AMES, Iowa - Nebraska found a way on Saturday to get a big win on the road in overtime against Iowa State.
Here is the final report card grade out from Ames as the Huskers improved to 8-1 and take on Kansas next week in Lincoln.
Nebraska was very limited in what they could do on offense with Cody Green. He managed the situation for the most part and converted some key third downs, but the bottom line is there's drop off from Taylor Martinez to the rest of NU's quarterbacks. The Huskers got by with Green today barely, hopefully the rest Martinez got will pay off, as it nearly cost NU a spot in the Big 12 championship game. Green only threw when he had to and you could tell they were doing whatever they could not to put him in any high risk situations.
Running back: B+
The running backs carried the load for Nebraska on Saturday. Rex Burkhead basically took some of the carries Martinez would normally get by running out of the Wildcat formation. I personally thought NU should've used the Wildcat more than they did on Saturday. I thought Burkhead was much more effective running the zone read than Green was. Burkhead led the Huskers with 129 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns. Roy Helu finished with 99 yards, but he had a costly fumble that allowed ISU to score a field goal before halftime.
Wide receiver/tight end: B
There were two times on Saturday where confusion on substitutions by NU's wide receivers caused NU to use two timeouts. This falls more on Ted Gilmore and not the players though. I thought Kyler Reed came up big on two third down catches in the second half to keep the chains moving, as did Brandon Kinnie. However, Kinnie did have a costly third down drop in the first half. There really weren't a lot of balls thrown on Saturday, so it's hard to be too critical on the receivers for their play. I also thought the downfield blocking by the receivers is was sprung NU's final touchdown run in overtime.
Offensive line: C
A big penalty by D.J. Jones turned a third-and-1 into a third-and-6. Nebraska's offensive line did a decent job on Saturday, but it by no means was their best performance of the season. The Huskers couldn't get that big run they needed to get things going like last week.
Defensive line: B-
The defensive line didn't get a lot of pressure on Iowa State quarterback Austen Arnaud, as they were credited with just one sack and one quarterback hurry. However, they didn't play horrible and held Iowa State to just 3.3 yards per carry on 48 rushing attempts. I know people are going to criticize the rushing defense on Saturday, but when a team runs it 48 times, they are going to have some yards. ISU finished with just 157 yards on the ground and NU did enough on the early downs at times to slow down ISU's offense, especially in the second half.
Lavonte David came up with a few big plays in run support and finished with 10 tackles on Saturday. Will Compton played some, but not a whole lot.
Austin Cassidy came up with one of the plays of the game for Nebraska with his interception return for a touchdown. I'm also going to credit Eric Hagg's game winning interception on the fake extra point to the secondary, and not to the special teams. Hagg was huge in this game, as he had an interception on a big play that led to a scoring drive for the Husker offense. As for the bad, the missed tackles became a problem again for Nebraska at times on Saturday. Courtney Osborne whiffed a few times, as did DeJon Gomes . Freshman Ciante Evans also struggled early on in coverage and was pulled in favor of veteran Anthony West. I thought the run support was good though and NU's secondary caused their fair share of big plays in the backfield with four tackles for loss and one quarterback sack.
Special teams: D
It wasn't a great day for NU's special teams, as Niles Paul's fumble on a kickoff return nearly lost the game for Nebraska. It was a senior leader should not make. Paul caught the ball 5 yard deep into the end zone and attempted to run it out. Just take a knee. As I said above, I credit Hagg's game winning interception more to the defense, than to special teams on my grading. I also thought Alex Henery really struggled with his punting at times and the wind played a big factor in that. It was sure fun watching Adi Kunalic kick a ball over 85 yards with the wind behind when he launched a ball into the end zone from the 15 yard line.