It’s not time for Nebraska Cornhuskers fans to panic about the defense yet — we hope

Bob Diaco-Nebraska football

If you’re a Cornhuskers fan, why make a long night longer? Make yourself a promise — if, for nothing else, to help your families enjoy the rest of the Labor Day weekend in peace without having to worry about you reaching for sharp objects unrelated the grill.

If Oregon drops 50 or more on Nebraska next week, panic. Run screaming through the hills in your tighty whities. Wake the neighbors. Scare the dog.

Until then, don’t.

The Big Red stifled Arkansas State to a three-and-out to start the game and a three-and-out late on the Red Wolves’ last drive of third quarter. It was the seven straight possessions in the middle, there, and 26 points that A-State put together during that stretch, that left the locals walking away from Memorial Stadium a little … edgy.

OK. A lot edgy.


Actually, there was far more to love than not from the Huskers’ opening night, scoreboard notwithstanding, from Tanner Lee flashing the NFL arm, the NFL touch and the NFL poise; to Tre Bryant and his 164 yards on the ground through three quarters; to Stanley Morgan Jr. and J.D. Spielman making magic along the boundary; to Caleb Lightbourne launching absolute rockets.

But in a tilt that everyone walks into presuming the outcome to be a foregone conclusion, style points take on a lot more meaning. Especially when the other half of the preseason hype train — the 3-4 scheme implemented by new defensive coordinator Bob Diaco — fails to impress out of the starting gate.

The Huskers went into the half with 27 points on the board, which was just how the script writers drew it up. One catch: The Red Wolves trotted back to the locker room with 26 of their own, which wasn’t in the first few drafts at all.

The first 15 minutes featured 31 combined points, 215 total yards from both offenses, and four lead changes. Arkansas State racked up more passing yards by halftime (245) than eight Big Red opponents had managed for an entire game in 2016.

The Red Wolves countered Diaco’s heat up the gut by playing pitch-and-catch with abandon on the perimeter. Dink. Dunk. Dink again.

Eventually, the superior strength, speed and adjustments won out, putting A-State on the back foot for most of the last 25 minutes.

On the whole, the tackling was better than where we left things in the Mark Banker Era, for whatever that’s worth. And the passing game was on a completely different level from the previous two seasons, despite some early butterflies. A Red Wolves defense that returned five starters from a unit that ranked ninth nationally in fewest points allowed per drive last fall, so there was a sneaky feeling that Lee was going to have to earn whatever he got.

What was more surprising were the Arkansas State explosion plays — including a wheel route from Justice Hansen to Chris Murray for a 29-yard catch-and run with 2:12 left in the first period that made it 13-10, Red Wolves.

And we were off to the races.

For a while, at least.

The evening was comfortable, but uncomfortably comfortable. And you can trace that directly to a defense that remains a work in progress.

Or was just playing possum.

We think.

We hope.

It’ll get better, of only because it’ll have to be. The Ducks hit the 70-point mark early in the fourth quarter late Saturday night in Eugene. If Oregon pulls the same trick in Week 2, sharp objects will be the least of your loved ones’ worries.

The post It’s not time for Nebraska Cornhuskers fans to panic about the defense yet — we hope appeared first on Land of 10.

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