The Hail Varsity staff offers three final takeaways from Nebraska’s 27-22 win over Indiana.
Nebraska entered 2016 with one of the most highly-touted receiving corps of the Big Ten featuring the likes of Jordan Westerkamp, Brandon Reilly, Alonzo Moore, Stanley Morgan Jr. and De’Mornay Pierson-El. Unfortunately for Nebraska, that position group hasn’t been at full strength all season. Brandon Reilly, Alonzo Moore and Jordan Westerkamp have all missed games or been limited at different points in the season.
The depth at the position has allowed the Huskers to get by and navigate the first half of the season unscathed. However, the Huskers haven’t been able to deploy all their weapons at the same time. At this point, both Westerkamp and Morgan have established themselves as reliable targets and steady chain-movers.
But Reilly, who has missed one game for a suspension and another because of injury, reminded the nation what he is capable of on his 45-yard catch on his back off a deflection. The play pushed him over 1,000 career receiving yards and three of his six receptions this season have gone for 35 or more yards.
Moore was back this week after missing week five with a shoulder injury, and although he didn’t have any receptions, he did break free downfield on a play where Tommy Armstrong Jr. overthrew him on what would have been a touchdown. Moore got off to a tremendous start this season and looked like the team’s most dangerous weapon before getting hurt.
Reilly’s two-catch, 60-yard day bumps his yards per reception average up to 26.2 on six grabs, while Moore’s average is still 25.8 on 12 catches. Both of those figures are top five in the country (if Reilly had grabbed enough passes to qualify).
With both Reilly and Moore on the field and Westerkamp potentially returning soon, Nebraska will finally have the pieces to attack every part of the field. Now, the offensive line has to give Armstrong time and Armstrong has to make the throws. If those things happen, the Nebraska offense should become even more dynamic than it has been thus far.
There was a moment early in the second half of Nebraska’s win over Indiana when I thought to myself, “why is Indiana trying to convert on third down by throwing at Chris Jones?” Has the junior cornerback not earned more respect than that?
If not, he’s quickly getting there. Jones recorded two more pass breakups on Saturday and had a huge 33-yard interception return for a touchdown. He now ranks second in the Big Ten with three interceptions and fourth with nine passes defended. That’s a big jump from a year ago when Jones had five pass breakups for the entire season.
“He worked hard in the offseason,” defensive coordinator Mark Banker said. “The other part of it is he wants to be good. That’s always a big thing.”
That’s a pretty simplistic explanation for Jones’ rise, but that’s exactly what it looks like. Jones looks exactly like a guy who took his coaching from a year ago to heart, made the most of his spring and summer months and is seeing the results on Saturdays this fall.
He’s come so far, in fact, that it seems like Nebraska fans are sort of preparing themselves for the prospect of Jones leaving early for the NFL draft. It’s not crazy talk.
Jones is playing that kind of ball right now. I suspect most teams going forward won’t be looking his way when it comes time to pick up a crucial third down.
Let’s talk about Memorial Stadium for a minute. Which one? Well, that’s the problem. There are a lot of Memorial Stadiums in the world. Heck, even Kansas has a Memorial Stadium. However, Indiana wanted to make sure that Nebraska knew its Memorial Stadium was THE Memorial Stadium.
In a pre-game video, the Hoosiers welcomed visiting fans to Bloomington and the “real” Memorial Stadium. It was hard to hear, but there was also something about the “real” Big Red, which is neither here nor there.
Anyway, this clearly didn’t sit well with the Nebraska football staff and players. How do I know? Post-game tweets told me so. Here’s just a quick sample:
— Devine O. (@TrulyDevine_22) October 16, 2016
— Ryan Gunderson (@TheGundy) October 16, 2016
Since Nebraska won, does that mean the Huskers are the real ‘Big Red’ with the real Memorial Stadium? Maybe. At least until the two meet again, that is.
See you in 2019, Hoosiers.