Here are my four takeaways from Saturday.
Four Takeaways in Nebraska’s 35-11 Win Over Northern Illinois
1. Tony White Has Worked Miracles
Through three games, defensive coordinator Tony White has not only implemented a new defense, but he has created a defense that has shown so much progress. Against the Huskies, Nebraska didn’t allow 100 total yards until about two minutes left in the game.
Nebraska’s defense is a big reason why the Huskers have stayed in games as long as they had and have bailed out the offense so many times.
They had to bail out the offense a few times in the first half against Northern Illinois, especially after a fumble inside its five-yard line. The Blackshirts would stop the Huskies three straight times and force only a field goal. Those three points would be the only points for Northern Illinois until less than 30 seconds left in the game.
Overall, if the defense can keep this up, it should be a great season on that side of the ball.
2. Quarterback Play was Much Better
Heinrich Haarberg started in the first game in his career and he played well because of junior Jeff Sims getting injured against Colorado. The only playing experience Haarberg had before playing Saturday was late in the Colorado game two weeks ago.
The sophomore quarterback would lead the offense on a fast first drive and scored on a 10-yard pass to senior Billy Kemp IV to cap off a six-play, 55-yard drive. Excluding the first drive, it was a slow start for Haarberg as the offense stalled until the end of the first half where Haarberg threw a 16-yard pass to sophomore Thomas Fidone for a touchdown to go up 14-3 going into the half.
Haarberg would improve play in the second half, taking advantage of the success of the defense. The offense would score 21 points in the second half, including a 20-yard option that went into the endzone.
Haarberg finished passing 14/24 for 158 yards and two touchdowns. Haarberg led the team in rushing with 98 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown. After that performance, there could be a quarterback controversy in Lincoln for the next few weeks.
3. There is a Lot to Polish before Michigan on Offense
Despite a much better performance against Northern Illinois, there was still inconsistency with offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield’s offense. Excluding the flairs of the triple option on Nebraska’s six-play touchdown drive to start the game, the offense still struggled in the first half.
The offensive line has gotten a bit better compared to the last two games but still had some struggles. The line played a major role in Nebraska’s only turnover of the game, which was a fumble off of a sack. They wouldn’t allow another sack the rest of the game but a factor in that was that Haarberg had to get out of the pocket multiple times.
The Huskers only have one more game, against Louisiana Tech, before No. 2 Michigan comes to town on Saturday, Sep 30.
4. First of Many in the Future
Coach Rhule got his first win at Nebraska after two rough road losses to start his tenure in Lincoln. Better yet, Coach Rhule got his first win in front of a packed crowd at Memorial Stadium.
The win over the Huskies helps the team get a much-needed boost of confidence and will help to go against Louisiana Tech this coming Saturday.
The win last Saturday shows that it will be the first of many in the future. What I mean by that is that this win was something that Coach Rhule has been wanting. This win will go a long way for year one and possibly help the Huskers get to a bowl game.
With a weak Big Ten West once again, a bowl game can be achievable in year one and Nebraska could be in the running for the division title. This will still be very difficult to achieve but getting to a bowl game can be achievable and will boost the confidence that Nebraska fans have had in it’s team in the past.
Main Image: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports