten season.
The special teams were elite
Ed Foley deserves a lot of credit. Nebraska football was spectacular on special teams and won that third of the game without question.
First, the coverage units were exceptional. Minnesota averaged just 16.3 yards per kick return and had one punt return for 10 yards. Tristan Alvano made both of his kicks and Brian Buschini had a good night.
Rahmir Johnson’s 63-yard kickoff return led to Nebraska’s only touchdown drive and frankly, it was one of the best special teams showings I’ve seen in years from the Huskers.
They are going to be really solid in that area and that’s a positive change.
The defense could be damn good
Yes, the defense gave up 10 points in the last four minutes, including a touchdown on fourth-and-10. But man, if you allow just 13 points on the road in the Big Ten, you should win the game.
In this era of college football, holding any team under 20 points is a great job. That’s more than enough to win with and this defense is good enough to get this team to a bowl game.
The pass rush needs to improve. Cameron Lenhardt played 31 snaps last night and showed some promise. It also hurt that Ty Robinson got ejected. But Nash Hutmacher is going to have a big year. I thought the Huskers might actually win after his fourth-quarter sack.
Yet, at the point of attack, Nebraska was super solid. Minnesota got nothing on the ground and that’s a good sign moving forward. The secondary also played well.
Tony White mixed things up and played a bunch of dudes. He’s going to be a star and if there is one positive to take away from Thursday night’s loss, it’s that the Blackshirts look to be back.
Nebraska Football: Matt Rhule not afraid to play two quarterbacks
Nebraska football head coach Matt Rhule addressed the possibility of playing two quarterbacks for Saturday’s game against Louisiana Tech. It doesn’t exactly sound like he is opposed to doing that.
Jeff Sims was the starter for Nebraska for the first two games of the season. An ankle injury kept him out of last Saturday’s contest against Northern Illinois. Heinrich Haarberg filled in for Sims and played well, tallying three total touchdowns for the game.
There is little doubt that Sims was brought in to be the starting quarterback for Nebraska, especially with Casey Thompson’s departure. However, Sims struggles and Haarberg’s emergence last Saturday have certainly made things interesting. Haarberg looked in control of the offense. It didn’t always look the smoothest at times, but he made it work.
Rhule addressed the possibility of playing two quarterbacks when he met with the media on Thursday, as reported by KLNTV’s Lauren Michelson.
Matt Rhule talking quarterbacks…will either be Jeff Sims or Heinrich Haarberg starting on Saturday.
— Lauren Michelson (@LaurenMichelson) September 21, 2023
A positive development for Nebraska Football
This undoubtedly has to be music to the ears of the fans. It certainly is for me. Playing multiple guys was not something the previous coaching staff did, and it undoubtedly hurt everybody involved, including quarterback Adrian Martinez.
One of the biggest mistakes Scott Frost made on the field was hitching his proverbial wagon to Martinez. It doesn’t sound like Rhule is going to do that with Sims.
Of course, we will have to wait until Saturday to see if the headman is true to his word. It’s one thing to say it in a press conference. We saw Scott Frost do that for multiple seasons. It’s another thing to actually follow through and do it in a game, or looking at the bigger picture, throughout the course of the season.
It will be interesting to see what happens under center on Saturday. Will Nebraska football go with Sims? Alternatively, will they go with Haarberg, who led them to victory last Saturday? Time will tell, but at least Matt Rhule is keeping his options open.
Nebraska Football: Matt Rhule has health update on Jeff Sims
Nebraska football head coach Matt Rhule gave a positive prognosis on quarterback Jeff Sims Thursday afternoon. Rhule indicated that Sims had a good week of practice and that he was moving and throwing the football well.
Sims has had a difficult start to the 2023 season. He has tallied one touchdown and four interceptions, and has 220 passing yards in total. Fumbling has been an issue for him through the first two games as well. He has had difficulty handling snaps.
Quarterback Heinrich Haarberg played on Saturday, as Sims was dealing with an ankle injury. Haarberg threw for 198 yards and two touchdowns on 14-of-24 passes. He also rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown. He brought a dual-threat element to the table, similar to that of Sims.
"Jeff's had a good week of practice," Rhule said Thursday of the QB Sims. "Moved around well. Threw the ball around well. Coming off an injury like that I can't say that he's maybe 100 percent but you don't notice that there's anything wrong with him as he plays."
— Brian Christopherson (@Husker247BC) September 21, 2023
A positive development for Nebraska football
It’s certainly good to hear that Sims is healthy and has practiced well throughout the week. Whatever your opinion is of his play throughout the season, Nebraska football needs him to be healthy. Depth is a problem at the quarterback spot. Experience is lacking there as well.
Although Sims is struggling as a quarterback, there is no doubt he is a solid athlete. His ability to run the football has been his biggest strength so far this season. He has 158 rushing yards so far on the year, and has averaged 5.4 yards per carry. A 57-yard rush has been his longest of the season to this point. Nebraska has certainly made him a focal point of their running attack, as he has 29 carries on the year so far.
Nebraska football is in a welcome predicament with two quarterbacks who have the ability to start. The health of Sims is a positive, as Nebraska begins to enter the meat of their schedule. It will be interesting to see how the situation plays out.
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.
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