Photo Credit: Eric Francis

The Good, Bad and Unexpected: Nebraska Versus Oklahoma

September 18, 2022

With a little time to have now absorbed what we saw in Nebraska’s 49-14 loss to No. 6 Oklahoma, it’s time to review. Here is the good, the bad and the unexpected from the Huskers’ final nonconference matchup of the season.

The Good

Return of Travis Vokolek and Nick Henrich: The duo—who also happen to be two of Nebraska’s four captains—were back in action on Saturday after missing the matchups against North Dakota and Georgia Southern. Both were injured against Northwestern—Vokolek with his ankle and Henrich with his hand—and have been “day to day” since.

Henrich had a decent day with six total tackles (three solo) and one tackle for loss. Vokolek, on the other hand, only had two yards on one catch. Regardless, it’s good to have both captains back on the field—and here’s hoping their production picks up in the weeks to come—and it sounds like they were just as happy to be back.

“After this happened, this was always pretty much the timetable and my goal,” Henrich said about returning from injury. “My earliest that I could have come back, so I’m glad I could come back this week and be out there with my brothers.”

Gabe Ervin Jr.: Ervin had a nice day against Oklahoma on Saturday, despite the overall outcome. He ended his day with 60 yards on seven carries, averaging 8.6 yards per carry. Ervin led the team in rushing for Nebraska against Oklahoma, with Ajay Allen following with 52 yards on 11 carries.

It’s particularly meaningful for Ervin because of what happened in 2021. After starting the first four games for Nebraska, he suffered a season-ending injury while facing off against Oklahoma in Norman. A win would have likely felt much better to add to the stats, but Ervin has to be at least pleased with his individual performance against the Sooners.

The Bad

Boomer Sooner: Oklahoma brought its band on the road to Memorial Stadium. For those familiar with the Sooners—or have sat in any stadium on the opposite side of the Oklahoma band—you know firsthand how often the fight song is played. First down, touchdown, impact play, you name it. If there’s a reason to celebrate, Boomer Sooner is ready.

And plenty of Boomer Sooner was played on Saturday.

Oklahoma’s offense routed Nebraska’s defense, posting 355 yards on 8.1 yards per play and holding the Huskers to 3.4 yards per play. But it wasn’t just the Sooner defense in a groove on Saturday. The Oklahoma defense was just as efficient.

The Sooners—who came into the matchup with Nebraska ranked third in the country in sacks—were dominant against the Huskers’ offensive line. Oklahoma sacked Nebraska quarterback Casey Thompson four times on Saturday, and running back Anthony Grant couldn’t find the same level of success he’s had in recent weeks. The Sooners held Grant below 100 rushing yards for the first time in four games. He carried the ball 13 times for 36 yards (and only 2.8 yards per carry).

Starting left tackle Teddy Prochazka is also out for the remainder of the season—interim head coach Mickey Joseph confirmed he will use a redshirt this season after Prochazka was spotted with a brace on his right arm—which means some potential shakeup on the offensive line.

“We need to work more fundamentals with them this week,” Joseph said post-game. “We have to find a five, a good combination of five of them, and see how it works. We have to look at some young kids. We have to look at some backups and see if they can help us.”

There’s a lot that could be said—and you can read a lot of it in Brandon Vogel’s bullet points from Saturday—but we’ll leave it here: Boomer Sooner was played a lot at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. That’s to be expected when Oklahoma scores seven touchdowns (and adds plenty of other reasons to celebrate from start to finish).

As for Nebraska, the Huskers head into a much-needed bye week to regroup. What can be accomplished in that time?

“A lot,” Joseph said.

The Unexpected

Chubba Purdy: Raise your hand if you had Purdy playing by midway through the third quarter on Saturday. Anyone? Bueller?

The reason Nebraska put Purdy in the game over Thompson was an easy one for Joseph to answer. “We needed to get Chubba some reps,” Joseph said in a matter-of-fact tone. As for how Purdy performed?

“I thought Chubba played OK when he got in there,” Joseph said. “He made some mistakes but I thought he was aggressive and he gave us chance to sustain drives.”

Purdy ended his day 7-of-11 for 35 yards and one interception through the air. He added another 29 yards over five carries on the ground, which included this touchdown late in the game.

There had been a lot of unknown about what Purdy was capable of behind Thompson, but he showed what he can do when called upon. As Joseph noted, there were mistakes but the experience could prove to be invaluable down the line. Nebraska now has three quarterbacks on its roster with experience in big games, which feels unexpected but more than welcome at this point.

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