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Steven M. Sipple: Nebraska does enough to build a measure of intrigue for Oklahoma week

Steven M. Sipple: Nebraska does enough to build a measure of intrigue for Oklahoma week

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Buffalo vs. Nebraska, 9.11

Nebraska coach Scott Frost looks on from the sideline during the second half against Buffalo on Sept. 11 at Memorial Stadium.

Scott Frost full press conference after win over Buffalo

Even the most cynical of Nebraska football fans perhaps appreciated the first words out of Scott Frost's mouth following his team's victory Saturday.

"I'm ready for next week," he said after NU dismantled Buffalo 28-3 before a sellout crowd of 85,663 at Memorial Stadium.

"I'm ready for Monday," he added.

If you're a Nebraska fan, you hope he's genuinely sincere in expressing such gusto for his squad's trip Saturday to Oklahoma. He should absolutely feel better about his team's chances in the wake of this win. The Huskers defense was downright ornery against a Bulls program known for being able to run the ball well.

Meanwhile, Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez was superb, particularly on an electrifying 71-yard run in the second quarter that led to his team's first touchdown. 

Of course, Frost, in expressing his readiness for the coming week, fully understands one narrative that will be a prominent part of the buildup to the 50th anniversary of “The Game of the Century,” the 1971 classic between No. 1 Nebraska and No. 2 Oklahoma. 

Nebraska absolutely tried to get out of the game — although, to be clear, former athletic director Bill Moos was opposed to such a move. It was a Frost-driven matter. Any way you slice it, he comes off looking bad in the deal. Oh, and he's going to hear more about it, and I'm betting he's OK with it. 

After all, he's already like a human pinata around here, as media and fans take their share of swings at him. What's a few more going to hurt? 

But he won't hear as much from the naysayers this coming week because his team actually looked pretty salty in dispatching Buffalo (1-1). In fact, Nebraska (2-1) did enough to leave me somewhat intrigued about what could transpire in Sooner country.  

Did I mention that Nebraska's defense is an ornery bunch that now has gone six straight quarters without allowing a touchdown? This is where Frost's cynics and skeptics will chime in. It doesn't mean much, Mr. Columnist, because the competition was subpar. Yes, we're talking about Fordham and Buffalo. I get it, but only to an extent.

When it comes to Nebraska's game against Buffalo, that part of the narrative grates on me. All week I heard Husker fans tell me how nervous they were about the Bulls coming to town and pulling off an upset. But after NU takes care of business rather easily, well, it's just Buffalo.

I don't want to hear it. Give it a rest.

Give Nebraska's defense credit. A lot of it. Buffalo was second in the country at 287.4 rushing yards per game in 2020. Star Jarret Patterson is in the NFL now, and former coach Lance Leipold is at Kansas, but you knew UB would try to get the ground game going nonetheless.

The Bulls ended up with 135 yards on 33 carries (4.1). The damage was minimal. 

Their quarterback, senior Kyle Vantrease, attempted 50 passes that resulted in 224 yards — minimal efficiency.

Frost gave kudos to his entire defensive staff for having the unit ready to play at a high level.

"What a great performance by them," the head coach said. "They gave up a little (yardage) here and there, but man, they just didn't quit at all the whole game against a good football team." 

Frost, however, also had something not-so-pleasant on his mind. It's something that severely cuts into Nebraska's chances of toppling Oklahoma. 

"Offensively, we've got to establish our base run a little better," he said. "We need to keep drives going and give ourselves more chances. You know, they were packing the box on us a little bit today, but we still need to hit it downhill and get some yards."  

Nebraska's conventional run game is often an exercise in frustration. The offensive line seldom generates room to run. An all-conference running back — Ameer Abdullah comes to mind — can get you 100 yards even in such circumstances. But I don't see an Ameer Abdullah on the roster.

What we saw, in this case, was four Nebraska running backs rush a combined 31 times for 106 yards. Gabe Ervin found some room in the third quarter, with gains of 11 and 21 yards, but when those are the highlights, well, the offensive line room has work to do. Lots of it.  

The lack of running game adds to the pressure on Martinez, not that he seems to mind at all. The kid still amazes you. On his 71-yard run, he said, he knew he had to elude a defender blitzing up the middle. He did just that, then ran into left guard Ethan Piper. 

Then, he ran to daylight.  

"Part of playing football is just playing ball, at some point," he said. 

If only it were that easy. Martinez carries a heavy load, especially with all the injuries. Zavier Betts and Austin Allen both went down in the first half and didn't return. Oliver Martin and Omar Manning are nursing undisclosed injuries. 

It would be nice to lean on the ground game, especially on the road. It's just not there. 

Plus, Nebraska still makes far too many mistakes. It had nine penalties Saturday, although the "pick" call on receiver Wyatt Liewer was questionable at best. 

All in all, though, Frost was pleased. He should be pleased. Nebraska took care of business.

On to Oklahoma. 

"He knows we'll attack this week of practice," ace Nebraska receiver Samori Toure said. "Hopefully, we'll go down to Oklahoma and get a 'W.'" 

That'd be shocking. But the Huskers proceed with a confident QB, and a quiet determination and toughness.

It's just enough to keep me intrigued. 


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