Dienhart: Breaking down the Capital One Bowl

Throughout the bowl season, BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart offers his thoughts on the Big Ten’s record 10 bowl games. Find Dienhart’s reaction to Nebraska’s loss to South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl on Monday in this post.

Final: South Carolina 30, Nebraska 13 (recap)

My pick: South Carolina 27, Nebraska 21

What I Learned
1. QB Taylor Martinez remains a work in progress. He hit 10-of-16 passes for 103 yards with a touchdown and interception. His decision-making is improving but it can be better—and so can his accuracy. If Nebraska gets behind, it struggles to come back.

2. The Husker defense never lived up to its hype. And it carried over to this game with South Carolina totaling 350 yards and 6.1 yards per play. The unit lacks any significant playmakers on the line after Jared Crick went out with injury earlier this year, as tackles for loss and sacks were difficult to come by.

3. The offense needs more explosion. RB Rex Burkhead is good, but he lacks game-breaking, big-play ability. And there are no scary wideouts who keep defensive coordinators awake at night. Yes, the o-line was young and often had struggles, which hurt the offense. But bottom line: more speedy playmakers are needed.

Key moment: South Carolina QB Connor Shaw heaved a Hail Mary toward the end zone as time expired in the first half. And star Gamecock WR Alshon Jeffery came down with the ball and dove over the end zone for a 51-yard touchdown. That gave South Carolina a 16-13 lead it never relinquished.

Key stat: 0, Nebraska points in the final three quarters after notching 15 in the first quarter.

Sneak peek ahead to 2012: The best may be yet to come for an offense that will welcome back QB Taylor Martinez, RB Rex Burkhead, WR Kenny Bell and some young, promising linemen. But a defense that had its issues will lose LB Lavonte David and CB Alfonzo Dennard, who was booted from the game in the third quarter for fighting Alshon Jeffery. And some playmakers are needed on the line.

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.


Your Opinion?
Show Comments (4 Comments)
husker N Indiana on 1/2/2012 @ 8:57pm EDT Said:

What kills me is that Nebraska’s womens teams are very dominate so far this year, but all of our mens teams seem to have no ability to win the big games. What gives!!

bob jones on 1/2/2012 @ 9:55pm EDT Said:

Burkhead is quite a bit more than good, Tom. Not blazing speed, but can still run away from people, very shifty with good, quick moves and gets a ton of his yards after contact. He is also a good receiver, plays QB in the wildcat formation and is the consumate team player. We do have a playmaking gamebreaker on the bench in true freshmen Jamal Turner, who got in the doghouse with a bad play or two and then didn’t make the field much in the 2nd half of the year because he wasn’t practicing well, we’re talking about practice. It is awfully hard for a lot of coaches to play young players, especially after a bad play or two, even though they obviously need the playing time to improve. It even took Tom Osborne the 2nd half of the 4th game of the year in 1981 [ the Huskers were 1-2 and losing at halftime] before he would put sophomore Turner Gill on the field. Even remember Dave Rimington complaining that they all knew how good Gill was, but he just needed to get on the field. So it even took T.O. a long time to figure out that it was better to play an outstanding, but inexperienced newcomer, over an experienced but very average upperclassman. And don’t you forget Tom, Rex Burkhead is Superman.

huskerred on 1/3/2012 @ 12:22pm EDT Said:

Tom it is apparent you have no love for the huskers, the defensive hype as you put it was sportswriters hype. Anybody with any sense knew Neb was going to have a 9-3 or 8-4 season with a young team in a new conference. It was a year for re-building. Does Neb have some issues to correct? Yes; however, Neb is still one of the most winningest programs in the nation, in the last 4 yrs is still one of very few teams to consecutively have 9 wins or more in a season, still has 4 of 8 new head coaches with 9 wins or more in thier first 4 seasons, aruguably the largest fanbase in the nation and lastly by far the longest at home sale out record. At the end of the day the B1G was still a 1-4 conference in the bowl series. Arguably speed is needed throughout the B1G defensively, or did you miss the PSU, OSU and Wisconsin games? As far as Burkehead, he may not be a flashy player, but he is a workhorse that will pound defenses every carry, which is by the way and has always been Neb bread and butter per say.

    Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer on 1/4/2012 @ 9:11am EDT Said:

    I like Nebraska–great fans, stadium, tradition, etc.–but I just look at Nebraska’s offense and ask myself: Who scares me? Taylor Martinez is a big-play guy. But there isn’t anyone else who would worry me if I was a defensive coordinator. Maybe the the young WRs will develop in time.