Nebraska Defensive Line Plays far Below Blackshirts’ Standards


I wrote on the pages of this blog before the beginning of the 2010 season that Nebraska’s biggest concern coming in was the loss of Ndamukong Suh and other key defenders from a 2009 defense that was among the best in the country,

But the press glossed over Suh’s departure as if we’ve returned back to the days when Nebraska just reloads.

In three of the past four games we’ve seen clearly that those days are long gone.

If this is Nebraska’s attempt to reload on the defensive line, then the program is out of ammunition.

The Nebraska run defense is horrible — (thank you Captain Obvious).

Junior Jared Crick has underperformed, and the trio of Baker Steinkuhler, Pierre Allen and Cameron Meredith have been a huge letdown.

If Nebraska is going to win titles in 2010 it will be because Bo Pelini and company coached their tails off.

A pretty average Texas team pushed NU’s defensive line all over the field, and put pressure on a back seven that struggled to tackle in a 20-13 Nebraska loss in Lincoln.

Saturday on the road at Oklahoma State the Nebraska defense took another step back.

Kendall Hunter rushed for more than 200 yards and OSU made mincemeat of the Nebraska defense in the first half in NU’s 51-41 win.

And much has been made about how well Taylor Martinez and the Nebraska offense played against the Cowboys. But Martinez’ 400-plus total yards of offense is something that should have been expected against what was a bad defense — so nothing much has changed.

As a friend of mine said after the ugly win against South Dakota State in Lincoln, let’s see how Nebraska does against good competition before we say this program is “back.”

Nebraska is back, but it’s not the badass it was in the ’90s.

NU’s offensive performance was ‘pretty’ but it’s not much to realistically get excited about. At some point the Nebraska offense is going to have to explode against a team with a good defense.

And the alarm bells should be sounding on this Nebraska defense.

NU’s highly touted corner backs Prince Amukamara and Alfonzo Dennard found themselves out of position for much of the first half against OSU.

Talk about putting guys on an island.

They’re arguably the best pair of corners in the country, but Nebraska’s startling lack of pass rush is hurting this team.

Against Oklahoma State NU coaches rarely called blitzes. This allowed OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden to stand in the pocket in the first half and throw bombs to Justin Blackmon, or hand off to Hunter who made it look easy to get to the second level of the Nebraska defense.

The spin in the Nebraska press Sunday is ‘well, Nebraska made stops when it had to.’

That’s true, but Nebraska took control of the game in the second half because its offense kept OSU off the field by moving at will against an even worse Cowboy defense.

It wasn’t that the NU defensive line strapped it on in the second half, it didn’t have to.

Now Missouri comes to Lincoln after knocking off No. 1 Oklahoma in Columbia.

Here’s how I see it.

My biggest criticism of undefeated MU to this point has been that the Tigers hadn’t really beaten anyone of significance so far — yeah, kinda like Nebraska.

Against OU Missouri proved it is for real.

Unless the Nebraska defense finds religion this week in practice this game could be Missouri’s to lose.

The MU offensive line is one of the best I’ve seen this season. They are experienced and they give quarterback Blaine Gabbert plenty of time to throw. That’s bad news for Nebraska.

This doesn’t bode well for a Nebraska defensive line that hasn’t been able to get a push up front in the games that have mattered.

And surprisingly, the Missouri running game led by Henry Josey, De’Vion Moore and Kendial Lawrence, was potent against the Sooners. They don’t line it up and just run right at teams, but with the spread offense teams get lulled into defending five receivers and the next thing you know, boom, they pop off a 30-yard run.

You’d think the Nebraska defense would be better equipped than many teams because it faces NU’s spread offense in practice every week. I don’t suspect this will matter much this week.

The main reason Nebraska overcame a 12-0 defecit in the second half at Missouri last year to win 27-12, was that Suh never let Gabbert get comfortable in the pocket.

There’s not a defensive lineman on the Nebraska roster that will be able to get a push on that MU offensive line.

To make matters worse, NU could be without injured defensive end Piere Allen. Unfortunately it is difficult to blitz Gabbert and that offense because he doesn’t hang on to the ball long and is athletic enough to run when things break down.

The case can be made that Nebraska faced the best offense it will see in the regular season against Oklahoma State, and that MU doesn’t have anywhere near the same caliber of playmakers on offense as the Cowboys.

But what Nebraska doesn’t need at this point in the season is to go up against probably the best offensive line it will face all season.

That’s where the game will be lost for NU unless Pelini and company can find a way to pressure Gabbert.

Oddly enough, I think Nebraska would be better off playing this game in Columbia.

NU has been awful at home this season and has proven that no matter how charged the home crowd is, it just isn’t a factor that favors Nebraska.

Here’s how it will shake out on Saturday.

Nebraska will have to hope its offense continues the momentum it gained this week, because the Blackshirts are in for a long day. Right now, though, the Missouri defense is much improved from last season and playing very well.

I think NU will be able to score on this defense, but I think we’re starting to see the unraveling of the Nebraska defense — at least in 2010.

Missouri 31, Nebraska 28

Posted on October 24, 2010, in Missouri Tigers, Ndamukong Suh, Taylor Martinez. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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