Analysis - Nebraska vs. Southern Miss
The Touch, the feel of cotton, the fabric of hope
college football games provide resoundingly clear verdicts about the
nature and direction of certain teams.
38-14 win for Nebraska over Southern Miss wasn’t that kind of a
However, in the
same breath, the contest marked a step forward for the Huskers, a
clear note of hope for the Big Red in the first road game of the
season for Frank Solich’s crew.
How would this
team—a team that got dismantled on the road last year—respond to
a night game in Hattiesburg, Miss., in front of a frenzied crowd of
Eagle gold? One had to wonder if this team would have the
deer-in-the-headlights look it often had outside of Lincoln last
season. Would Jammal Lord look less than confident? Would the
Huskers have something like a 6-6 game entering the fourth quarter?
These were legitimate concerns for Solich and his offensive
coordinator, Barney Cotton.
The good news about
this win is that the Huskers most certainly answered the bell early
and played like a confident and aggressive team. They silenced an
enemy crowd the old-fashioned way: by putting their hard hats on and
blowing away the opposition up front. No scary fourth quarter, no
drama, no horror show from a competent Lord, who came up with a
brilliant play pass and a perfectly-thrown bomb in the third quarter
to seal the game. By showing a killer instinct and getting pass
production from Lord, the Huskers gained from this game, without any
news from this contest for the Big Red Nation is that Southern Miss
did the one thing it couldn’t afford to do: turn the ball over
early and often.
touchdown four running plays later.
Nebraska field goal.
There was your
game, ladies and gentlemen, all in the first quarter.
With that kind of a
non-response from the Golden Eagles, it’s hard to put too much
stock into this win for the Huskers. If there’s a value-neutral or
negative spin on this game from a Nebraska perspective, it’s that
Southern Miss handed the game away in the first 10-plus minutes. One
can only wonder what the Huskers will do on the road against an
opponent that actually avoids silly mistakes or, worse, gets in the
Overall, the game
rates as a plus for Nebraska—the team will undeniably gain
confidence from this game, and especially Lord as a result of his
two big-play passes. Barney Cotton has to feel better about the
direction of this offense and about Lord’s ability to make plays.
“Christmas in September” error-fest will make it impossible for
this romp to be considered a return to glory, a full restoration of
Nebraska’s identity, image and prowess. The feel Cotton has for
his offense is increasing, giving Nebraska hope. But because the
Golden Eagles didn’t protect the ball, one can’t say this was
the fully demanding and daunting test the Huskers needed to pass.
competitive road game the Huskers get in ’03 will be their first.
Once that game happens—it most certainly did not happen Thursday
night—we’ll be able to judge Nebraska much more accurately, for
better or worse.