The morning of the game, I told my dad that I didn't have a good feel if Texas would win or not, but I told him Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez was going to have a long afternoon. I was wrong. He had a really short afternoon.
Martinez, who came into the game averaging almost 11 yards per carry, was shut down with 1.6 yards per carry and had just 63 yards passing. He was benched in the second half.
The Texas defense had its best performance since the Texas Tech game, holding Nebraska's offense to just 202 total yards and two field goals. Nebraska prepared a red-out, but they should have been prepared to get shutout - of the end zone, that is.
The offense had its best rushing game of the year, totaling 209 yards on the ground. The offense did what it needed to do to win. And although they didn't show much overall progress, I think we'll all agree that a win trumps individual progress any day. Plus, nothing develops a team and builds confidence like winning. And if that's true, Texas sure has developed a ton playing Nebraska over the last 15 seasons.
Garrett Gilbert's Progress
Nebraska was not ready for Garrett Gilbert running. Neither were Texas fans. Let's get something out of the way right now: Although Gilbert was effective running, he pretty much made no significant progress. Not the kind we expect, anyway. Yes, he looked confident and he took on the responsibility very well, but he will make his mark at Texas with his arm. He wasn't going to have a good day passing against Nebraska anyway. They used Nebraska's terrific man coverage against them, and for that we've got to give a nod to the play calling. Clearly the bye week was used wisely.
He had 71 yards rushing and ran hard. He showed decent straight-ahead quickness. Through the air he completed just four passes for 62 yards. Again, not the kind of progress we need to see from him, but he was crucial in the win. That builds his confidence and leadership qualities, and those things may be more important than the ability to pinpoint a pass in the back of the end zone.
So, after I just contradicted myself with those two paragraphs, the quarterback grew into his role more with his performance against a really good Cornhusker defense. But his overall progress developing his skills was put on hold in favor of a gameplan that beat the No. 5 team in the country. And I'm perfectly fine with that.
Retooling the Running Game
OK, ok... so it was the best rushing performance of the season. Not bad. Although at the beginning of the season we thought we'd be examining the a single-back, under-center, downhill running attack. That idea has officially died. What we have is what we saw last season-a carousel of runners behind an offensive line that just doesn't get enough push. However, the line was much better against Nebraska, who walked a safety up to the line of scrimmage on most plays in the second half to stop the run.
Four players got at least 11 carries. Cody Johnson was the most productive runner without the initials "GG." He averaged 6.6 yards per carry and had a key first down late in the game that allowed Texas to run out the clock.
Stop me if you've heard this one: Fozzy Whittaker showed some burst but was pretty ineffective overall.
Tre' Newton got some late carries that amounted to, well, not much. Looking at the big picture, this was the best the running game has been all year, but something tells me this thing is still a long way from being consistently effective. Is it too late to give Traylon Shead a shot? Malcolm Brown will be here next year, and we know he's going to get some playing time. So why not take the redshirt off Shead and see what he's got? Get that play-action pass going and take some pressure off Gilbert.
BROC (Big Receiver on Campus)
One catch by a wide receiver. That's 15 total catches by receivers the last two games, which were the biggest games on the schedule. Progress? I don't think so.
The quest to find a lead receiver is looking like it will continue into next season. James Kirkendoll has the most yards with 288, but has scored just one touchdown. Gilbert has shown a connection with freshman Mike Davis, which is encouraging for the future.
The Texas gameplan did not include much use for the receivers. They were better served spreading defenders and opening up room for runs. Again, if that means the progress to find a go-to receiver is halted for a win, so be it. But let's get the thing in the air against Iowa State.
Oh, wait... we didn't talk about Malcolm Williams. He is credited with the one catch, which is negated by a drop that would have been a touchdown. Yes, it wouldn't have been an easy catch, but he usually makes the tough ones and bumbles the easy ones.
The D-Line Shuffle
The defensive line had to switch gears from a pass-rushing, penetrating style to a more read-and-react approach. It worked. This is where bye weeks help tremendously.
The defense allowed just six points and 202 total yards, and it all started with the line. Sam Acho was terrific yet again. Eddie Jones had a huge play causing a fumble early. Alex Okafor even had a big sack for a 7-yard loss.
The key to assignment football is to keep the plays in front of you, and that's just what the D-line did. Switching from a pass-rush mentality more of a read mentality is very difficult to do. This group showed a lot of progress, and more important, proved that they are well-rounded.