Report Card: South Dakota State vs. Nebraska
The Nebraska football team's 17-3 win over South Dakota State on Saturday was by no means a pretty victory, but the Huskers still found a way to get the win and advance to 4-0 for the first time since the 2005 season.
Here is the final report card grade out of Saturday's win over the Jack Rabbits.
For the first time this season redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez finally looked like a young quarterback. Martinez started the game off by fumbling the Huskers first offensive play from scrimmage and he also threw two pretty costly interceptions when the NU offense desperately needed a big play. Martinez was also neutralized in the running game and his one long run was negated back 15 yards after he received a taunting penalty when he tossed the football back at a South Dakota State defender. Martinez finished the game a disappointing 6-of-14 passing for 140 yards. He clearly was not himself tonight and was eventually pulled in the fourth quarter by offensive coordinator Shawn Watson.
Running back: D
Both sophomore Rex Burkhead and senior Roy Helu were kept in check by South Dakota State's defense on Saturday. It was the first time this season that NU's running backs failed to have a run longer than 20 yards in a game. Helu was tackled for 17 negative yards and he finished the game with just a 3.1 yard per carry average. I'm sorry, these types of numbers aren't going to cut down the road. I think Nebraska just expected to run all over SDSU and that didn't happen. You have to show more respect for your opponent.
Wide receiver/tight end: C
Nebraska's wide receivers only caught six balls on Saturday, but a lot of that had to do with the poor passing from Martinez. When the ball was thrown their way, they did make plays. The only problem was it didn't happen very often.
Offensive line: D
The Husker offensive line failed to make the adjustments up front and struggled getting off the ball against a much smaller Jack Rabbit front seven. NU didn't see near the running lanes up front on Saturday they were accustomed to. Give credit to the SDSU coaching staff for coming up with a solid game plan to slow the Huskers down.
Defensive line: D
The defensive line had no sacks on Saturday and they forced just two tackles for loss. South Dakota State came right at them with power and they struggled to make plays and dominate like we've see in previous games. I thought SDSU did a good job of limiting Jared Crick and they also didn't allow the Husker defensive ends a chance to take over the game with their pass rush off the edge.
The play of Lavonte David was one of the lone bright spots for the Huskers on Saturday. David finished with a game-high 19 tackles, but you still have to be disappointed with the way the Jack Rabbits continually pounded the ball through the Husker defense for a consistent 4 to 5 yards all night.
South Dakota State wanted no part of the Husker secondary on Saturday, but the few times they did decide to go at them they paid the price. Alfonzo Dennard came up with a huge interception on Saturday that prevented the Jack Rabbits from scoring a touchdown and P.J. Smith also came up with a big interception. Once again credit the SDSU coaching staff for doing their best not to let the Husker secondary take things over.
Special teams: C-
Early on in the game South Dakota State misfired a snap on a punt, but Nebraska failed to go after it. My question is why wasn't a guy going after the punter? Typically there's always a guy that at least makes sure the punter gets the snap, but NU was not there. Dean Priddy was able to pick the punt off the ground and boom it to the 2 yard line. This was a moment where if the Huskers would've played it right, it could've been turned into points. Instead, they started with the ball on their own 2 yard line. Niles Paul also muffed a punt and then fumbled it later on the same return, but luckily was able to recover it. In general, NU's punt coverage was also very shaky and the gunners did not do a good job of getting down field to make plays.