Well, if any of you read our preview, that game went basically exactly like we told you it would. And our worries about what we needed to stay away from to win decided to play a factor.
In our preview, we stated that we almost picked us to win this game, heck I thought we would actually have the better team. I just didn’t think Nebraska was ready to beat a team with an established culture and systems. I thought it would be a hard fought, low scoring game, but was all over Nebraska at +7.5 and the unders. That came to fruition with a 13-10 loss in Minneapolis. What’s worse, is it happened basically the way we thought it would and the two things we needed to stay away from came back around. We stated we couldn’t turn the ball over, and we needed to find a way to run the ball without using our QB. We were -3 in the turnover battle, and Sims ran the ball 19 freaking times. A recipe for disaster. Let’s break things down.
I am going to start with something I was excited about, and that is our defense. Nebraska held Minnesota to just 251 total yards of offense and only 55 yards on the ground for an unbelievable 2.2 yards per carry. The Blackshirts certainly earned their practice jerseys.
Though we told you in our preview we expected Minnesota to throw the ball much more than previous years, I had no idea that would mean 44 pass attempts last Thursday. That is more than double their average from a season ago. And Nebraska got to the QB at a much better clip this game as well. The Cornhuskers had 3 sacks from 3 different players (Gunnerson, Hutmacher, Reimer) and 2 of them were DL. Last year, Nebraska averaged only 1.7 sacks per game, nearly double the output from previous years.
But what I really liked about the pressure we got, was HOW we got that. The Polar Bears sack was with only bringing 4 guys, we didn’t have to bring more guys to get there:
On Blaise Gunnerson’s sack, we brought even less guys with only 3 where he swam back underneath the tackle and corralled a scrambling Kaliakmanis. Now, on Reimers sack we did bring 6, but at least we got home. That was great to see. We need to continue to get pressure without having to bring extra guys to get there, especially in Boulder.
We held up so great against the run as well. For the most part, we were just playing with our front guys and shutting down running lanes and gaps. This will be pivotal for Saturday’s game against the Buffaloes, as our DBs will need all of the help they can get. This gave me a ton of encouragement, because even with Minnesota losing some very good OL from last year, our new front line guys were able to stop things on their own without loading an extra defender in the box.
What I took from our pressure with minimal blitzes and our ability to stop the run, is that our 3-3-5 causes a lot of confusion for opposing offenses. While I suspect Sanders will be able to read the secondary, I don’t think his OL will do as well trying to figure out where everyone is coming from.
Our defense also did a great job shifting between man to man and zone coverage, something that really fooled the Gophers QB a number of times. That is something that is going to be needed against Colorado this coming week.
That’s enough on the defense, let’s get to our struggles.
Where do we begin? We threw 3 interceptions and fumbled the ball once. All 4 of our turnovers were while we were on THEIR SIDE OF THE FIELD! When you think about things like the turnover differential as well as where they happened, the 3 point loss stings that much more. Freaking 44% of our possessions ended in a turnover, yet on the road on a Thursday night we lost on a walk-off FG in a game where we were touchdown underdogs in year 1 of a coach.
But we also only had one touchdown, and that came on an almost botched trick play where the ball hit the ground. In fact, I wonder if Bullock would have even been open if not for Sims dropping the pass? As I think the Minnesota defenders came up to try and jump on the fumble (even the guy in the defensive backfield).
I can’t tell if I should be mad that that was our only touchdown, or think that we just missed a ton more opportunities due to the turnovers on their side of the field?
I also get a little frustrated with OC Satterfield, as I think he didn’t help us much with what we were trying to do. Besides the QB run game, our play-calling didn’t seem to have a lot of rhyme or rhythm to it. It seemed more like ok we’ve tried this now let’s try that, let’s go do this now. Quite frankly, many of the times where we had to punt or got behind the chains, it was because of things I believe he would want back if he could do them all over again. Remember in the 4th quarter when we had 3 pass plays in a row?
Let’s dive into that sequence of events a little bit. The series before, we get the ball first and goal on the 8 yard line. We call a pass play and get about 4 yards to our TE, fine. I wouldn’t have thrown, I would have ran it since we were running down their throats all day, but it worked so can’t complain. 2nd and goal from the 4 and for some reason we throw the ball AGAIN, netting an incompletion. So you’re behind the chains and now Satterfield goes back to QB power and gets stuffed forcing a FG. So he threw it twice and then on 3rd and medium/long we run it, I hated it. You then get to the 3 pass plays in a row, and I get what we were doing there… they were sneaking guys up in the box so we put Tommi Hill in at WR to try and run by the defense. Which he did, but the ball wasn’t close. We then run an RPO where Kemp is wide-open but it gets tipped, from there it’s 3rd and long and you have to throw it.
To me it just seemed that Satterfield put us in situations that were tough to come back from. And we have a QB that really is struggling with going through progressions and reads. For example, in the 4th quarter there’s a little over one minute left on the clock, we are on their side of the field, we have one timeout left, the game is tied so at worst think overtime, and Satterfield goes with a straight dropback no play-fake or run option pass where Sims just stares down the WR:
Go up and watch that again and watch the lone safety in the middle of the field, he basically just baits Sims into throwing where he was looking the whole time. Not once did he move off of his outside WR. However, it’s not like Sims isn’t capable of things that show he’s a competent passer. Let’s take a look at the back angle of Sims understanding he needs to “move the safety” a bit. Watch Sims’ head start left and move that safety away from Washington where he wanted to throw it all along:
It is a quick glance left but at least gets the safety starting to shuffle that way. But far too many times he locks onto who he is throwing to as the ball is snapped. And he showed poor decision making before the half as well. I talked about how I didn’t mind the timeout on a dead ball… remind Sims that you need to throw the ball away or put it where only our guy can catch it. But for some reason he locks on again going through his progressions:
Satterfield is on the field during games to help Sims not make those types of plays. So that he can go through things with him during timeouts and while the defense is on the field. If those are the types of results we are going to get, i’m really worried. That has to change in a hurry.
And now let’s talk offensive line. I actually wasn’t too mad at 4 of our offensive linemen. But there was one that had an awful day. Since they are getting paid now I don’t have a problem calling Corcoran out. He gave up all 3 of the sacks on the day to a team that literally was awful getting to the QB last year, and had a tough time run blocking. Even on our longest run of the day, his guy he was responsible for hit our RB in the backfield:
He’s just not a tackle. He can’t play there for us, or it’s going to be a long season. The rest of the guys I was actually ok with. Tomorrow we are going to go over our rushing attempts, because we had a 0 yard gain and a -1 yard gain for our RBs in the first two carries of the season and our OC basically abandoned it and went QB run game. We have to get our RBs involved against Colorado.
This was a pleasant surprise. We looked competent on the coverage units, our punter averaged almost 48 yards per punt, we were 1/1 on fieldgoals, and our return units looked great. People were a bit concerned when they heard this from Rhule:
It was a little tough at first, and then Rahmir Johnson broke this off to set us up for our only touchdown of the year:
We are going to need that to be a rock for us this upcoming week.
I really like our defense and specials teams one game in, our offense just has a ton of questions. Here’s things to keep an eye on moving forward:
- How does Sims do in the passing game moving forward?
- Does Satterfield call plays to help with is decision making?
- Can our RBs get more involved in the run game to take pressure off of Sims?
- Can our DL continue to get pressure without bringing extra defenders that we will need to cover the Colorado skill players?
Should we be worried with how our offense performed and in particular our QB in Minneapolis? Can a leopard change his spots? I don’t really care what happened before he was a Cornhusker, so i’ll leave you with this:
Tomorrow we will go over the Nebraska run game against Minnesota and the new clock rule that makes things even more vulnerable in regards to turnovers. Friday will be the Colorado preview!
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