|AP Photo/Nati Harnik (The Associated Press)|
Defense: Nickel Cover 1 with sprinkled in Cover 4 (less after first drive).
I want to start with Ameer Abdullah, because I should start with Ameer Abdullah, but damn, this guy has me excited right now. Here's the essence of my notes with regards to Collins:
- #7 DT did a good job on zone stretch of keeping his helmet in front of the guard and pressing into OT to not allow OT to come off block. Maintained the double team, kept LBs clean, then anchored and didn't let play get to sideline. Nice play.
- Another nice job by #7 holding up to a double.
- [Makes another play, forcing me to look him up] Ok, Maliek Collins is turning in a good game. He's essentially being doubled every play and isn't giving ground and is keeping LBs clean.
- OH MY GOD. THEY JUST TRIED TO SINGLE TEAM COLLINS! THEY REALLY JUST TRIED THAT. COLLINS DESTROYED THE ENTIRE BACKFIELD.
Basically, Collins went from a guy off my radar, to being a guy that is firmly on my radar every time I watch Nebraska going forward. He has a great understanding of leverage. He fights with his hands and occupies blockers extremely well. When he gets a one-on-one block, he disposes of blockers with great hand violence. Collins is one of the players I will be watching out for going forward. Ex-state champ wrestler and is only a Soph.
The rest of the DL
Seems a bit crazy lumping a probably first day draft pick into "the rest of the DL", but here we go. Gregory has really shown some improvement with his functional strength and with his hands. He had a great pass rush early on where not only did he over power the RT, but he used his hands to get the RT completely off balance and forced him into the QB. Later, he did a great job setting the edge hard, giving no ground, and keeping the LB clean to flow up and make a TFL. I really like how he's improved his strength and hands.
The rest of the DL doesn't look as good. #98 flashes some plays and then the next play ends up 8 yards downfield. He got singled much of the night, and didn't make nearly as much of an impact. #90 was essentially the same. Those guys need to be more consistent to help the LBs.
I thought Santos looked good in space but struggled between the tackles a bit. The LBs as a whole did I think. They play well when clean but struggle to get through the wash. Right now, I see some decent athletes that need to improve on reading an offense and how to get to the ball within a blocking structure. I think teams that want to pound the ball can pick up some yards between the tackles by targeting entities that aren't Gregory or Collins. The safeties also struggled in their consistency with in-the-box play. Some poor angles, not a good feel of fighting in traffic. That needs to improve.
Miami utilized a lot of Cover 1 beaters, but Nebraska needs to get better in coverage between the hash marks. Slots, TEs, and RBs picked on Nebraska's LBs and safeties a bit in their Cover 1. Nebraska way too easily allowed Miami to get across their face. What that means is once Nebraska defined their leverage (typically inside), Miami was allowed to cut across the defender's body and force the defender to turn 180 degrees essentially. Saw this a few times with routes threatening outside and then getting vertical and attacking the seam.
Nebraska needs to improve walling off their leverage. Don't allow the receiver to cross your face once leverage is defined and maintain your leverage into your help (either the wash or the sideline). By not doing that, you are essentially playing neither side in leverage and are just in a lose-lose position.
Here I am again, putting Abdullah something other than first on a list, this time with the offense instead of the whole team. By my goodness, the Nebraska OL had themselves a game. They weren't perfect, they missed some blocks, but for the most part they handled one-on-one blocks on the first level, not letting Miami DL disengage, and they got out onto LBs in a hurry. There wasn't a free flowing LB almost all night.
The key on flare screen TD is the RT kicking out the LB and upfield as well. That's your leverage defender, once he's washed out it's Abdullah and a DB in space, which is a victory for Abdullah basically every time.
And when the OL did miss at the 2nd level, they forced the LBs to go underneath their blocks (meaning they were then chasing the ball carrier, meaning more YAC) or go over top and catch them on the other side. So this OL deserves a lot of credit for...
Abdullah basically looked like Marshawn Lynch, and that's not even hyperbole. Abdullah went BEAST MODE. Nebraska's OL did a great job on the night, but when Abdullah looked like he should gain three yards, he didn't gain five or six, he gained eight or nine.
Abdullah has a lot of strengths, his two biggest ones though: the use of his hands to shed defenders, not allowing tacklers to wrap up or get square hits; and his balance. Abdullah always, always has his center of gravity over his feet, some how, some way. In and out of cuts, when contacting defenders, he gets his body low and his center of gravity over his feet, maintains his balance, and gets forward momentum and yards. And beyond that, I didn't see a defender hit Abdullah clean in the hole once all night. Sometimes they missed him completely, but LB, DB, whatever, he forced them to miss almost every time.
I want to nit pick something because otherwise this section will somehow come back to bite me. So I'll make the most nit-picky of complaints about Abdullah here. I wish once he got to the 3rd level he didn't work so hard to go immediately vertical. I almost hate saying this, because this is pretty much the exact opposite of the problem most play-makers have, but Abdullah has the strength, vision, balance, and speed to turn some of these 25-35 yard runs into TDs once he reaches the secondary. But he slams it north-south. I feel dirty making this complaint, I do, but I have to do it. That was an absolute monster performance by him.
Elsewhere on Offense
Westerkamp is that pesky slot player that loves to block, and he had some really nice blocks on the second level to help out the run and screen game.
Nebraska was much more zone based this year than they were in the past. They've always been zone dominant, but they didn't really break out any man blocking schemes until the second quarter. When they did, it was less of the power O scheme used for inverted veer than it was counter blocking (often referred to as counter trey) with two OL pulling around.
A lot of simple route concepts from Nebraska: Pole concept, spacing concept, not throwing a lot at Armstrong in terms of reads. But Armstrong looked very confident and deliberate with his reads and when he threw the ball he did so with good enough accuracy, a lot of zip, and good timing. That caught up with him on his INT where he is still pre-determining his throws a bit, but if they can force simplified coverage by running the ball consistently, it's less of a worry. But if he's forced to pass, that will be an issue going forward. He does need to improve the accuracy a little bit, especially once it gets to intermediate and deeper throws. But overall he had a solid game. Made mostly good reads in the run (some miscues, it happens), so if you only need to pass to keep honest, Armstong can win games.
I think the first TD was a great double post play that came from a "switch concept" set-up. I'm going to try to do a Film review post on it because I love how I think the play is setup and why it gets Bell wideopen deep for a 40 yard TD. I think, I think, I think, because ESPN never gets the infinite wisdom of showing how a WR could get so wideopen deep on a 40 yard TD. They never gave a view where you could even see the WR, never once. Because why would that matter? I'd rather see 30 seconds of balloons in the air and this one Miami fan in the upper section of the stadium with a blank stare, because man, that's football baby.
It'd be great to see a real replay ESPN.
- Maliek Collins, DT for Nebraska, is a sophomore, former all-state wrestler, and he is going to be a problem for teams going forward.
- Gregory is also good. You may have heard of him. He's improved his hands and strength. The rest of the DL needs to improve though.
- Coverage needs to be cleaned up on routes stemming from between the hash marks. Need to improve utilizing leverage and walling receivers.
- LBs pretty good in space, but run defense between the tackles struggles a bit. Miami has a good RB, looks like he may be all-conference type
- But Nebraska has an All-American in Abdullah, who looked like Marshawn Lynch and that's not hyperbole.
- OL did a great job on single blocks at first level and not allowing hardly any free flowing LBs at the 2nd level.