Photo Credit: John Peterson

3 Thoughts from Nebraska’s 28-3 Win Over Buffalo

September 11, 2021

The defense rose to the occasion.

Nebraska’s Blackshirts impressed in a 28-3 win over the Buffalo Bulls on Saturday in Lincoln. The Bulls, who turned heads in their blowout win over FCS-opponent Wagner last week, didn’t have the same success against the Huskers, who held them out of the end zone for 60 minutes. Buffalo’s three points were the fewest allowed by a Nebraska defense since a 24-3 win over Michigan State in 2011.

Nebraska improves to 2-1 on the season and wins back-to-back games for the first time since 2019. Up next is a trip to Norman, Oklahoma, next Saturday to play Heisman candidate Spencer Rattler and the Sooners, who many believe to be College Football Playoff contender.

But before that, here are three thoughts on the Huskers’ win.

The Blackshirts showed up, and in a big way

Sure, Nebraska’s defense struggled to get off the field on Buffalo’s opening drive of the game, an 11-play, 33-yard march that had it on the field for 6 minutes, 12 seconds. Buffalo converted two third downs on the drive, and the groans from the fanbase were ready to come out. But the Bulls committed a false start, and decided to punt. Crisis averted.

What followed was strong outing after strong outing from the Husker defense. Buffalo, which racked up 569 total yards against Wagner, was shut out in the first half and didn’t score until a 45-yard field goal with 9:17 left in the third quarter.

There were highlight plays. Plays that got the crowd loud. Defensive tackle Damion Daniels, all 325 pounds of him, getting skinny to split a double team for a tackle for loss on third-and-3 comes to mind.

But the day belonged to linebacker Luke Reimer, the Kansas native who finished his high school career at Lincoln North Star High School.

After sifting through rub routes to stop running back Ron Cook Jr. on a fourth-down swing pass from the backfield in the second, he showed off his speed and covered a lot of ground before tackling Cook on a fourth-and-3. That was before he helped give his team a 21-3 lead after tipping and snatching a pass for an interception all in one motion to start the fourth—he advanced the ball to the Bulls’ 1-yard line. One play later, running back Gabe Ervin Jr. scored a touchdown with defensive lineman Deontre Thomas leading the way at fullback.

Reimer finished with 16 tackles, a career high.

The offensive line continues to struggle

Isaiah Thomas and Nik Bonitto have to be licking their chops. Oklahoma’s top two sack artists and all-around defensive studs are good at creating havoc in the backfield. Nebraska’s offensive line, however, hasn’t shown an ability to consistently block or move opposing defensive fronts. That doesn’t bode well for next week’s game in Norman.

Against Buffalo, the Husker o-line struggled to displace its MAC counterparts. The hand-off run game never really got on track—before a 21-yard run from Ervin on an option pitch in the third, Nebraska running backs had just 28 yards on 22 carries. How long can Nebraska’s offense rely on Adrian Martinez’s scrambling? It’s a physical game, and the often-injured Martinez has been taking hits with many games left on the schedule.

The mistakes showed up again, and they were costly

First, it was reigning All-Big Ten kicker Connor Culp missing a 29-yard field goal—points off the board. Then, receiver Wyatt Liewer got called for a questionable offensive pass interference that negated a large gain and possible touchdown catch from Samori Touré—points off the board. Receiver Zavier Betts finally got some action and caught a touchdown pass, until he didn’t when a holding penalty on Bryce Benhart negated it—you guessed it, points off the board.

If you’re counting at home, Nebraska had opportunities to put 17 points on the scoreboard with those three plays. Tack that 17 onto the 14 points the Huskers did score in the first half, and fans could’ve seen a 31-0 lead at the break.

That’s a lot of would’ve-could’ve-should’ves, but at the end of the day, Nebraska not doing the little things has been what’s kept the program from moving forward under Frost. The Huskers wound up not being bit by those mistakes, but will they survive doing that against the Big Ten slate that awaits?

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