Dienhart: Nebraska offense looks good - really good

Lincoln, Neb. — What did we learn today at the Nebraska spring game? Not a lot, really. Never do in these things. But that’s not the point. The point is to excite the fan base for the coming season, to get some young players live work—and to avoid injuries.

Mission accomplished. So, all in all, today was a success for the Cornhuskers.

The nagging question about the defensive line? It can wait.

The uncertainty about the linebackers? Time will tell.

One thing we know for sure after watching today’s Cornhusker spring game: The offense looks good, once again. Really good, in fact.

[ VIDEO: Watch Red-White Spring Game highlights | And interviews ]

Senior quarterback Taylor Martinez flexed a bit for his adoring fans, smiled a lot, threw the ball with aplomb and, of course, flashed his famous speed that makes him so deadly.

Even better: Backup quarterback Tommy Armstrong looked worthy of the hype, attention and drool he has drawn from Husker worshipers since arriving on campus. The redshirt freshman isn’t as fast as Martinez—who is?—but Armstrong is a shifty runner with a bulky build. He also displayed a nice arm, at one point threading a perfect 37-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to redshirt freshman Alonzo Moore—another rising star. Just what the Huskers need: Another stud receiver for a corps that already may be the Big Ten’s best with the likes of Kenny Bell, Jamal Turner and Quincy Enunwa.

Don’t read too much into the play of the running backs. They were OK. Imani Cross has slimmed down and looks good. But incumbent stud Ameer Abdullah sat out the game, relegated to waving at fans. The other backs weren’t top-shelf talents. So, just know this: Abdullah and Cross will form a nice combination this fall—a little lightning and thunder, if you will. And everyone in Lincoln is quick to tell you that one of two touted incoming freshmen will play this fall: Terrell Newby or Adam Taylor. Bank on it.

Kudos to the offense. Watching film of this with coordinator Tim Beck should be a blast. Popcorn even may be handed out. Maybe not.

[ RELATED: Check out Dienhart’s tweets from the Red-White Spring Game ]

The defense has to make Bo Pelini chew his gum even harder and faster. Nothing really stood out today for his pet unit. Yes, the defense played vanilla schemes. And it was missing projected starters in linebacker David Santos and tackles Thad Randle and Vincent Valentine. Still, few big plays were made.

Martinez hit 8-of-10 passes; Armstrong hit 5-of-7; Ron Kellogg III hit 11-of-12. And on it went on this sun-splashed day that saw yards handed out like free samples at a Costco on a Saturday afternoon.

Young, promising linebackers like Jared Afalava, Michael Rose, Courtney Love, Zaire Anderson and Thomas Brown had their moments. Fellow linebacker Trevor Roach looked good at times, too.

And up front, Avery Moss, and Greg McMullen flashed from time to time coming off the edge. Still, there will be many teachable moments for coordinator John Papuchis and the defensive coaches to point out between now and the season opener vs. Wyoming on August 31.

Is the lackluster performance by the defense reason to panic? Of course not. Still, it did little to erase some ugly memories from last season.

The defense had its shining moments in 2012. But when it was bad, it was really bad. I’m talking Bill Callahan era bad.

There was the UCLA debacle that saw the Huskers yield 653 yards in a 36-30 loss.

There were the 63 points and 371 yards rushing allowed in a loss at Ohio State.

[ VIDEO: Seven-year-old Husker fan, cancer patient runs for TD ]

And, finally, perhaps most gruesome of all: The 70-31 loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game that saw the Badgers run left, right, up the middle and pretty much anywhere they wanted en route to gaining 640 yards overall and 539 on the ground—10.8 yards per carry.

The Capital One Bowl loss to Georgia also was unpleasant in many respects, with the Bulldogs notching 589 yards—427 via the air, as the Huskers allowed three touchdown passes in the second half to lose, 45-31.

This defense has denizens of the state on edge. The famed “Blackshirt” rep must be regained. Or, at the very least, a reasonable facsimile is needed for 2013 to end more pleasantly than 2012 did.

Make no mistake about it: This is a big season for Bo Pelini. It seems funny to type that, considering Pelini is coming off a 10-win season. In fact, he has three 10-win seasons and never has won fewer than nine games in his five seasons in Lincoln. In some places, that would earn you a statue outside the stadium. Not at Nebraska. They only count championships. And Pelini has none.

Bo grunted some stuff after the game about needing to get better and seeing some things he liked. It really didn’t matter what he said. Tomorrow beckons. His words will matter more then.

The summer months will be important. Players must work. Schemes must be refined. When Nebraska suits up next time, it will be for real. And the defense better be ready.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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Your Opinion?
Show Comments (9 Comments)
Mark Charles Peshabatate on 4/6/2013 @ 6:50pm EDT Said:

Still don’t see them winning anymore than 7-8 games this season. Defense will be worse than last year, like I said 7-8 wins tops. Just doesn’t have the right recruiting and it showed in their bowl game. Maybe it’s time Bo stepped down?

Capytan (F) (@Capytan) on 4/6/2013 @ 7:48pm EDT Said:

Have you seen NU’s schedule this year? Bo should step down if they don’t win 10.

bob jones on 4/6/2013 @ 8:32pm EDT Said:

Offense is absolutely loaded, young defense will improve throughout the season, lost a lot of experience but picks up a lot more speed. The schedule, in the Huskers 3rd season is very favorable finally after brutal schedules the first two seasons. This team will be undefeated heading to Michigan and they could very well be favored in every regular season game. 12-2 looks about right. Great spring game, lots of nice touches to spice things up and little Jacks’s td run will be remembered for a long time. Go Big Red.

Selahvie on 4/7/2013 @ 9:45pm EDT Said:

You mean Georgia, who was inside of 5 yards of playing the NC? Pessimist.

Mark Charles Peshabatate on 4/8/2013 @ 6:34pm EDT Said:

@ Bob Jones, I sure don’t see anything close to 12 wins for your team. Little Jacks TD run was special though.
Wisconsin, Michigan, Northwestern all will smash your team. And that’s for sure loses on the conference schedule. A couple more on the non conference schedule!! UCLA and Southern Miss.
I like your enthusiastic hopes though. Bo needs to go somewhere, he just Dont have it anymore. He sure cannot recruit. I Dont see your offense being loaded either. Maybe against Illinois or Minnesota?
Dienhart should not have posted like he did and get all you Nebraska fans all fired up.
I’m sorry man but it’s good to have dreams.

Steve Peters on 7/8/2013 @ 5:36pm EDT Said:

I believe people have forgotten what Bo Pelini did with an absolutely terrible defense from the 2007 to the 2008 and then 2009 season. Last year, Nebraska had very very little talent at linebacker and defensive line. Nebraska lacked speed at linebacker and size on defensive line. I am pretty certain non Nebraska fans have absolutely no idea what our depth chart looks like for the upcoming year. Bo made a mistake and red-shirted quite a few guys who could have been that edge for us at those positions. Nebraska has depth now. Some will be eating their words on January when Nebraska was a surprise team for the year. Nebraska has the BEST offense in the Big 10. Hands down. Nebraska has the best defensive minded coach in Bo Pelini.



Everyone knows he knows how to coach. It took the staff a few years to learn how to recruit. I strongly believe they have it figured out now and you’re about to witness the beginning of another decade of dominance.

    mark peshaba on 7/9/2013 @ 9:19pm EDT Said:

    Steve Peters your crazy!! Pelini is all done, they will fire him soon.
    7 more weeks and no surprise !!! Your 6-7 season begins!!!

Mark Peshaba on 9/14/2013 @ 4:54pm EDT Said:

Ok we all had this conversation back in April, anyone remember? Today is 9/14/13 and just like I said back in April. Bo Pelini showed lack of defense control, I mean 38 unanswered points during the second half?
And Tom, why do you sit back and write b.s. and get husker nation all geeked up when you are not very good at college football analysis. Todays game just proved my earlier point of lack of recruiting, skill sets and talent. Both lack of offense and defense play calling. Todays loss was a disgrace to the B1G as a whole. That should have been an easy win for the huskers, so Tom whats your take?

Mark Peshaba on 1/8/2014 @ 7:57pm EDT Said:

Well folks what a season it’s been!!! Wow MSU takes the B1G title game!!! OSU chokes when they get in the spotlight!!!! Al Borges’s has been fired!!! And Nebraska wins there bowl game!!! I do apologize for being rather rude Tom.
Whats in store for the 2014 campaign? Any takers? I hope the B1G can do some good on the recruiting trail!!! Feb 5 is right around the corner and we as a conference have to do better!!!
Let’s GO B1G !!!!! We have to get some bowl wins??? 2-7 is not good folks!!!!