That Saturday, as The Cars said, might be just what I needed.
Just what I needed to take the Huskers off probation, that is. I put the team on notice after that shaky week one outing against Wyoming. I wasn’t prepared to cast Nebraska aside yet, but I wasn’t even close to calling all the week one mistakes fixable.
I had my eye on the pilot light under Bo Pelini’s chair.
Saturday’s goings on however, filled in all nearly all the points on my probation checklist.
First and most important of all, I needed to see an overwhelming victory that was never in doubt. Nebraska needed a game in in which it clamped down the vice grips so hard, that by the fourth quarter I had to check the roster to see who was getting their first reps of the year.
Stanley Jean Baptiste’s pick-six three plays into the game put that plan in gear. Three picks and seven touchdowns later, it was clear that this was Nebraska’s game from start to finish.
Secondly, I needed the defense to back up the claims that they practiced all week with better communication and a sense of urgency. No team – especially a top-25 team – should need a smack in the mouth to play with a sense of urgency, but the Huskers had to prove that it only took one smack.
Southern Miss finished under 300 yards of total offense and went nearly 80 percent of the game before scoring its first and only touchdown. The defensive line needs to get to the passer before he gets rid of the ball still, but the presence was stronger with seven quarterback hurries.
Sidenote: I feel for whichever poor soul is the first victim of a Randy Gregory sack.
Gregory should’ve paid rent for how much time he spent in the Southern Miss backfield, and tallied four of the seven QB hurries for Nebraska. The Husker secondary gave the Eagles the Nathan Enderle treatment, picking off the most passes (4) since taking five from Enderle’s Idaho Vandals in 2010.
My favorite part? Stanley Jean Baptiste’s attitude. There’s a kid that NFL scouts will be drooling about come October. I asked Stanley if he agreed with Terry Joseph calling this game his best yet.
“I don’t know, I gave up a touchdown, so I don’t know if it was my best,” he responded. A pick-six though, I pried. “It was alright.”
Now that’s a quote.
Finally, I needed Wyoming to prove what every Husker fan so desperately wanted to be true. I needed those Cowboys to back up the scare in Lincoln last week. After a slow 3-of-12 start, quarterback Brett Smith finished with four touchdown passes as the Cowboys built a 42-0 lead going into the fourth quarter. The total yardage didn’t come close to the 600-plus Wyoming hung on the Huskers, but tailback Shaun Wick averaged 7.3 yards per carry and topped the century mark.
As I write, the Huskers have opened up as four-point favorites over UCLA at home next Saturday. Sounds like Vegas has taken Nebraska off game one probation, but I’m not quite ready. All the requirements were met on my checklist, but I’m not giving the final approval stamp just yet.