September 21, 2009

Line disappointed with performance in loss

BLACKSBURG, Va. - On any other day, 200 yards rushing and a career-best performance by a running back would be signs of a perfect day for an offensive line.

In Nebraska's case, that couldn't be any further from the truth.

In the wake of Saturday's crushing 16-15 last-minute loss to Virginia Tech, two stats overwhelmed all others for the Huskers - zero rushing touchdowns and a multitude of costly penalties.

Despite having the ball inside the red zone five times in the game, including three inside the 10, NU's offense couldn't find a way to punch it into the end zone.

Junior running back Roy Helu highlighted the day with a career-high 169 yards, as the Huskers put up a total of 207 yards on the ground. But all that was meaningless for the Huskers' o-line.

Overall, the offensive line played one of its better games of the season against by far its toughest competition yet. However, costly penalties and an inability to capitalize on long drives with touchdowns turned it into a sub-par performance by the unit's standards.

"I would've taken, like, one rushing yard and four rushing touchdowns over that," senior center Jacob Hickman said. "I'm definitely pleased with that much yardage, but we're really frustrated that we didn't close out drives… It was like, 'This game should be a lot more one-sided than it is. We should probably have about 30 points right now, not 15. Maybe even more, 35 or whatever it should've been.'

"If we would've finished our drives, it could've been where it wasn't a game at all."

Offensive line coach Barney Cotton was also obviously displeased with not being able to punch in touchdowns so close to the end zone, but his biggest concern was the number of costly penalties his line committed in crucial potential scoring situations.

The offensive line was flagged five times in the game, including three penalties in a four-play span and one that negated a touchdown.

"We had prepared to play a very physical game, and I think when we watch the film we'll see that our kids gave a good, physical effort," Cotton said. "But you have to execute and not do things at the wrong times because you don't know which play it's going to be when you're potentially going to score a touchdown or have a play like that.

"I'm sure that we'll be happy with the effort, but we have to play with more consistency and stay away from mistakes."

It wasn't all doom and gloom for Nebraska's o-line following Saturday's loss. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson took some solace in the fact that his team was able to run so effectively against a notoriously stingy Hokie defense.

In a loss as devastating as Saturday's, it's good focus on the positives as much as possible.

"We ran the ball against a great defense," Watson said. "The kids did a nice job. I thought we did a really nice job up front and that was the type of game it was going to be. The kids did good job. We'll take a lot of good out of that I'm sure."

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