Five burning questions going into Oregon week
Can Nebraska continue to dominate the turnover battle?
Maybe one of the biggest turnarounds between last season and the first two games of 2016 has been Nebraska’s dramatic advantage in turnover margin.
By forcing two turnovers in the opener vs. Fresno State an then six more in Saturday’s win over Wyoming, the Huskers have been as opportunistic in taking away the football defensively as they’ve been since Ndamukong Suh and Co. were dominating the Big 12 North.
In fact, the last time NU finished a season on the plus side in turnover margin was all the way back in 2009.
If Nebraska can somehow sustain its current rate, or even keep it remotely close, its outlook for this season would jump to an entirely new level.
How good actually is the running game?
Based on what we saw in Week One, it looked like Nebraska’s running game was getting back to the level of the glory years.
The Huskers ran the ball on 80-percent of their plays vs. Fresno State for 292 yards and five touchdowns while only throwing it 13 times.
On Saturday, the ground attack didn’t even seem like the same unit. Granted, Wyoming made it a point to stop the run and essentially dared the Huskers to pass.
But NU’s offensive line held a 46-pound man-for-man advantage over the Cowboys’ defensive front and still only managed 138 rushing yards on 43 carries.
Balance will continue to be the name of the game, but consistent production on the ground will be vital against the better competition on the schedule, starting this week bs. Oregon.
Who is the real Tommy Armstrong?
Through just two games of his senior year and fourth season as Nebraska’s starting quarterback, it seems that we’re still no closer to figuring out what to expect from Tommy Armstrong on a weekly basis.
After totaling three touchdowns in the opener, Armstrong again put on an impressive display by throwing for 377 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for another vs. Wyoming. In doing so, he etched his name atop the school career passing record books.
But as good as he looked for much of the game Saturday and even several stretches the first week, Armstrong still made a few of the same head-scratching mental mistakes that have plagued him since his redshirt freshman season.
The worst came when he forced a pass in the end zone and was picked off to spoil a surefire scoring drive early in the second quarter.
It goes without saying that if the Huskers can consistently get more of the good Tommy than bad Tommy, they’re one of the best teams in the Big Ten West. But at this point, it’s hard to count on that being the case on a weekly basis.
Has Alonzo Moore become the new go-to guy?
With all the talk this offseason about Jordan Westerkamp, Brandon Reilly, and even Stanley Morgan as the focal points of Nebraska’s receiving corps, it’s been Alonzo Moore who has emerged as the biggest playmaker of the group through two games.
On top of providing the only big play through the air against Fresno State with a 57-yard touchdown catch, the senior posted a career game for the second week in a row on Saturday.
His 63-yard catch and run for a score in the second was again NU’s longest play from scrimmage on the day, and his career-high 109 yards on three receptions again led all Huskers.
In a position group so loaded with talent and depth that even getting on the field on game day is an accomplishment, Moore is quickly establishing himself as Armstrong’s new favorite target.
Are the punting struggles reason for concern?
It’s hard to be too critical of true freshman punter Caleb Lightbourn considering the massive shoes he had to fill this season and the unthinkable circumstances under which he has make his Nebraska debut.
That said, there’s little arguing that Lightbourn has a long way to go before reaching the level of his many all-conference predecessors.
Lightbourn averaged just 31.3 yards on three punts vs. Wyoming, and the week before he only posted a 36.2-yard average on punts against Fresno State. Not only that, his hang time has been mediocre at best, making it difficult for NU’s punt coverage to get down field before the returner fields the ball.
In an effort to help make up for his low punts, Nebraska at one point Saturday called for Lightbourn to hold onto the ball for a few seconds before kicking it away.
Instead, he called his own number on the play and took off running, and he was stuffed well short of the first down to five the Cowboys excellent field position.