From one of the all-time best Cornhuskers – Rex Burkhead – being introduced to a roaring crowd to the legendary Tom Osborne leading the Cornhuskers onto the field one last time, it was a Senior Day to remember Saturday, as Nebraska pounded Minnesota 38-14 at Memorial Stadium.The Huskers got out to a five-touchdown lead. Every senior got to play and so did a lot of second- and third-stringers.
An increasingly confident Taylor Martinez took center stage, completing 21 of 29 passes for 308 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
It added up to the fifth consecutive win for the Huskers (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten), their longest winning streak since Martinez started his career with five consecutive wins as a redshirt freshman.
Here are my top three observations on the Huskers' big win:
1. The NU defensive line has noticeably improved against the run. Moving Cameron Meredith from end to tackle is one of the best moves of the season and Baker Steinkuhler has had a solid senior season. Hawkeye-turned-Cornhusker defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski will return to Iowa City with a solid Husker d-line.
2. Kenny Bell, the talented sophomore from Boulder, Colo., wrapped up a first-team All Big Ten selection at wide receiver with seven catches, including two for touchdowns. Daimion Stafford helped his chances as an all-conference safety by getting an interception. Running back Ameer Abdullah, who passed the 1,000-yard mark against Minnesota, is a darkhorse candidate for all-conference honors, and he's becoming a more intelligent runner each week. Abdullah is looking a little more like his mentor, Burkhead, as he makes mid-run adjustments to find creases in the defense.
3. The punt return game is still a big weakness for Nebraska, but I think it will improve, just as the rest of the team has. I like the decision to put Jamal Turner back to field punts, giving Abdullah more rest. Hopefully, Turner will gain confidence in the kick return game to the same degree he has done it catching passes in pressure situations.
Tad Stryker is the former sports editor of the North Platte Bulletin and provides analysis after each Husker football game for Bulletin readers. Stryker also writes for HuskerMax. (http://www.huskermax.com).