Before we get started, I should probably preface this by reminding everyone that Nebraska played a terrible, terrible team in Maryland. The Terrapins have been hit by the injury bug for several years now and, along with coaching changes, they just can’t get over the hump. The weird thing is, however, they have still recruited really well. As I mentioned last week, you could easily see the individual talent at the skill positions that are on Maryland’s roster. Unfortunately for them, but fortunate for the Huskers, all that talent doesn’t always create a quality “team.”
And that was just what the doctor ordered for Nebraska. I never saw a win like this coming. It was thorough domination. When was the last time the Huskers whipped a power conference opponent like that? It was also the largest margin of victory in the Scott Frost era. That was fun. The players needed that. The coaches needed that. And, oh, how the fans needed that.
Speaking of fans, you have to give it up to Husker Nation. Even cheering for a team with a losing record, fans showed up and basically took over Maryland’s stadium. Was it like Colorado earlier in the season? No, but it was enough to only hear Nebraska fans cheering and chanting “Luuuuuuuuke” for freshman do-it-all Luke McCaffrey and “Go Big Red” throughout the game. Great fans, and they especially were treated to something fun.
Let’s be honest, Nebraska finally got lucky breaks in this one. Hey, whatever it takes, right? But a lot of times, those “lucky breaks” are also directly linked to hard work and preparation, physical play and flying around having fun on the field. And that’s exactly what we all saw.
It all comes down to this. One game for the chance at a bowl game. Of course, it has to be Iowa, right? Look, Iowa isn’t as good as it’s been in the past few years, but that doesn’t really mean anything against Nebraska. Unless the Huskers can play with the same confidence, passion and smarts like they did last Saturday — for all four quarters — we all know it can get ugly in a hurry. Iowa plays right into NU’s weaknesses. It all starts and ends up front. So Nebraska has to match the physicality of Iowa in the trenches if it has any chance to steal a win.
— If anyone is still wondering why we didn’t see Noah Vedral play, it’s because his high ankle sprain is still lingering. There’s no need of hindering healing time.
— Adrian Martinez showed some flashes of a superstar once again, and he can be really fun to watch. But, man, does he make you cringe once in a while when throwing into a crowd. It was good to see him target the tight ends a few times, but he got away with several dropped interceptions. Better teams don’t let him get away with that.
— Blackshirts football! The Nebraska defense played angry and physical. Regardless of the opponent, that was a true Blackshirts performance. Maryland was held to just 5 of 14 on third down, and the Huskers sacked the quarterbacks six times. It was great to finally see Nebraska get pressure with just rushing four guys at times. Other called blitzes finally hit home, too.
— A lot of things could’ve went wrong for the team on Saturday without having the proper mindset. Apparently, there was a flu bug hitting the team pretty hard. Guys like JD Spielman and Dedrick Mills weren’t even at the practice facility by Wednesday. Spielman ended up having an IV drip at the team hotel before the game. Luke McCaffrey didn’t practice until Thursday, and he even ended up having to play new positions because of all the other injuries to players. The guys really did everything they could do to positively impact the game, showing toughness and leadership while doing so.
— Spielman, what a warrior. The guy has probably been Nebraska’s MVP for two or three years now. He’s just Mr. Consistent. Battling his sickness, he caught seven passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns. A great game that put him into the record books as the only Husker to record three 800-yard receiving seasons.
— Finally having a blowout win gave a lot of younger guys the chance to get on the field. This is really the best way to develop young players. And a lot of those guys really showed out. How about linebackers Joey Johnson and Luke Reimer? These two Nebraska high school phenoms are about as tough as they come. They are absolutely not afraid of contact and will stick their nose right in it. Do they have the measurements of five-star athletes? No, but they will hit you hard, and you saw that for a few plays against Maryland.
— Did you notice the size of a couple of the second-string offensive linemen when they got in? Goodness, those dudes are huge. Left to right went Broc Bando, Matt Sichterman, Will Farniok, Ethan Piper and Bryce Benhart. Piper and Benhart are really the ones to watch for. While Benhart blocks out the sun, Piper (Norfolk Catholic grad) is extremely athletic. On one play in particular Saturday, his assignment was to pull from his right guard spot all the way to the left side. Now, this isn’t anything new to lineman schemes or anything, but the pace in which he did it was something we really haven’t seen here in a long time. It was fast, and it was precise. I had to rewind it to watch it over again. Impressive.
— Nebraska’s roster has been patchwork all season, and nowhere more than at kicker.
Six different guys have lined up to kick for Nebraska, and I would venture to bet that’s never happened before and will never again. So bizarre. Earlier in the season, Frost held open tryouts for anyone who might be able to help out. Well, coming from Nebraska’s club soccer program was Matt Waldoch. To be honest, it’s too bad we didn’t have him from the start of the season as he calmly booted three field goals and made all of his extra points. Major props to him and the other recent addition to the kicking squad in Harrison Martin. He, too, got to kick in the game. Veteran starting kicker Barret Pickering did not travel due to being in concussion protocol from the Wisconsin game. With his injury, he’ll probably be able to take a redshirt season.
— Luke McCaffrey is a tremendous all-around athlete. He runs, he throws, he catches, and heck, he even blocks well. Nebraska was in dire need of wide receivers because of injuries, and McCaffrey didn’t hesitate to help the team there. He’s going to be such a weapon for Nebraska. Even though he might be the quarterback of the future, he’s going to need to work on his passing to really lock that down.
— Loved seeing running back Rahmir Johnson finally getting a chance to play. With him riding the bench all season, just to get this much action late in the season, shows a pretty clear picture that the coaches were planning him for a redshirt season all along.