If you’re a Cornhuskers fan, why make a long night longer? Make yourself a promise — if, for nothing else, to help your families enjoy the rest of the Labor Day weekend in peace without having to worry about you reaching for sharp objects unrelated to the grill.
If Oregon drops 50 or more on Nebraska next week, panic. Run screaming through the hills in your tighty whities. Wake the neighbors. Scare the dog.
Until then, don’t.
The Big Red stifled Arkansas State to a three and out to start the game and a three and out late on the Red Wolves’ last drive of third quarter. It was the seven straight possessions in the middle, there, and the 26 points that A-State put together during that stretch, that left the locals walking away from Memorial Stadium a little … edgy.
OK. A lot edgy.
— FriedYo (@FriedYo) September 3, 2017
— Scott (@scottyankey) September 3, 2017
— Joe Dirt in Nebraska (@JoeDirtNEBRASKA) September 3, 2017
Actually, there was far more to love than not from the Huskers’ opening night, scoreboard notwithstanding, from Tanner Lee flashing the NFL arm, the NFL touch and the NFL poise; to Tre Bryant and his 164 yards on the ground through three quarters; to Stanley Morgan Jr. and JD Spielman making magic along the boundary; to punter Caleb Lightbourn launching absolute rockets.
But in a tilt that everyone walks into presuming the outcome to be a foregone conclusion, style points take on a lot more juice. Especially when the other half of the preseason hype train — the 3-4 scheme implemented by new defensive coordinator Bob Diaco — fails to impress out of the starting gate.
This offense is going to put up points. That’s good because this defense is going to give up points. #Huskers
— Luke Oakman (@loakman) September 3, 2017
The Huskers went into the half with 27 points on the board, which was just how the script writers drew it up. One catch: The Red Wolves trotted back to the locker room with 26 of their own, which wasn’t in the first few drafts at all.
The first 15 minutes featured 31 combined points, 215 total yards from both offenses and four lead changes. Arkansas State racked up more passing yards by halftime (245) than eight Big Red opponents had managed for an entire game in 2016.
The Red Wolves countered Diaco’s heat up the gut by playing pitch and catch with abandon on the perimeter. Dink. Dunk. Dink again.
Eventually, the superior strength, speed and adjustments won out, putting A-State on the back foot for most of the last 25 minutes. On the whole, the tackling was better than where we left things in the Mark Banker Era, for whatever that’s worth.
And the passing game was on a completely different level from the previous two seasons, despite some early butterflies. A Red Wolves defense that returned five starters from a unit that ranked ninth nationally in fewest points allowed per drive last fall, so there was a sneaky feeling that Lee was going to have to earn whatever he got.
More surprising were the Arkansas State explosion plays — including a wheel route from Justice Hansen to Chris Murray for a 29-yard catch and run with 2 minutes, 12 seconds left in the first period that made it 13-10, Red Wolves.
And we were off to the races.
For a while, at least.
The evening was comfortable, but uncomfortably comfortable. And you can trace that directly to a defense that remains a work in progress.
Or was just playing possum.
This game doesn’t scare you because of the score. It scares you on what the rest of the season might look like. #Huskers
— The NASCAR Superman (@NASCARSuperman) September 3, 2017
It’ll get better, if only because it’ll have to be. The Ducks came out firing with the track feet of old, dropping 77 on Southern Utah late Saturday night in Eugene. If Oregon pulls the same trick in Week 2, sharp objects will be the least of your loved ones’ worries.