Instant Analysis: Nebraska runs Fresno State silly in 43-10 win
LINCOLN, NEB. – On an emotional and rainy night in Lincoln, Nebraska ran Fresno State silly in a 43-10 win. The Huskers rushed 51 times for 292 yards in the win. The extreme focus on the run game is a stark contrast to last season, when coach Mike Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf leaned on a pass heavy Tommy Armstrong.
So that’s one thing we learned on Saturday night, here are a few more:
- Seriously. Nebraska wants to run the ball. Like a lot.
Nebraska began the game running 20 out of the first 21 plays.
They let it be known from the beginning: Mike Riley was serious about wanting to run the ball consistently.
And you really can’t blame them when you look at all the options. Nine different Huskers ran the ball on Saturday night, including four running backs, two quarterbacks and three wide receivers.
The only con: at times, Nebraska’s urgency to run was pretty predictable. It’s clear they want to take some teams off guard and throw on downs you’d think they’d run on, like a 3rd and 2 from their own 15, like Nebraska did in the third quarter. But, to their credit, it also set up the game changing play of a 57 yard touchdown pass from Tommy Armstrong to Alonzo Moore.
- Tommy Armstrong is going to run, too
Armstrong ran 11 times for 42 yards and two touchdowns. A little shocking for two reasons.
For one, Armstrong threw 41 times in the opener last season.
Two: It shows that Riley and Langsdorf no longer think they can create Armstrong into the QB they want him to be, and are going to ride his athleticism as far as they can take it.
So we’ll see more of a running and occasionally throwing Armstrong this year, rather than a throwing and occasionally running Armstrong of 2015.
- Devine Ozigbo’s still got it
Despite being the No. 2 running back, Devine Ozigbo got more carries than the No. 1 back Terrell Newby on Saturday night.
Ozigbo finished with 17 rushes for 103 yards and two touchdowns.
In this first game alone, Ozigbo doubled his touchdowns from last year, scoring twice in the first half.
This might not necessarily mean Ozigbo will be the leader in carries from this point forward, but it does say Riley and Langsdorf are very comfortable with the sophomore in the backfield.
- Ross Dzuris could be a beast
DE Ross Dzuris put some good pressure on the quarterback all night. He had two sacks in his first career start. The defensive line in general put decent pressure on Fresno State’s redshirt freshman Chason Virgil, including a third down rush that helped rush a throw which led to the interception by Nebraska safety Kieron Williams.
Nebraska has been looking for a second star on the defensive line that could help compliment Freedom Akinmoladun. They might have found it in Dzuris.
- Nebraska can (kinda) close out games.
Twice in the third quarter Nebraska had the ball, up 21-10, and twice went 3-and-out. Last year Nebraska, constantly, kept teams in the game by not capitalizing on building a bigger lead.
Though Nebraska’s third quarter was promising, a better team than Fresno State could have taken advantage of two possessions near mid-field and scored and kept the game close.
The fourth quarter was a different story, yes, but those two possessions are things that will keep Offensive Coordinator Danny Langsdorf up at night.
Turning point: On the last play of the third quarter, safety Kieron Williams picked off a pass on a big 3rd and 8.
It was Williams’ first career interception and swung the momentum back to Nebraska after Fresno State looked to be threatening to cut the 21-10 lead.
Nebraska went on to throw a 57 yard bomb to Alonzo Moore for a touchdown on the next play, which blew open the lead to 28-10.
Question looming: Where’s De’Mornay Pierson-El?
Despite being the No. 1 punt return man on the roster, junior wide receiver De’Mornay Pierson-El did not return any punts during the Huskers win.
Which kind of begs the question: what’s up with De’Mornay?
Riley seemed like he was confident in the junior’s return, yet still kept the receiver on the sidelines.
Statistically speaking: No interceptions from Tommy Armstrong
Something that any Husker fan will enjoy. He didn’t throw a ton, but no interceptions are no interceptions, and
What it means: A win is a win
The second half was significantly better than the first, which you could attribute to 1) first game jitters and 2) first game without Sam Foltz emotions. After half, Nebraska calmed down and put together a decent half, beyond those two 3-and-out’s in the third quarter.
But a win is a win, and there are plenty of things Nebraska can take away from this game. Which is what you want.
Chris Heady is a staff writer for Landof10 and covers Nebraska football and recruiting. He’s on Twitter @heady_chris.