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September 3, 2011Nebraska opened the 2011 season with a 40-7 win over Tennessee-Chattanooga on Saturday. How did the Huskers grade out in week one? Here's the full report card grade out.
Rushing offense: B-
Sophomore quarterback Taylor Martinez finished with 135 yards rushing and three touchdowns on Saturday, while Rex Burkhead added 75 yards and one touchdown. Freshmen running backs Aaron Green, Braylon Heard and Ameer Abdullah combined for just 20 yards rushing on nine carries. The rushing touchdowns for Martinez were his first since the Kansas State game last season, which is almost hard to believe. The biggest concern right now with the rushing game is their timing with the option, as Martinez did not look in sync with his running backs. I also thought the offensive line was inconsistent with their blocking and they did not dominate this game in the trenches like they should've.
Passing offense: D
Head coach Bo Pelini said it best in the postgame press conference when he described Martinez's performance in the passing game. Pelini said Martinez looked "anxious" at times and "rushed" his decision making. It was almost as if he was trying too hard at times to make a play and show his critics he's improved his game over the off-season. Martinez finished 11-of-22 for 116 yards. He only took one sack and most importantly he didn't throw any interceptions. He also threw the ball away when nothing was open down field - something he rarely did a year ago. Of the receivers, sophomore Quincy Enunwa looked the best finishing with 58 yards on four receptions. Enunwa has taken some big steps over the off-season. Hopefully Martinez can learn a thing or two from this film and realize he doesn't have to rush things so much in the pocket.
Rushing defense: A
Nebraska's front seven play was stout against the run on Saturday. The Mocs had just 60 yards rushing on 31 attempts, as their longest run of the game was only 14 yards. The front four controlled the line of scrimmage, as both Jared Crick and Cameron Meredith looked like All-Big Ten players. Lavonte David also played the run well and redshirt freshman Trevor Roach did an excellent job stepping in for the injured Will Compton. David led NU with nine tackles, while Roach was next with seven stops. Roach also added two tackles for loss.
Passing defense: B
Nebraska's front four did a nice job of applying pressure to B.J. Coleman, as they sacked him three times and hurried him another five. That disrupted him enough to limit some big plays where NU's young secondary was out of position at times. I was very impressed with Daimion Stafford's play at safety, especially when you factor in he's only been in Lincoln for a little over a month. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see him eventually move into a starting role over Courtney Osborne this season. The biggest concern spots in the passing defense for Nebraska on Saturday was the play of Justin Blatchford in the nickel and just the way Chattanooga exposed the linebackers in the flats with quick passes. When Alfonzo Dennard comes back, one thing I could see Corey Raymond doing is playing either Andrew Green or Ciante Evans in the nickel to get their best 11 guys on the field.
Special teams: A-
Was Alex Henery wearing Brett Maher's uniform on Saturday? You really couldn't tell the difference, as Maher was perfect in every aspect. He was 4-of-4 on field goals, he put 3-of-7 kickoffs through the end zone for touchbacks and averaged 52 yards per punt. One blunder on special teams came on the opening kickoff when NU had a hard time handling the ball and started their first possession on the 7 yard line. Abdullah also fumbled a punt when his own man ran into him. Safety Corey Cooper appears to be the new coverage demon for the Husers, as he made two solo tackles in kick coverage. Dijon Washington also made a nice tackle in punt coverage.