Dienhart: Nebraska 2011 Season Recap

BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart spent the season covering Big Ten football, and now it’s time for his team-by-team season recaps. Every day, Dienhart will post a recap for each Big Ten school, in alphabetical order. Look back at all the previous ones. Up next: Nebraska. Watch our video from the Huskers’ impressive win over eventual Legends Division champ Michigan State now and read Dienhart’s season recap in this post.

NEBRASKA

Record: 9-3 overall; 5-3 Big Ten

Bowl: Capital One vs. South Carolina

Season recap: The Cornhuskers’ maiden voyage was a success on most accounts, but there’s a gnawing feeling that Nebraska could have won the Legends Division. But a spotty defense and streaky passing game held back the Huskers. Nebraska ranked just seventh in total defense in the Big Ten (350.7 ypg) and 10th in passing (166.6 ypg). Where were the big plays? No school had fewer tackles for loss and only one had fewer sacks. Still, Nebraska is playing in a good bowl and has a bright future with QB Taylor Martinez back in 2012.

High point: A 21-point second-half rally in a 34-27 home win over Ohio State was sweet. But Nebraska was at its best in a 24-3 domination of then-No. 9 Michigan State, the Spartans’ lone Big Ten loss. The Huskers allowed just 187 yards. The win moved Nebraska into a tie for first in the Legends with MSU.

Low point: Getting hammered on the road by Wisconsin (48-17) and Michigan (45-17). Losing at home to 17-point underdog Northwestern (28-25) is another. It shouldn’t have happened and probably cost the Cornhuskers a shot at winning the Legends. The Huskers, who allowed 468 yards, had no answer for backup Wildcat quarterback Kain Colter.

Offensive MVP: RB Rex Burkhead. The rough-and-tumble Burkhead was the driving force of an offense that struggled at times to pass. Burkhead finished third in the Big Ten in rushing (1,268 yards) and ran for 15 scores.

Defensive MVP: LB Lavonte David. He’s arguably the best linebacker in the Big Ten, ranking third in the league in tackles. David is all over the field, making plays from sideline to sideline with a knack that ranks among the best in school history.

Tom Dienhart is a senior writer for BTN.com. Find all of his work at www.btn.com/tomdienhart, follow Dienhart on Twitter at @BTNTomDienhart, send a question to his weekly mailbag here, and click here to subscribe to his RSS feed.

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2 Comments

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bob jones on 12/18/2011 @ 7:29pm EDT Said:

Very accurate and concise recap Tom. Huskers will be loaded offensively and in the kicking game next year, but need to [hopefully] fill some pretty big holes defensively. If Huskers win their bowl game it will have been a pretty good year, if they lose, it would be have to be called a little bit disappointing, but it has still been a lot of fun playing in the BIG 10 this year. Now lets win a bunch of bowl games.

    Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer on 12/20/2011 @ 10:05am EDT Said:

    A win in the bowl will give Big Red a third 10-win season in a row. Not bad for Bo Pelini. Yes, Nebraska may be a favorite in the Legends Division next year. As you said, the defense needs to improve, especially the line. There were few playmakers, as sacks and tackles for loss were rare. And offensively, Martinez must continue to improve as a passer and some receivers need to step up. But bottom line: The future in Lincoln is bright!

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