Instant Reaction: Wyoming
“We’re 1-0 and I’m happy we’re 1-0,” coach Bo Pelini said in the minutes after No. 18 Nebraska’s too-close-for-comfort 37-34 win over Wyoming.
Nebraska fans, I suspect, while also happier to be 1-0 than the alternative, will probably take a more critical approach. At least publicly.
Each week after the game, I’ll update our rankings on a 10-point scale of the Huskers’ individual units. If you missed the starting point, you can see the preseason baseline for each group right here or on the graph below.
QUARTERBACK – 8 (Change: None)
It wasn’t a vintage game out of Taylor Martinez, but it wasn’t worthy of a downgrade either. The interception that give Wyoming life late will draw some attention, but that looked like a miscommunication with the receiver.
RUNNING BACKS – 7 (Change: +1)
Ameer Abdullah, minus a career-long 62-yard run in the second quarter, had a pretty quiet night. But the story here is the back-ups. Imani Cross looked versatile yet punishing, scoring two touchdowns, and Terrell Newby looked as good as advertising, taking important snaps in the third and fourth quarter. The strength of the back-ups in this game answered my one big question coming in with the running backs.
WIDE RECEIVERS – 7 (Change: None)
The Huskers’ top three receivers all did the good things many had projected for them this season. Quincy Enunwa’s two touchdown catches — tough catches — validated some of the off-season buzz we’d heard about his improvement. The tight ends were easy to miss for the most part, which I think is what it’s going to take for a rankings upgrade here.
OFFENSIVE LINE – 6.5 (Change: -0.5)
There were some missed blocks up front, particularly in the first half, but when Nebraska decided to commit to the run in the second half, the Huskers had some pretty good success. Of course, it was fair to expect wild success running the ball given Wyoming’s stats against the run last season. Minor downgrade here.
OFFENSE – 7 (Change: -0.5)
The expectations for this offense were so high coming in, that it’s hard to know which way to go after that game. On the one hand, the Huskers still put up 530 yards on the night. On the other, the offense looked sluggish and uncertain in the first half. Is it still one of the 25 or so best offenses in the country? Looked that way to me. Is it the second coming of the Scoring Explosion? Not yet, but it’s week one.
DEFENSIVE LINE – 3.5 (Change: -0.5)
Tough to get a read on the d-line play because Cowboys’ quarterback Brett Smith is remarkably good at keeping plays alive. At times, the Huskers got pressure only to have Smith work some magic and make a play. I’m not docking them too much for that, but they do have to be docked. Vincent Valentine had perhaps the best night.
LINEBACKERS – 3.5 (Change: -1.5)
Did any of the Huskers’ linebackers make an impact in this game? Something we remember? David Santos had 12 tackles, but I didn’t know it until I checked the stat sheet. That’s why I’ve got this group falling the farthest. It’s possibly a little harsh given Wyoming’s system and the lack of actual linebackers on the field, but the Cowboys rushed for 219 yards, a number they topped only twice last season.
DEFENSIVE BACKS – 6 (Change: -0.5)
Stanley Jean-Baptiste was the player of the game for the Huskers defensively and Ciante Evans added an interception, but the Wyoming receivers found gaps in the defense — small gaps — and Smith found them, going 29-for-43 with a 168.3 QB rating. Nebraska’s still fine at corner, but the secondary has to share in the overall downgrade of the defense.
DEFENSE – 3.5 (Change: -1.5)
I doubt even the most optimistic of Husker fans expected the defense, playing as many newcomers as it did, to be good in game one. I doubt even the most cynical of Husker fans expected this defense to give up 602 yards to Wyoming. I’m guessing 3.5 won’t be low enough for some, but I don’t think Nebraska’s going to give up 600 yards every game either. There’s still a lot we don’t know right now.
SPECIAL TEAMS – 6.5 (Change: +1.5)
Sam Foltz looked great, averaging 45.6 yards per punt which included a clutch fourth quarter pooch punt that was downed at the 6-yard line. Mauro Bondi showed he can be a touchback specialist. The return game was sharp. Special teams would’ve earned a seven if not for Pat Smith, who for now handles field goal duties, hadn’t missed an extra point. It was the Huskers’ first missed extra point since South Carolina blocked one in the 2012 Capital One Bowl.
Feel free to drop your rankings, comments, concerns, or thoughts below.