Saturday, September 5, 2009

Smooth debut for Big Red

Burn this, Howard!

Florida Atlantic made some news just a few days before Saturday’s 49-3 loss to Nebraska. The Owls recently lit an over-sized Nebraska "N" on fire during a pep rally in Boca Raton.
Over 1,000 fans were at Florida Atlantic's pep rally, where head coach Howard Schnellenberger ignited the Nebraska "N.”

The event was video-taped and placed on the internet, which has reached Lincoln. Owls quarterback Rusty Smith even semi-joked how it took gasoline to burn the “N.” Hey Rusty, that’s what happens when you combine matches with gasoline. What chemistry class did you fail at Florida Atlantic?

Honesty, that event had nothing to do with Nebraska, which hosts Arkansas State Saturday Sept. 12, taking the Owls behind the woodshed.

The only thing surprising about Nebraska’s win was the smoothness of its performance. Since head coach Bo Pelini is a perfectionist, you can bet your next paycheck that he will find something to get the team’s attention. However, considering this was the first game of the season, the performance was pretty smooth – which is an encouraging sign for a team that made a few too many mental mistakes for Plini’s taste diring a 9-4 campaign in 2008.

Offensively, the Huskers took a “use the pass to set up the run” approach. Even with the passing game being more mainstream in football, an efficient ground-game is still vital. However, the tried and true “run to set up the pass” theory is outmoded.

In the first half quarterback Zac Lee was 10-of-15 for 153 yards for two touchdowns, finishing the contest 15-of-22 for 213 yards. The completion percentage would have been even better if not for a few dropped passes. Running back Roy Helu carried 16 times for 152 yards and three touchdowns despite not playing the last quarter and a half before giving way to true freshman Rex Burkhead. At halftime, Helu had 12 carries for 56 yards.

In a nutshell, you pass to get the lead, you run to seal the win. Lee was not asked to do a lot in his Div. I-A debut but he didn’t need to. However, at some point, the rubber will meet road.

Defensively, the Huskers faced an Owls team that has talent at both quarterback and receiver but it mattered none with little running game (FAU produced just 3.5 yards per carry). Plus, the Owls had no answer for Husker defensive tacle Ndamukong Suh. Then again, who does. It’s not just Suh’s seven tackles and one sack. It’s his relentless pursuit of ballcarriers downfield and the double-teams that he consumes.

Nebraska’s pressure was like a blast-furace early in the game before declining later as the Owls went to more max-protection looks. Even more encouraging was the solid play of the Huskers young linebackers and the fact that the defense produced three takeaways after getting just 17 last season. The tackling was also pretty sure as well.

The special teams performance was also encouraging after last year’s inconsistent efforts and Jared Crick came up huge with a blocked field goal.


Very good performance for a first game. There were a few delay of game penalties and false starts but nothing too glaring. Keep in mind; the Huskers are breaking in a new quarterback.
The coaches kept the play-calling pretty simple considering the opponent. It’s not like the Owls are going to be in a January bowl game. Nonetheless, the team executed the game-plan it was asked to execute which is always encouraging.

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