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September 17, 2011

Washington vs. Nebraska report card

Nebraska improved to 3-0 on the season on Saturday after the 51-38 win over Washington.

Here is the final report card grade out from Saturday's win over the Huskies.

Rushing offense: A

Nebraska dominated this aspect of the game, rushing for 309 yard on 55 carries to go along with four touchdowns. Maybe most impressively they grinded it out on the ground with consistent runs of 4 to 6 yards. In the third quarter alone NU rushed for 131 yards highlighted by a nine play 86 yard scoring drive that featured eight running plays. This was the consistency that has been missing the last two weeks and the offensive line did a great job of opening up holes the entire game. Rex Burkhead led the way with 120 yards and two touchdowns, while Taylor Martinez had 83 yards. Freshmen running backs Aaron Green and Braylon Heard combined for 70 yards on 10 carries off the bench. It was good that Tim Beck was able to get these guys going after not seeing the field last week against Fresno State.

Passing offense: B-

Martinez missed some guys open down field today and had a couple of moments that made you hold your breath, but the bottom line is he got the job done. Martinez was 10-of-21 for 155 yards, but he didn't throw a single interception. On the game's opening play he connected with Kenny Bell for 50 yards and he also threw a perfect ball to Green on a wheel route for a 25 yard touchdown. This offense continues to take steps in the right direction and I thought Martinez took a step forward in the passing game today. I still think he needs to work on being more consistent on his short routes and also not locking in on his first read down field.

Rushing defense: C

It was a so-so performance for Nebraska's rushing defense. Chris Polk finished with 22 carries for 130 yards and a touchdown, which was right around his average going into the game. Polk is a talented running back and maybe the best back NU will see all season. He's going to get his yards, and for the most part Nebraska kept him in check when it mattered. Defensively the Blackshirts did a great job of setting the tone in the third quarter by forcing Washington into a key three-and-out, which fueled NU's 27 point scoring run.

Passing defense: D

Senior corner Alfonzo Dennard was close to playing Saturday. He went through some of pregame warm-ups and Carl Pelini said he's 95 percent right now and the 5 percent for him is probably more mental than anything. The bottom line is NU's secondary desperately needs Dennard back. Keith Price threw for 274 yards and four touchdowns, as Washington was 7-of-14 on third downs. Andrew Green continues to struggle at times in coverage, while there were also multiple missed tackles in space. Austin Cassidy and Lavonte David came up with big interceptions though to help seal the deal for the Huskers on defense.

Special teams: B

Mistakes and penalties on special teams were the story of this game on Saturday. Nebraska made a couple of mistakes on special teams, but Washington made several that ultimately played a huge hand in the final outcome of this game. Ameer Abdullah had a 66 yard kick return and averaged 41 yards on four kick returns. Brett Maher shanked one punt, but still averaged 40.8 yards on four attempts and was perfect on three field goal tries. Eric Martin made his presence felt on kick coverage for the first time this season.


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