With the Huskers’ win against Rutgers Saturday, Sept. 23, Nebraska advanced to a 2-2 record this season. It’s not where fans expected to be four weeks into the season, but — at this point — Husker fans are just happy to get a win.
To be clear, it was not a pretty win.
There were a lot of issues, and it was a particularly boring game with both teams struggling to move the ball. That said, Nebraska’s performance offered some things for the Huskers to take note of before their matchup against Illinois this Friday.
It might be time to give O’Brien a shot
Tanner Lee’s two interceptions against Rutgers brought his season total to nine. Those interceptions kept Lee ranked No. 1 in college football interceptions this season.
Lee has thrown into three pick sixes this year, and while he has had some solid drives, he continues to be inconsistent and give up too many points. Last week’s struggles were due partly to the failures on the part of the offensive line.
This week, Lee has no one else to blame.
He only posted 109 yards, and while he did record two touchdowns, there’s no reason for a quarterback to post the same number of touchdowns and interceptions in a game.
There’s no guarantee that Patrick O’Brien will be better than Lee. But with Wisconsin coming up next week and Ohio State the week after, Lee doesn’t stand a chance. Both teams have quality defenses that will only boost his interception count.
Lee has shown he doesn’t have the running capabilities a quarterback needs to get out of a tough pocket situation. O’Brien hasn’t had a good chance to show his running abilities, but it would be difficult for him to struggle more than Lee.
O’Brien might not solve all the Huskers’ problems, but NU has more to lose by keeping Lee as its first-string quarterback.
Ozigbo has earned a shot at a starting position
Junior I-back Devine Ozigbo was the Huskers’ leading returning rusher coming into the season, but that status wasn’t enough to keep Ozigbo from falling to No. 3 on the Nebraska depth chart.
Ozigbo didn’t take the field against either Arkansas State or Oregon. Last weekend, he had only two carries for 8 yards in the Huskers’ loss to Northern Illinois. Things didn’t look good for Ozigbo in the first quarter against Rutgers either, as he didn’t touch the ball once.
Ozigbo dominated the next three quarters.
He had five carries in the second quarter and 19 more carries in the second half. Ozigbo’s 24-carry, 101-yard performance was one of his best as a Husker. His 24 carries were a career high, and he fell just 2 yards short of his career record.
Ozigbo’s size and power allowed him to extend plays for several extra yards in situations where Bryant and Wilbon would’ve been taken down immediately.
Despite Ozigbo’s achievements, head coach Mike Riley has repeatedly indicated he plans to stick to the current depth chart.
Without trying to discredit Wilbon’s contributions or Bryant’s accomplishments this year, it’s fair to say Ozigbo has more than earned an opportunity to start against Illinois.
The Blackshirts have become the bright spot for the Huskers
After the Blackshirts’ awful performance in Week 1, fans were skeptical of defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s new 3-4 defensive scheme.
Apparently, the Blackshirts just needed a few more weeks to figure out the implementation of the new formation.
The Huskers have shown a progressively improving defense, and that defense was the highlight of Nebraska’s performance against Rutgers. The Blackshirts allowed only 194 total yards by the Scarlet Knights, the fewest yards allowed in a game during the Mike Riley era at Nebraska.
Outside linebacker Luke Gifford and inside linebacker Dedrick Young II led the Blackshirts with six tackles apiece, including one tackle for a loss by each player. Gifford and Antonio Reed both recorded interceptions against Rutgers, as well.
The Blackshirts certainly aren’t flawless. But compared to the Huskers’ offensive struggles, the defense put on an impressive performance against Rutgers. The defense isn’t the main concern anymore. Now, Nebraska needs to figure out its quarterback situation.
The Huskers will travel to Champaign, Illinois, to take on the University of Illinois on Friday, Sept. 29, at 7 p.m.