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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

NU - OU 2005 - A Look Back

Here is a look at last year’s match up with Oklahoma.

Nebraska entered that game with a 5-2 record (2-2 Big 12), while OU came in with a 4-3 (3-1 Big 12) mark. It is also important to remember that Nebraska struggled most of the year with sluggish starts. In this particular game, the Sooners would use that to their advantage.

On Nebraska’s first play from scrimmage, OU’s Calvin Thibodeaux broke threw the line and sacked Zac Taylor for a 9-yard loss. This would be a harbinger of things to come. After forcing a three-and-out, the Sooners took possession. On their third play from scrimmage Adrian Peterson broke one right up the middle for a 36-yard TD and a 7-0 lead.

In the second quarter OU added another touchdown run from Peterson, and Jordan Congdon notched a field goal for the Huskers. With just over a minute to play in the second quarter Nebraska found itself trailing 14-3 with the ball on the OU 42-yard line. After calling a timeout to regroup, Zac Taylor launched a pass that was intercepted by Chijioke Onyenegecha and returned 63-yards for a Sooner score. Nebraska went into halftime behind 21-3.

The third period was essentially dominated by Nebraska. The Blackshirts gave up 3 points during this period and limited the Sooners to just six yards offensively. Unfortunately, the Husker offense managed just one touchdown in the third quarter on a 3-yard pass to Terrence Nunn. As the fourth quarter began, NU trailed 24-10.

The Nebraska offense finally showed signs of life early in the fourth period and scored on a 25-yard completion to Nate Swift to cut the lead to 24-17. Oklahoma’s next series would then be marked by controversy. With the ball on the NU 17, Kejuan Jones got the call and found a crease in the Nebraska defense. As he got to the corner, however, he appeared to benefit from a hold by one of the Sooner receivers. The partisan Nebraska crowd lobbied for the call, but with no laundry littering the field, a chorus of boos rained down. This no-call continues to live in infamy thanks to a dubious gesture on the part of Coach Callahan following a confrontation with the officials.

I personally never saw what the hubbub was about. I see frustration rather than malice and doubt that Callahan’s intentions were to threaten, intimidate or maim the officials. Honestly I am far more offended by the asinine "jump shot" celebration that is all the rage these days.

Anyway, Nebraska would get the ball back and start its next to last series on its 30-yard line. Taylor would then complete consecutive passes of 14 yards, 15 yards and 23 yards to Terrence Nunn, Cory Ross and Nate Swift. The Huskers then broke out the trickery and Cory Ross found a wide open Nate Swift on an I-Back pass. Thus, with 5:56 left to play in the game, Nebraska trailed just 31-24.

Oklahoma then reclaimed possession and managed to burn 3:19 before punting the ball away. Nebraska would, therefore, open its final series from its own 27, with 2:37 on the clock. That final drive looked like this:

Taylor hits Grant Mulkey for 9 yards. NU is at its own 36.
Taylor’s pass was incomplete.
On third-and-one at the 36. Taylor picks up the first down with a 2-yard rush.
First down at NU’s 38. False start penalty.
First-and-14 at the 34. Taylor is sacked for a loss of seven.
Second and 21 at the 27. Taylor is pressured and the pocket collapses. He manages to find some room and hurries a throw deep down field. His rushed toss overshoots a wide open Nate Swift who would have walked into the endzone.

Of this play, Taylor would later say:
“I think that play will probably haunt me for the rest of my life. It's tough. He was open, and just a little too much adrenaline, I guess. I would love to take that play back, but that's football.”
Instead the drive continued.

Third and 21 at the NU 27. Taylor completes a 19-yard pass to I-back Cory Ross at the NU 46. Five yard penalty - Ineligible man downfield..
Third and 26 at the NU 22.Taylor throws incomplete to Frantz Hardy.
Fourth and 26 at the Husker 22. Taylor is sacked for the ninth (are you kidding me?) and final time.

Key Statistics

Final Score: Oklahoma 31 – Nebraska 24
NU Rushing: 34 carries – 16 yards (I-Backs: 18 carries – 31 yards)
NU Passing: 26-46-2, 267 yards

Scripted Plays (First 20 play calls):
7 Runs/13 Passes (First 5 drives were all 3 and out)
Total Yards: 49
First Downs: 2
Points: 3

1st Down Run/Pass Balance:
9 runs/24 passes


· I would rather us not show up at all than produce just 16 yards rushing this year.

· Speaking of our running game, it looks like BJax will once again carry the load. Both Marlon Lucky (back) and Cody Glenn (foot) are questionable. Unfortunately, our two healthy backs have both shown a propensity for fumbles. We have to have a positive turnover margin to win.

· With a non-existent running attack, take a look at Callahan’s first down play calls from a year ago. So do we see more balance this year on 1st down or a run-heavy split instead?

· I fully expect us to get off to a better start this year. Last year OU became the third straight opponent to score on its first drive against the Blackshirts. This season most fans are probably more concerned about another 2nd half collapse.

· Oklahoma has been known for its aggressive, attacking defense. I like that their secondary may have to avoid selling out on the run this year, due to concerns about trick plays.

· Finally, we have to keep Zac Taylor clean (and alive) this year. The offensive line is still banged up, but ought to protect him better than a year ago. Something to keep an eye on is how Taylor responds to poor protection or early troubles getting into a rhythm. Teams that keep him off balance early on have had pretty good success.