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The Weekly Rundown: Where do we go now?

After another disappointing loss at Michigan State, where does this Husker football season go now? We start your Monday off with the Weekly Rundown column.

Sure bets

You have to feel pretty good about these things right now:

Erik Chinander's defense: Nebraska's defense is playing at the highest level we have seen in quite some time. It's a shame a performance like Saturday was wasted.

I'm not sure I've ever seen where a defense didn't allow a single first down in the third and fourth quarters and the team still lost the game.

OLB Garrett Nelson: The Scottsbluff native has really turned a corner and was arguably Nebraska's defensive player of the game on Saturday. He made good reads and played with discipline. Playing for Nebraska means something to Nelson, and it shows on every snap.

NT Damion Daniels: Fifth-year junior nose tackle Damion Daniels is playing like a guy that wants to get paid at the next level. If his play continues, it's hard to see him back at NU for a sixth season. Michigan State could not block Daniels on Saturday.

WR Zavier Betts: It's a shame Zavier Betts only saw 24 snaps on Saturday and was unavailable in the second half with an unknown injury. He was really coming into his own, as he led NU in receiving yards despite playing just 24 of the 86 total offensive snaps in the game.


These were my surprises of the week:

RB Markese Stepp: USC transfer running back Markese Stepp played just four snaps and had one carry. He's the only back on Nebraska's roster with a 100-yard game in 2021 and we have yet to see him since. With that said, Rahmir Johnson is playing at a high level.

Not going for the win in regulation: When Nebraska got the ball back in regulation with under 2 minutes and two timeouts remaining, I thought we'd see Scott Frost be more aggressive and take some shots over the middle to give Connor Culp a chance at a game-winning field goal. Clearly, Michigan State's pass rush and the chance of a fumble played a factor there.

The entire Big Ten West last week: Minnesota lost to Bowling Green, Iowa got all they could handle from Colorado State, Purdue only beat Illinois 13-9 and Wisconsin got manhandled by Notre Dame. Then you add Nebraska's loss where they completely dominated the stat sheet on offense and defense and still lost.

It was not a good weekend for the Big Ten West.

Nebraska fell to 2-3 after Saturday's loss at Michigan State
Nebraska fell to 2-3 after Saturday's loss at Michigan State (USA Today)

The jury is still out

Questions still surround these things:

Protection issues and false starts: Nebraska ranks dead last for all Power Five programs on PFF with an overall pass protection grade of 25.9 They have the eighth-lowest run-blocking grade for Power Five programs at 57.7.

Adrian Martinez has been under pressure on 87 of 174 dropbacks and he's only seen more than a four-man rush 30 times this season. Over the last two weeks, Oklahoma and Michigan State brought more than four just nine total times vs. Martinez. If you take out the Fordham game, he's been under pressure 82 of 148 dropbacks against FBS competition.

The offensive line has also committed 15 of the 19 penalties by NU's offense this season. Protection and penalties are as big of an issue as anything right now with this football team.

Punter: Nebraska's punters arguably had the worst game we've seen in quite some time. Whatever the plan was Saturday, it failed miserably. William Przystup and Daniel Cerni impacted this game negatively for Nebraska as much as they could.

I'm not sure I've ever seen a punt missed so badly the way Cerni shanked it in the fourth quarter. That entire position group needs to be overhauled. This is Power Five football and every Big Ten team seems to have elite punting other than Nebraska.

Return game - all elements: Catch a punt. Put two guys back there as Michigan State did. Let's start there first. It's really incredible the issues the Huskers have at times when it comes to fielding punts, and then the hidden yardage they lose on those plays.

Then on kickoff return, even when Michigan State kicked off from their own 20-yard line the Huskers only were able to run it out to the 18 - a 7-yard loss in field position if they decided to fair catch it. That can't happen. That needs to be a return you get to at least the 35-yard line.

The return game has been an issue every year for Scott Frost's program. I'm not sure it's fixable at this point of the season either. There just seems to be a timidness in this entire phase of the game.

Offensive line coach Greg Austin.
Offensive line coach Greg Austin. (Tyler Krecklow)

This has my attention 

Moving forward, this has my attention:

Offensive line coach Greg Austin: If you are Frost, what type of conversations are you having with offensive line coach Greg Austin? Can any type of shake-ups be made at this point of the season in trying out some new linemen?

Turner Corcoran and Bryce Benhart are playing as poorly as any Power Five tackles in the country. The play of the offensive line is single handily holding the entire unit back. It also plays a major factor in Martinez's decision-making when he knows over half the time he's going to be under pressure, even when it's just a four-man rush.

Fan turnout vs. Northwestern: What will the scene look like on homecoming Saturday in Lincoln? It will be interesting what things will look like on Saturday and what the prices are on the secondary ticket market.

Oliver Martin and Casey Rogers: We didn't see wide receiver Oliver Martin or defensive end Casey Rogers on the field Saturday. Will they make a return this week for the Huskers?

The morale of the team: How will this team respond this week? Losing the way they did Saturday, quite frankly, it gets old. People are tired of it. Will the team respond?

Sean Callahan can be reached at and he can be heard each day at 6:45 am and 5:05 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap-Tuesday's at 7 pm.