Photo Credit: Eric Francis

The Good, Bad and Unexpected: Nebraska Versus Georgia Southern

September 11, 2022

With a little time to have now absorbed what we saw in Nebraska’s 45-42 loss to Georgia Southern, it’s time to review. Here is the good, the bad and the unexpected from the matchup.

The Good

Nebraska paid Georgia Southern $1.423 million to play at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Not quite the return you’d hope to get on that investment. There’s a lot of bad—and unexpected—to dive into in this recap, but there are two positives worth mentioning. We won’t spend much time here—because Nebraska still lost to Georgia Southern—but here’s who performed well:

Casey Thompson: The quarterback finished his day 23-of-34 for 318 yards. He had three rushing touchdowns, and added another touchdown through the air to Brody Belt.

Anthony Grant: Grant hit the 100-yard rushing mark for the third time in three games. He ended his day with 138 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. He is the first Nebraska running back to rush for 100-plus yards in three consecutive games since Devine Ozigbo in 2018. It’s worth noting that only 15 players in program history have had more than three consecutive 100-yard rushing games. We’ll see if he can continue the streak against Oklahoma next week.

Honorable mention to running back Ajay Allen. He’s also shaping up to be something pretty special too.

The Bad

Where do we begin? There was a lot of bad and most of that bad can be firmly pointed toward the defense.

Let’s start here:

So, what happened?

Jacob provided more context—and his recap is one to read—because it’s really quite stunning when you look at it all. It’s also historic.

Here’s how coach Scott Frost summed up the defense’s problems against the Eagles following the loss and where things went wrong:

“We probably had a notion that we could do pretty well in some of our base calls,” Frost said. “And probably needed to mix up the looks a little bit because they were getting in the right thing for what we were in. And we didn’t execute great.”

Georgia Southern knew Nebraska’s defense was a weakness and attacked it from start to finish. The Eagles had 179 rushing yards in the first half against Nebraska, which was 42 more rushing yards than they had in their entire game against Morgan State. They ended with 233 rushing yards on the day. The Georgia Southern running backs seemingly had no issue finding space to run against Nebraska, with back Gerald Green rushing for 132 yards and two touchdowns and back Jalen White adding another 85 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

Here’s what’s especially bad: Georgia Southern’s offense is self-described as an “Air Raid” attack. That attack did what it needed in the air—quarterback Kyle Vantrease completed 17 of 24 throws in the first half alone—but the ground game kept things moving for the Eagles all game long.

Nebraska also couldn’t get itself off the field, allowing Georgia Southern to extend drives that ended in scores. The Huskers allowed conversions on 8-of-11 third downs, and 1-of-1 on fourth downs.

The defense was expected to take a small step back in 2022, mostly because of the talent lost following the 2021 season. However, it wasn’t expected to take this kind of step back. The jokes rolled in on Twitter, especially as fans of future opponents on Nebraska’s schedule saw what was taking place.

Frost may feel his defense didn’t execute to the standard it needs to, but how does he fix that? The Huskers specifically ran more drills in practice between the first-team offense and defense over the last week to hopefully help the defense be ready to execute when called upon.

The defense did improve slightly in the second half over the first, but it was a little too late at that point. It also wasn’t enough.

What now? It’s an easier question to ask than apparently answer.

The Unexpected

We’ve mapped out the bad of the Nebraska defense, so that’s that. However, there was a little unexpected piece to it: the Huskers had only 37 total tackles in the first half. Of that, four out of the top five first-half leaders in tackles were defensive backs. Make of that what you will.

Also, this was the second loss to a Sun Belt opponent of the Frost era at Nebraska. The first was Troy in 2019. Regardless of what you thought the outcome of this game would be prior to it being played, this is still an unexpected stat. Imagine telling someone this in 2018.

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