At the end of the day, Nebraska won. But to some players and coaches – it felt more like a loss.
You have to hand it to Wyoming and quarterback Brett Smith. The Cowboys came to play… and play they did. It was close, but the Huskers escaped with a 37-34 win.
“Obviously we have a lot of work to do,” Head coach Bo Pelini says after the game. “I think we will learn a lot from this game.”
“I’m glad we got a win, but I was expecting a cleaner performance. By no means am I panicking.”
Defensively, the Huskers struggled. Allowing over 600 yards – the 8th most in school history – and failing to seal a quarterback referred to as the next Brett Farve by coaches.
“He played well,” Defensive coach John Papuchis says. “I am disappointed in how we played.”
However, Papuchis echoed what Pelini said… we will take the win. He mentions how his brother, an assistant at Kansas State, wished he walked away with a win this week (KState lost to F-C-S North Dakota State on Friday night).
Nebraska had a hard time stopping the quarterback draw and getting pressure on Smith. Papuchis says tackling was a big issue all night.
So was the penalties. Nebraska racked up ten penalties for 84 yards, including a holding call in the second quarter on Mohammed Seisay to extend a Cowboy’s scoring drive.
Some bright spots for the defense: Cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste had a first-quarter interception, snapping Smith’s streak of 183 consecutive passes without an interception. Linebacker David Santos also had a solid outing, getting a career-high of 12 tackles.
He was the only Husker, though, with five or more tackles.
Offensively, the running game was on full display. Ameer Abdullah rushed for 125 yards on 19 carries. Imani Cross also had a big game – 13 carries for 105 yards and two touchdowns, including a 31-yard run that reminded many fans of Rex Burkhead.
“He works hard each day and it shows.” Running backs coach Ron Brown says about Cross. Aside from the run out of bounds towards the end of the fourth quarter to stop the clock, coach Brown says he was impressed with Cross’ performance.
Freshman running back Terrell Newby made a big impact in his debut for the Huskers. Newby played a good chunk of the second half, racking up 76 yards in 15 carries. Coach Brown was pleased with his performance and how he was reading the holes.
An injury note, quarterback Taylor Martinez seemed to have injured his left arm during the game. At times, it seemed he was operating with one arm. However, offensive coach Tim Beck says Martinez suffered a bruise and was banged up… but should be OK.
While the media was waiting for player interviews, Martinez quickly walked by. He showed signs that he banged-up his arm, but confirmed what Beck said.
“How’s the arm, Taylor?”
“It’s fine.” He says.
Whether it was a young defense in the spotlight for the first time, the heat (and cramps… lots of cramps), injuries or the fast pace of Wyoming’s offense that caught Nebraska off-guard, Pelini says they have plenty to work on for Southern Miss next Saturday.
The close win was also a milestone for Pelini, his 50th at Nebraska. The Huskers also extend the nation-leading win streak of season openers to 28-straight games.