NCAA Football News
After losing 27-22 at the hands of Michigan State, the Nebraska Cornhuskers now get a week off to recover. Never has a bye week arrived at a better time.
There was no denying that the Huskers fought from start to finish against the Spartans. In fact, it could have been a shutout had Nebraska not stuck with it in the second half. However, Michigan State also exposed a couple of things that the Huskers need to work on during the bye week.
First and foremost, Nebraska's offensive line needs to regroup. Prior to facing Michigan State, the offensive line actually looked like the Huskers' X-factor. Plenty of people were singing the unit's praises, like Illinois head coach Tim Beckman.
"Their offensive line is very good," Beckman said after losing to Nebraska. "I think Ameer [Abdullah] would be the first one to tell you that."
However, things were much different against the Spartans. Nebraska was only able to get 47 rushing yards on 37 attempts, which equals only 1.3 yards per attempt. Beyond that, the communications and general discipline seemed to go out the window.
Mark Pelini struggled with snapping the ball on the correct clap count, leaving quarterback Tommy Armstrong unprepared a number of times. Alex Lewis racked up holding call after holding call, while the entire offensive line allowed five sacks. That's a season high, for the record.
And then there was Jake Cotton's false start. Not exactly what the offensive line wanted to be remembered for against the Spartans.
In the week off, the group needs to re-evaluate. While Michigan State was a superior opponent to any team the Huskers previously faced this season, there really is no excuse for the abysmal performance the offensive line put forward.
Whatever the Huskers do in the week off, the first thing that needs to be addressed is getting the offensive line back to where people like Beckman are singing their praises. Without them, Abdullah won't be able to run like the Huskers need him to, and Armstrong will be error-prone.
Speaking of which, Armstrong also needs to readjust during the bye week. The sophomore reverted to old habits against Michigan State, something he was so clear he would avoid, as reported by Josh Harvey of Big Red Report (subscription required):
I’m a lot different. It was new to me. It was my first year actually starting as a redshirt freshman. I saw new things. I saw certain guys. It was just different. I think things have slowed down. I’m getting more physical when it comes to running. I’m trying to make smarter decisions and stuff like that, just putting my offense in the right position.
Armstrong can't be fully to blame. As pointed out, his offensive line wasn't exactly giving him much protection. However, the quarterback often looked rushed when he didn't need to be.
Prior to Michigan State, Armstrong had thrown for 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Spartans were daring Armstrong to win with his arm, which he could have done, but the sophomore couldn't find his groove.
An improvement over last season was that Armstrong was visibly louder on the sidelines as he attempted to keep his team motivated. He now needs to take that leadership and also use it on himself.
Where do the Huskers go from here? The team still controls their own destiny in the Big Ten and could likely face Michigan State again.
"Oh, we're going to respond," Abdullah said after Michigan State. "We're going to get to Indiana."
If nothing else, that's the attitude the whole team needs to build upon during the bye week.
Quotes were obtained firsthand at multiple Nebraska post-game press conference, unless otherwise noted.
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