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CURT MCKEEVER COLUMN: Romp didn't provide much spice

Do you really think at the end of the college football season we'll still be talking about the thick coat of shake and bake San Jose State running back Deonce Whitaker put on Nebraska's defense?

Has the Cornhuskers' offense maxed out after a fumble-free, 505-yard rushing performance that looked so easy you wished the Spartans could have been allowed an extra defender or two?

C'mon, you know better than that.

So while you're digesting Nebraska's 49-13 munching of San Jose State (and trying to replenish those body fluids), chew on this:

Most of what happened in Memorial Stadium Saturday was so predictable that you might as well leave it there with the hot dog wrappers and folded-up programs that were being used as fans.

Besides, it's not going to matter next week when the Huskers bring their game to South Bend, Ind.

While San Jose State threw some effective curveballs for the Blackshirts en route to racking up 346 yards, Notre Dame will bring the heat.

The Irish don't have a 5-foot-6 tailback like Whitaker who can do a tippy-toe and delicate spin to leave a would-be tackler in his wake. They'll come with a no-nonsense power game, which for Nebraska is like a hitter getting the green light on a 3-0 pitch.

True, it's been awhile since we've seen a Husker front four fail to give an offensive line the rag-doll treatment. Remember, though, San Jose State's package was almost exclusively a variation of draws or three-step dropback passes.

It's also been awhile since the D-line was so patched up. Loran Kaiser had an appendectomy nine days ago. Jeremy Slechta was bothered by a swollen knee. Jason Lohr has missed most of fall practice with turf toe. And Jon Clanton has been out with a sprained ankle.

Defensive coordinator Craig Bohl expects all of those guys to be at or near 100 percent for Notre Dame.

Ah, but what about the uncharacteristic sloppy tackling behind the line Saturday?

Would Mike Brown have been sent sprawling backward like Joe Walker was while taking a helmet to the chest on Whitaker's 69-yard run in the first quarter?

What about Casey LeBlanc giving Keyuo Craver the yips on a 13-yard reception during the Spartans' first scoring drive?

Or An Truong handing Randy Stella the slip at the NU 7-yard line three plays later during his 9-yard catch and run to the end zone?

By golly, those are glaring mistakes.

Bohl's army was, at times, getting Bohled over.

"I was really surprised with our tackling," he said.

Now there's a big revelation. But for now, we'll let him chalk it up to a bad day at the office. Or, more appropriately, a bad quarter.

If you look closer at San Jose State's offensive production, it went from 159 yards in the first quarter, to 56 in the second, 70 in the third and 61 in the fourth.

"We don't have to worry about our defense," Husker rush end Kyle Vanden Bosch promised. "We're going to get there. We've got some warriors."

Here's another little secret:

As much as offensive guard Russ Hochstein wants to knock on wood, there will come a game or two, or more, when he'll have to jump into a pile and win a battle for a loose ball. Dan Alexander might be headed to the NFL if he can keep busting 200-yard games, but let's face it, he'll never challenge Terrell Davis for having the best hands in the league.

Considering the kind of talent the Huskers have on offense, that probably won't be a big deal.

"If you take every position and break it down," quarterback Eric Crouch said, "it seems like there's an excellent player."

On a 100-plus degree day, Nebraska barely broke a sweat piling up 596 yards while going not much deeper into its playbook than what Crouch was used to doing at Millard North High School.

"Coach (Fred) Petito would tell us, 'We've got five plays and we're going to run them all,' " he said, smiling.

Whatever the Huskers ran Saturday looked close to flawless. The tractor-like, fifth-year senior Hochstein claimed that wasn't the case and warned his mates that on Monday they'll see "film doesn't lie."

But if this team ends up needing the offense to carry the load. . . .

"I don't think that'll be the case this year," Hochstein quickly offered. "The defense comes to play all the time. But if it comes down to running the ball and putting points on the board, we'll do it."

So where's that leave Nebraska after one game? About where it should be.

Bet the folks in State College, Pa., or Tuscaloosa, Ala., would take that this morning.

Curt McKeever can be reached at 473-7441 or cmckeever@journalstar.com.

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