football Edit

10 things we learned from Nebraska's win over Buffalo

Here are 10 of our biggest takeaways from Nebraska's 28-3 win over Buffalo on Saturday afternoon...

Samori Toure had two catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Buffalo.
Samori Toure had two catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Buffalo. (Associated Press)

1. The defense continues to carry the load

Nebraska's offense was better Saturday than it played last week, especially early on, against Fordham. But the constant that has carried the Huskers through two straight win-or-else games has been the defense.

Despite being on the field for 83 plays in the win over Buffalo, the Blackshirts managed to post their lowest allowed point total in nearly a decade and extend their streak to six straight quarters without giving up a touchdown.

After holding Fordham to seven points, the Huskers have now kept their past two opponents in single digits. The last time did that was 2010, when Nebraska defeated Kansas 20-3 and lost 9-6 at Texas A&M.

By keeping the Bulls scoreless in the first half, NU posted its first first-half shutout since Maryland in 2019. Nebraska has also yet to allow a single point in the fourth quarter of its first three games this season.

Yes, the competition over the past two weeks leaves much to be desired, but the bottom line is the Blackshirts have done what they were supposed to - and done it well - when the team needed them the most.

2. Martinez was as good as ever

Impressive highs and ugly lows define the story of Adrian Martinez's career, but Saturday was as complete as the fourth-year starter has looked yet.

Even with a running game that couldn't get anything going and playing without several of his top receiving weapons, Martinez put together one of his most impressive individual efforts yet.

With 242 yards passing and 112 rushing, Martinez finished with 354 total yards and two touchdowns against Buffalo. That extended his school-record mark to 15 games at least 300 yards of offense.

Martinez eclipsed 2,000 rushing yards for his career, becoming the fifth player in Big Ten history to run for more than 2,000 and throw for more than 6,000. He was also just the second 100-yard rusher in 24 games against Buffalo.

But it wasn't just the final stat line that made Martinez's day so impressive. It was also how, time and again, he came up with one big play after another when nothing else was working on offense.

As we saw at Illinois, relying that heavily on one player to do so much can backfire in a hurry. But on Saturday, Martinez was more than up to the challenge.

3. Toure has become the impact WR Nebraska needed

There was a reason that so many players and coaches were raving about Samori Toure's impact in just his first few spring practices after arriving as a graduate transfer from FCS Montana.

Saturday was yet another example of how valuable the senior wide receiver was to Nebraska's offense.

While he only caught two of his six targets in the game, Toure sure made his two grabs count with two 68-yard touchdown catches in the second and fourth quarters.

After hauling in eight catches for 133 yards last week vs. Fordham, Toure became the first Husker to record back-to-back 100-yard receiving games since J.D. Spielman in 2018 (Purdue and Wisconsin).

4. The running game was bad, but at least NU stuck with it

The bad news was that Nebraska could not establish any consistency with its traditional running game for the third game in a row.

The positive spin this time, though, was that the Huskers didn't completely abandon the run when it didn't work out of the gate.

While Martinez padded the final rushing stats with his big 71-yard scramble, the running backs combined for 31 carries for 106 yards (3.4 ypc). Only freshman Gabe Ervin (10 carries for 54 yards and two touchdowns) had more than 24 yards on the day.

However, despite the lack of productivity, the Huskers refused to become a one-dimensional offense.

The plan going in was clearly to run the ball early and often, as NU ran the ball 11 times in its first 15 plays, including the final eight plays of the first quarter. The Huskers rushed on 22 of their 31 plays in the first half.

There's something to be said for making Buffalo's defense have to account for the running game even when it's not working, as it opened up some big plays through the air that otherwise might not have been there.

5. Something is wrong with Culp

It's hard to believe that the only first-team All-Big Ten player of the Scott Frost era has become one of Nebraska's biggest liabilities, but here we are.

When placekicker Connor Culp missed two extra points in the opener at Illinois, most chalked it up to a crazy fluke. Now, it's evident that there's something off with the sixth-year senior.

Culp missed all three of his field-goal attempts against Buffalo, going wide right from 32, 42, and 34 yards out.

The former LSU graduate transfer was 13-of-15 on field goals and a perfect 20-for-20 on extra points last season, an impressive 33-of-35 total kicks overall.

Now he's already missed five kicks through the first three games of 2021.

"I am not sure what is going on with Connor, but he will get it fixed," Frost said. "I do not want it to turn into a mental thing for him. He is too talented.”

6. NU has to move on from Taylor-Britt at punt returner

It's one thing to be a team's best overall player and top playmaker. It's another to be the best punt returner.

As a cornerback, Cam Taylor-Britt is loaded with talent. But in most of his opportunities as Nebraska's punt return man, he's proven to be far more of a liability than an asset.

Unlike the past two games where he made a baffling decision to field a punt or let the ball bounce off him for a turnover, Saturday's blunder was an issue of Taylor-Britt not being aware enough.

With roughly seven minutes left in the game, Taylor-Britt tried to catch a punt in a crowd but was bumped into by a teammate. The ball bounced off of Luke Gifford and was recovered by the Bulls at the NU 39-yard line.

While Taylor-Britt wasn't the one who turned it over, Frost said after the game that he needed to do a much better job of yelling at his teammates to get away from the ball.

At some point, the risk outweighs the reward, and Nebraska is well past that with Taylor-Britt at punt returner.

7. Reimer was an absolute monster 

Nebraska's defense was excellent against Buffalo, and few players were better than Luke Reimer.

The sophomore inside linebacker was everywhere on Saturday, racking up a game-high 16 tackles, including a critical fourth-down stop in the second quarter.

He also snagged his first-career interception on a tipped pass and returning to the UB 1-yard line to start the fourth quarter for what was arguably the turning point of the game.

“We have seen that from Luke since his first day here," Frost said. "Kid from Northwest 12th Street in Lincoln. (He) lives eight houses from my parents. We were lucky enough to get him to walk on, and it was about the second day we figured we should have scholarship’d him. He is going to make a lot of plays around here.”

8. Allen hurt, but other TEs stepped up

Nebraska was already without its No. 2 tight end for a third straight game, with Travis Vokolek sidelined once again with an injury.

Less than eight minutes into the game against Buffalo, the Huskers were without their starting tight end.

As Austin Allen hauled in an eight-yard catch on NU's opening drive, his head slammed off the turf while being tackled. He stayed on the ground for a few minutes before being helped off the field by the training staff.

Allen returned to the sideline but did not play the rest of the day.

Even without its top two options at the position, Nebraska still got plenty of production from its tight ends on Saturday.

Chris Hickman, Chancellor Brewington, and walk-on Nate Boerkircher filled in admirably, combining for five catches for 109 yards.

Hickman had a team-high four receptions for 90 yards, including a 27-yard grab in the second quarter and then a 54-yarder at the end of the game.

9. The heat was on

Nebraska knew it was going to be a scorcher on Saturday, and the forecast held true with sweltering on-field temperatures that were recorded as high as 129 degrees.

The actual temp at kickoff was listed at 91 degrees, which tied for the fifth-hottest game played at Memorial Stadium since 1985. It was the warmest kickoff temperature since 2017 when it also hit 91 degrees against Rutgers.

As Frost hinted at on Thursday, the Huskers adjusted their routine a bit to help counter the elements. They noticeable cut down their pre-game warmup time to lessen the time the players were in the heat.

Both teams also seemed to handle their player hydration well, as there were only a few stoppages for cramping during the game.

10. The Tunnel Walk was a fitting tribute to 9/11

Along with wearing all-white camp-print alternate uniforms to pay tribute to military and first responders, Nebraska came up with a few other ways to pay its respects and honor the 20th anniversary of the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001.

Following a touching pre-game video featuring former Navy S.E.A.L. and Husker linebacker Damian Jackson, the sophomore carried the American flag and was flanked by several first responders to lead the team onto the field for the Tunnel Walk.

Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner; Dr. Alissa Clough, President, Inpatient Physician Associates; Vicki Barada, Firefighter/EMT; and Alex Nobbe, Firefighter/Paramedic, accompanied Jackson.

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