NORMAN, Okla. – Nebraska lost to No. 3 Oklahoma on Saturday. Nobody is probably surprised by that, considering the Huskers came into Saturday as a three-touchdown underdog.
However, what people are surprised by is the Huskers had the ball with a minute left in the game down 23-16 with a chance to tie or even win the game. We saw an NU team on Saturday that resembled what a fourth-year head coach Scott Frost team should look like.
The Huskers looked physical and they pushed around a very good OU team at times. Quarterback Adrian Martinez at times looked better than the preseason All-American Spencer Rattler as well.
One long-time Sooner writer told me at halftime “Nebraska’s defensive line looks like a bunch of lumberjacks out there.” He added, “OU hasn’t seen physicality like that and it’s causing them problems.”
NU came into Norman with a Big Ten mindset to slow the game down and control the line of scrimmage. It nearly worked.
“I’m so proud of our players with how they fought and competed with that type of team on the road,” Frost said following his team’s 23-16 loss. “I told them after the game everything they want to accomplish is right in front of them. We are going to get more opportunities to win a big game.
“If they play like that, like we did today all year, and fight that hard all year, we are going to have a chance in a lot of games. As disappointed as I am, I’m happy with the way they competed.”
However, some of the same issues that have plagued Nebraska this season were once again present in Norman on Saturday. The Huskers had eight penalties for 70 yards – six of which came from the offensive line.
Connor Culp missed two field goals, giving him five misses now on the season. He’s gone 1-of-6 over the last two games. Freshman Kelen Meyer then came in and had his extra point blocked after the line got blown up and ran it back the other way. The kicking game has been a grease fire and it continued again on Saturday.
Still, the Huskers were able to overcome the points lost in the kicking game and the penalty yardage and had a chance to beat the No. 3 ranked team in the country.
“Everything we want to do is ahead of us,” linebacker Luke Reimer said. “I think we can win out. There are good teams on our schedule, but we have the talent to do it. We just have to go out and execute.”
The question now is can we see this same Nebraska team every week? The odds are the Big Red will be an underdog when they travel to undefeated Michigan State on Saturday.
When Frost reflects on this game, he had nothing but respect for the Sooner program and the job Lincoln Riley has done after stepping in for the legendary Bob Stoops.
“We are trying to get back to that level,” Frost said of Oklahoma. “I think we showed today we are close.”
Now on to the breakdown…
What I saw on Saturday
***Another coin toss win by Nebraska and another game where the Huskers deferred. You get the sense this will be the strategy all year, as Frost likes to get the ball to start the third quarter now.
***During pregame warm-ups Oklahoma’s team crossed Nebraska’s side of the 50 all the way to the 40. It got pretty heated down there as both Frost and NU Athletic Director Trev Alberts were yelling at the officiating crew for even allowing that to happen.
***Nebraska’s offensive line committed 6 penalties on Saturday. On the opening drive alone they were penalized four times for 30 yards. They are making things so much harder on this football team.
***We saw Trent Hixson get the start at left guard for Ethan Piper who has consistently graded out the lowest of NU’s linemen the previous three games according to PFF.
***We finally got a good idea of what Nebraska’s plans are for freshman Teddy Prochazka. They put a No. 46 jersey on him and he lined up as a tight end on a left side that also featured Austin Allen and Travis Volkolek. They went very “Big Ten” with that look loading up as much size on the line as possible and it worked. OU had a hard time stopping it on Saturday.
***Hello Omar Manning. This was the type of game from Manning many Husker fans expected to see. He’s a difference-maker and you hope a showing like Saturday’s can springboard things for him.
***William Przystup averaged 50 yards on two punts. One went for 52 yards and had 10 yards of penalty added to it for a net gain of 62. It’s safe to say he’s going to be the guy moving forward. Daniel Cerni was also in Norman on Saturday. I saw him getting on the bus with ice wrapped around his leg.
***You really feel for running back Gabe Ervin Jr. He was making a cut on a run and you could just see his knee give out. The early view did not look good.
***We saw Frost sit down Marquel Dismuke for a few plays after getting a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Cam Taylor-Britt also battled what appeared to be a thigh injury late in Saturday’s game.
***Freshman Marques Buford Jr. has turned into a solid special teams player.
***On the blocked extra point play, it was arguably a situation where Nebraska could have went for two to make it a 14-11 game. Instead, the game turned to 16-9. Frost said they discussed it, but he thought it was too early to go for two in the game.
***You could honestly not have had a better stage for Saturday’s game. There was a mutual respect that ran deep between both fan bases and I saw several UNL students that came down on a special migration trip all over the place.
It was a cool setting and made me realize how hard it is now for students to attend most road games because of the distance. Back in the Big 12 days, it was a regular thing to load up on Saturdays and attend road games and drive back on the same day.
The final grade out
Rushing offense: C-
Nebraska had some success at times running, but it was going to take more than 123 sack adjusted rushing yards at 3.7 yards per carry to beat Oklahoma. The backs had 21 carries for 61 yards.
Passing offense: A-
Adrian Martinez played well enough to win this game. He delivered some beautiful passes as seven different players recorded a reception. Martinez finished 19-of-25 for 289 yards. He completed five passes of 20+ yards.
Rushing defense: C-
Oklahoma produced 194 sack-adjusted rush yards and averaged 5.4 yards per carry. The style of the Sooners run game kept the Blackshirts off-balanced at times, but there were also times where the Huskers had success slowing down their run game. OU’s two backs had a combined 29 carries for 159 yards.
Passing defense: B
Nebraska put good pressure on Spencer Rattler at times, and most importantly they limited the big play. OU only had two pass plays longer than 20 yards, with the long being 23 yards. Everything Rattler got through the air he earned. Rattler finished 24-of-34 for 214 yards. It was a good enough effort vs. the pass to put Nebraska in a position to win the game.
Special teams: F
Yes, the punting from William Przystup was better today, but the two missed field goals and the blocked PAT where Ethan Piper was blown up on the play allowed OU to return it for 2 points and change the game. Nebraska’s offense had the chance to score 23 points today and OU technically only scored 21 when you take off the PAT return. This was a very costly phase of the game on Saturday.
Sean Callahan can be reached at [email protected] and he can be heard each day at 6:45 am and 5:05 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET’s Big Red Wrap-Tuesday’s at 7 pm.