Antacid does job for now

BY JOHN MABRY
Lincoln Journal Star

So you've got a box of Cracker Jack — a big, red box — and the gooey stuff inside tastes pretty good. Still, something's not right.

You know it isn't good for you, and it's making your stomach a little queasy. It's not a healthy, well-balanced meal, but you keep after it, trying to find that surprise.

The Huskers are surviving on junk food. They're 2-0, but what's ahead for NU is as much a mystery today as it was eight months ago when Tom Osborne turned the club over to Frank Solich.

The surprise might be another championship ring or it might be a trip to the Long Winter's Siesta Bowl.

The Huskers beat Alabama-Birmingham 38-7 Saturday, but it didn't feel like a rout.

Once again, NU got a solid overall performance from the offense and a Jekyll and Hyde show from the defense.

Last week, in a 56-27 victory over Louisiana Tech, it got messy in the second half when Bulldogs quarterback Tim Rattay and receiver Troy Edwards put on a record-setting air show.

Saturday, trouble signs appeared in the first half when UAB put together a 16-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. Using the wishbone, the Blazers marched down the field with little resistance against a defense supposedly made of stone.

Rush over right end, 5 yards. Rush over right guard, 4 yards. Rush over right end, 3 yards. Rush over right end, 4 yards. Rush over right end, 1 yard. Rush over right tackle, 2 yards, touchdown.

Ronald Reagan wouldn't have called as many consecutive plays to the right side, but the plan worked, and it wasn't pretty for the Big Red.

NU linebackers coach Craig Bohl said the Blazers came up with some inside blocking schemes that left the Huskers defenseless.

"They were showing us some stuff that we hadn't seen a lot of, actually that we hadn't seen anything of," Husker rush end Chad Kelsay said.

The Black Shirts were not at full strength Saturday — Jason Wiltz was sitting, Mike Rucker was ailing — but Kelsay and company realized that they shouldn't be letting UAB stroll down the field like that.

The second half was a different story.

"We kind of felt like we've got to get it going," Kelsay said, "because we've got this team coming in here that we should be manhandling pretty well."

There was some manhandling in the third quarter. UAB started with a six-play drive for minus-4 yards. Then it was three plays for minus-3, followed by a five-play drive for 23 that actually had a promising start for the Blazers.

Kelsay started backing up the UAB truck by wrapping up quarterback Daniel Dixon for a 4-yard loss at the NU 15. A string of penalties pushed the Blazers back to the Husker 43.

"They kept their poise on defense when we'd move it a little bit and they finally just wore us out," Alabama-Birmingham Coach Watson Brown said. "They know what they are doing and that's why they are a great team."

This might be a great team. It just doesn't look like one — yet. But players will get healthy, and coaches will work out the kinks.

The Huskers are surviving without all the pieces in place. On the bright side Saturday, the secondary looked better, and Eric Crouch proved that he is a very capable backup at quarterback.

"These first couple of games are helping us mature," Bohl said.

It's OK to mature as long as you're not losing in the process. Nebraska is going to face some teams -- Washington, Texas A&M, Kansas State -- who will pounce on a bad half from the Huskers.

"In my mind I feel pretty good about our football team," Solich said. "We're going to face some great football teams down the road, so we've got to continue to improve.

"I'm satisfied with this win today. I was satisfied with the win last week."

Cracker Jack is sort of satisfying. You just wouldn't want to live on it for too long.

Web posted September 6, 1998



 


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