Is that the old monster rising up again out there on the Great Plains?
I canít quite tell from this distance. Is that him? Heís not quite the way he used to look, is he? But I think heíll be getting a lot of peopleís attention. Very soon.
There was definitely something familiar Ė almost comforting Ė about Nebraskaís 52-10 thrashing of Nevada Saturday. It took Cornhusker fans back to the good old days of the early 1980s. It felt like old times to see Nebraska take control midway through the third quarter and know that the Husker reserves were going to get a lot of experience. Itís therapeutic indeed to see a fourth-string Nebraska I-back scoring in the fourth quarter, isnít it?
Was that Mark Schellen plowing up the middle on thefullback dive? No, that was freshman Quentin Castille, who toted the pigskin twice from the fullback position, something that hadnít happened at NU since November 2004. Was that Turner Gill running the option? No, it was Joe Ganz, tickling the sellout crowdís fancy with a token option run after coming in for fourth-quarter mop-up duty.
When was the last time the TV commentators were struggling to find something interesting to talk about during a NU blowout win? You could almost hear ABC affiliates all over thenation switching to other closer games in the second half.
But it was all fascinating for the hardcore Husker fan to watch. Offensive line dominance. Thirty-five first downs. Wearing down the opponent in the second half.
And you tell me that these Huskers can THROW the ball, too?
This group will not be mistaken for the Scoring Explosion, at least not yet. But this was at least a glimpse of Bill Callahanís West Coast offense as it was meant to be run. Maybe Callahan wasnít just blowing smoke four years ago after all when he told anxious Husker fans that the Big Red would continue to run the football. But first, Callahan had to recruit offensive linemen who could do the job, and thatís what has happened. The Huskers have their best o-line depth since the 1990s and that could make this season a very interesting one.
Nebraska pounded Nevada up front on both sides of the ball, outrushing the Pack 413-77 (the highest single-game rushing total of the Callahan era) and Marlon Lucky looked fast, shifty and durable, rushing for a personal-best 233 yards and three touchdowns. Lucky scored one more by catching Sam Kellerís first touchdown pass as a Husker.
Big Red fans, who had anxiously looked forward to the first game of the season, feasted on good news. Nebraska scored 24 points in the third quarter, almost half of its total third-quarter output last season. The Blackshirts gave up only 184 total yards and held Nevada to only one of 13 on third-down conversions. A lot of young players got valuable experience and by the end of the third quarter, Sam Keller seemed to have gotten into the flow of the game.
Keller looked out of synch in the first quarter, and so did the NU receivers, who dropped several passes (the drops were actually the most concerning part of the game). Keller appeared to have a hard time adjusting to the play clock after 22 months out of action, and he forced a pass he shouldnít have, and it turned into an interception which Nevada returned 80 yards for a touchdown. But Keller will catch up.
Did I mention that Zackary Bowman played Ė quite well, thank you Ė about three weeks ahead of schedule? Or that Cody Glenn looked healthy enough, but he had to wait in line behind Castille, who did most of his running from the I-back spot when Lucky was taken out to rest? Castille looks like heíll become a dominant running back.
The only bad news of the day was the knee injury suffered by defensive tackle Ty Steinkuhler, the son of Outland Trophy winner and Scoring Explosion mainstay Dean Steinkuhler, who lined up at offensive guard. Hopefully, it wonít keep him out of the lineup for long.
Sure, this was only Nevada. The Wolfpack played Miami within one point in their bowl game last December, but this unit was hurt by graduation, injuries and a key suspension to their top defensive player. That being said, this was a better team than the New Mexico States and the Utah States that NU used to feast on a quarter-century ago.
This is a Husker team that looks like it could become very dangerous indeed, like the old NU monsters of old. Itís too early to tell whether itís a Top 10 caliber outfit or not, but this one shows a lot of promise.
Something is coming back to life at 10th & Vine in Lincoln. Is that really him stretching and yawning? He looks like heís been asleep for awhile. Does he know how many people have been waiting for his return? Better keep your eye on him.