Coaches being coaches, Nebraska's Bo Pelini managed to find something wanting in the Huskers' eight-touchdown gala Saturday against Washington.
Coaches being coaches, Nebraska’s Bo Pelini managed to find something wanting in the Huskers’ eight-touchdown gala Saturday against Washington.
“Like I just told them,” he said of his team, “there’s still a lot more out there, still a lot left for us to clean up.”
Somebody must have left a stray strip of athletic tape behind, or a paper cup unattended to, because it surely looked like the Huskers had every other base covered in their 56-21 waltz over Washington.
• Coverage against Jake Locker. Check. Locker was 4 of 20 passing, right at the Mendoza Line.
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• Disciplined but consistent pass rush, keeping Locker contained. Check.
• Physical, punishing effort up front on offense. Check, to the tune of 383 Nebraska rushing yards.
• Breakout performance by redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez. Check. He’s not yet Tom Brady throwing the ball, but he passed for 150 and ran for 137 more.
• Big Red backing. Check. Upwards of 20,000 scarlet-clad Nebraska types flooded the stands, turning the afternoon into a regular Husker hootenanny, so much that Pelini told players on the sideline, “We have to make sure we thank those fans.”
The Huskies were simply out of their league against this team, the best outfit to come to Montlake since Oklahoma in 2008. By the fourth play of the afternoon, there was handwriting on the wall in the form of Huskers safety Eric Hagg’s interception of Locker, on both a bad read and a bad throw.
“Since we were both on (Devin Aguilar),” Hagg said, referring to the double coverage, “I was surprised he threw it. But I’m guessing that’s the way other teams run their defense against them. When we were watching film, that was the route (the Huskies) got a lot. He’ll fake the corner and go to the post.”
The Huskies might as well have invited Nebraska’s secondary into the huddle, so stifling was the coverage. Except for a third-quarter bust that resulted in a 45-touchdown from Locker to Jermaine Kearse, the Huskers were shrink-wrap on a CD all day.
Referring to that lapse, on which corner Prince Amukamara bit on Kearse’s fake and a safety failed to cover for him, Pelini said, “It was ridiculous. We just made a couple of boneheaded mistakes in the secondary. Really, more than one guy was at fault. No way that should happen.”
On the other side of the ball, the Huskies couldn’t stop the dive play — not a good start — and that left them mostly helpless against Martinez. After Washington closed to within 21-14 in the second quarter, a drive keyed by the inside running game served the dual purpose of giving Nebraska a 28-14 halftime lead and perfectly setting up Martinez’s inside fake and his burst left down the UW sideline for 80 yards to start the third quarter.
Carl Pelini, defensive coordinator and brother of the head coach, thought it was all poetic justice.
“I told Taylor, ‘I thought you served a little notice today,’ ” Pelini said, referring to the Corona, Calif., product. “When I was recruiting him, there were a lot of Pac-10 coaches kind of snorting at the idea of us playing him at quarterback.”
But there wasn’t a lot of bravado from the Huskers. Said safety DeJon Gomes, “We feel pretty good about our performance. Besides the blown coverage, I think they had about 30 yards passing. That’s a pretty good day, if you ask me.”
Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard said the Nebraska secondary took some cues from film study. Asked about the No. 1 thing it gleaned, he said, “How their receivers come off the ball. If they come off fast, we knew it’d be a pass play. If they come off slow and lazy-like, it’s going to be a run.”
Who knows whether that helped, or whether Nebraska needed it. All the UW fans in the crowd of 72,876 need to know is, there won’t be anybody of the Huskers’ ilk showing up here anytime soon.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org