This past weekend, the game was never really in question. I had decided to leave the comfy confines of my living room to watch the game and joined some friends at Old Chicago to eat fatty foods - the pepperoni rolls are ridiculously great - drink some drinks and relax while hopefully watching Nebraska do to the Golden Eagles what Nebraska should do to a team with the nation's longest losing streak. And so it was. The offense still looked a little disjointed at times - and honestly, the tackling really does need to get better - but overall, can you complain about a blowout?
But here's the thing that Pelini even chatted about a little postgame, Nebraska was probably never as bad as Wyoming made them look, and they're surely not as good as they looked against Southern Miss. No, this is a team that is young and still forging its identity and they will have a National Audience tuning in bright and early on Saturday to see what that looks like. Will they be that team that continually turns the ball over and gives away all the touchdowns or can they lockdown a good young Bruins team and prove that the athleticism that Pelini and Co. have been touting all offseason are as good as advertised?
Answering that will go a long way to deciding the fate of the Huskers this year. I would like to believe they hype, but it seems to me that I have been burned before - and keep getting burned - and would like to withhold judgement until after the game this weekend. UCLA is good. Brett Hundley is getting darkhorse Heisman hype because he's a legitimate dual threat. He put up some impressive numbers against Nevada and now UCLA has had an extra week to gameplan. Nothing about this weekend will be easy. Even so, I'm pretty excited. There are always levels to a season, and this is one of the first tests. Pass this and momentum and confidence can take this team a long way. Should be a lot of fun. I'm just hoping the joke won't be on the blackshirts - or quite literally the ones wearing black this weekend.
RANDOM THOUGHTS FROM THE GAME
- Look, Southern Mississippi is awful. Like, 14 games and counting awful. We all get that, and we're fine with at least putting an asterisk on the blowout, but Nebraska also only allowed 62 yards rushing, in which most all of that 62 came late in the game with the score long out of reach. UCLA is better than So. Miss, but Nebraska did what was asked and the change in lineups at LB seemed to really help. We'll see how that goes this week.
- Stanley Jean-Baptiste is really putting it all together this year. I, along with most Husker fans, remember him fondly from his coming out party against Ohio State in 2011, but where he really has shown progress this year is timing jumps. Last year, it felt like I was constantly yelling at the television because SJB wouldn't put his hands up or would make awful jumps. This year, he has an eye on the ball and knows how to get up and grab it. He was a former WR, so he has the ball catching abilities to get it done, but he really is playing like a DB now. He will play on Sundays.
- Randy Gregory will also play on Sundays. I barely know the Juco transfer DE, but I already love him. He's fast, he's mean, and he has some good football IQ. There are times where he looks like he's just out there playing without any clue what's going on, but that's been okay. We've had players like that succeed and with more athleticism on the field, hopefully we can make up for being out of position every once in a while.
- The Nebraska RB stable is pretty awesome. I hit on this last week a bit, but I'd like to just say that I'm really happy with what Nebraska has going on at RB. Ameer Abdullah has silently put up back-to-back 100 yard rushing games, Imani Cross has shown that his offseason footwork has given him some lateral movement to go along with his freight train strength, and True Fr. Terrell Newby - who I touched on last week - is going to be special. He put the ball on the ground and needs to clean up the high school 'I'll out-athlete these dudes' attitude, but he has the best vision of all three. It was also nice to see King Frazier and Graham Nabity get some carries. Loved seeing the walk-ons.
- Lastly, Tommy Armstrong is good at the option. If Taylor Martinez were to go down, Ron Kellogg III probably comes in, and he showed he's very serviceable. However, it was so fun seeing a pretty dynamic option understanding under Tommy Armstrong. He has a good first step, and he knows the pitch game. He's the early front-runner to take over next year, with Johnny Stanton redshirting and waiting to give him a run for his money still, and I found myself excited he got so many snaps. Maybe some trick plays later this year would be fun...