Players, and coaches, step up in win over Arkansas State
By Jason Arens, Hub Sports Writer
Defensive coordinator John Papuchis talked a lot about his players overcoming adversity against Arkansas State in the postgame coverage. He forgot to mention that the coaching staff did as well.
With the scrutiny and blame-game mounting up after a subpar performance at Pasadena, the Nebraska coaches worked to get the right gameplan in place for a tricky Gus Malzahn team – Bo Pelini’s illness made their apparent tireless effort throughout the week seem tangible.
“It’s been a very trying and emotional week,” Papuchis said.
The Cornhuskers found success by relying on the foundation that we’ve all come to expect at Nebraska: good defense and a solid rushing attack.
The reigning Sun Belt Conference player of the year, Ryan Aplin, was held to 138 yards passing. In the second quarter Arkansas State had a 1st and 10 from the 16 yard-line. Held to a field goal. Again in the third quarter, a 1st and 10 from the 15 yard-line. Held to a field goal.
Zaire Anderson gave a new look at linebacker. Damion Stafford lowered the boom made ASU receivers think twice about crossing the middle of the field. Eric Martin brought the speed and power from the defensive end position that we’ve been waiting for all season. Who would’ve thought that more pressure on the quarterback meant a lower accuracy rating?
Offensively it was all about the front line, and Ameer Abdullah. We saw Abdullah’s potential at UCLA, and he confirmed it Saturday with 167 yards rushing on 30 carries. 30 carries? That’s a load. Tim Beck wasn’t surprised though.
“That’s him,” the NU offensive coordinator said of Abdullah. “People didn’t get a chance to see him when I recruited him, and to see what a powerful runner he was. I’m happy for him, he’s work extremely hard to put himself in this position.”
Most importantly, Abdullah’s abilities enabled Taylor Martinez to take on the “facilitator” role – a role he’s much more effective in, compared to being relied upon as the playmaker. Don’t get me wrong, Martinez is a playmaker, but he’s going to be a lot more effective when he’s not the only player the opposing defense is focused on. Against Arkansas State Taylor threw for the same amount of yards and two more touchdowns compared to the UCLA game, on 17 less passing attempts.
Kenny Bell is proving to be more and more irreplaceable as the season continues. His first touchdown catch was a great grab that takes awareness and agility that not many players possess. He also had a big kick return close to midfield, capping it off by hopping the fence and urging on the fans. He could be a real game-changer in the future.
As much as we didn’t want to see it happen, Rex Burkhead’s injury will make the team stronger down the line. Abdullah has now learned what it takes to be an every down back, while Braylon Heard and Imani Cross are getting extra touches as well. When Nebraska hits that brutal mid-season stretch of games, they may need each and every one of those backs. The more experience now, the better.
Wishing Bo a speedy recovery. In the second paragraph I eluded to his gameday illness, and how his preparation for the game throughout the week may have had something to do with that. That is only speculation on my part. It’s known that Pelini is a very hard worker, and cares greatly about success at Nebraska.