The grades: Michigan 56, Nebraska 10
RUNNING GAME (F)
In the first half, when the outcome was decided, the best Nebraska could hope for in the running game was a broken play to help spring quarterback Adrian Martinez. Michigan’s front seven swarmed to the ball. The Husker offensive line was overmatched, hence the minus-6 rushing yards at the break. The Wolverines’ speed advantage was evident.
PASSING GAME (D)
Martinez’s first-down pass on the opening possession was tipped at the line, and then snagged by safety Josh Metellus. That was an example of bad luck for Nebraska because JD Spielman was wide open over the middle and had only green space in front of him. But let’s face it, Michigan’s pass rush was withering, while Nebraska’s pass protection was problematic, to put it mildly. Andrew Bunch was 6-for-9 for 71 yards in mop-up duty.
AGAINST THE RUN (F)
Michigan hammered Nebraska on the ground on its opening TD march, highlighted by Karan Higdon’s 46-yard burst. Higdon then went 44 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the next drive. The Wolverines made it look way too easy. Michigan applied a throat-stomp move by gaining 3 yards on fourth-and-1 at Nebraska’s 12-yard line in the second quarter. Two plays later, the score was 30-0. Remember, Michigan’s offensive line was regarded as a weakness entering the day.
AGAINST THE PASS (D)
Nebraska, struggling to stay within striking distance in the first quarter, allowed a completion on third-and-12. Senior tight end Zach Gentry, the Wolverines’ second-leading receiver, somehow was wide open over the middle. Meanwhile, Shea Patterson was 12-for-18 for 115 yards and a touchdown by halftime, at which point the outcome was decided. Patterson played one series in the second half.
SPECIAL TEAMS (F)
This area has become code-red alarming for Scott Frost’s crew, as it surrendered a punt-return touchdown for the second straight week. What’s more, Tyjon Lindsey bobbled a late first-quarter punt, and Michigan’s Ambry Thomas recovered, leading to a field goal. Right off the bat, Nebraska picked up a special-teams penalty on Cam Taylor’s interference of the return man’s catch, the first of three special-teams penalties. Collin Miller’s personal foul after a kickoff return late in the half put Nebraska in a hole at its 10. On and on.
GAME MANAGEMENT (F)
Nebraska wound up with 10 penalties for 79 yards in losses. That’s 31 penalties in three games, and it isn’t because the team is overly aggressive.
Put yourself in Frost’s shoes. Your team is down by 20 points late in the first quarter. You have to pass to get back in the game. But every time your freshman quarterback drops into the pocket, he has to fend off multiple rushers or gets flat-out crushed. Michigan had four first-half sacks. Its pressure was relentless. Not much a play-caller can do in those circumstances.
Michigan was the better team. Everyone knew that. We also know it’s Jim Harbaugh’s fourth year at Michigan and Frost’s first at Nebraska. That somewhat mitigates the Huskers’ woeful performance. Even so, you expect Nebraska to be better prepared. The Huskers were lethargic from the get-go, which looked far too much like last season.