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September 6, 2008

Huskers' offense sputters in 35-12 victory

When it comes to offense, Nebraska's 35-12 win over San Jose State Saturday afternoon produced more questions than answers.

For the first three quarters of the game, the Nebraska offense was its own worst enemy - producing almost as many yards in penalties as it did rushing the football. For the day, the Husker offense scored three touchdowns and tallied 216 yards passing and just 99 on the ground. Nebraska also got touchdowns from its defense and special teams.

The lack of output by the Husker offense against an arguably overmatched opponent from the Western Athletic Conference had Nebraska players and coaches looking for answers after the game.

"We just couldn't find a rhythm," senior quarterback Joe Ganz said. "Once we did one thing right, we would do a couple things wrong. We just can't keep putting ourselves in that situation. We're third-and-long too many times. In the first three and a half quarters, our offense was anemic."

After putting together a nice looking nine-play, 86-yard touchdown drive on its second series of the game, the Nebraska offense sputtered for the next three quarters.

"I'm just glad we joined the party in the fourth quarter because we didn't have much tempo as an offense up until that time," said Nebraska offensive line coach Barney Cotton. "We answered with a really good drive the second drive of the game, but then it became kind of a comedy of errors at times. The penalties and sacks, those things are drive stoppers."

The NU offense was flagged for multiple penalties in the game, ranging from false starts to holding and illegal chop blocks. On one series in the second quarter, the Huskers were penalized on three consecutive plays for false starts.

"That's tough when you go from third-and-8, or whatever it was, to third-and-25," said senior wideout Nate Swift. "That's horrible. That should never happen. It's inexcusable for an offense and what we do."

For the second straight week, the Nebraska running game struggled to find
itself. At halftime, the Huskers had just 22 yards rushing. Sophomore running back
Roy Helu, who finished the game with a team-high 61 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, provided a spark for Nebraska in the second half, but the Huskers never truly found the consistency in the running game they desired.

Cotton and NU offensive coordinator Shawn Watson both said the Huskers' struggles on the ground Saturday were a disappointment, but a situation they fully expect to get fixed.

"We've got to coach better and we've got to play better, that's all," Watson said. "You have to have elements of both (running and passing) and being able to run the ball is critical."

Cotton said he'd like to think his offensive line is a better unit than it showed on Saturday, noting that multiple miscues up front hindered the NU running game throughout the day.

"I'm not ready to give up on them. I think we're better than we played," Cotton said. "Hopefully we can learn from a lot of mistakes with a win. It's a lot easier to learn from mistakes with a win than to learn from our mistakes with a loss.

"When you look at film, it's never as bad nor as good as you think, so hopefully I'll find a ray of hope up in there. I've got a good bunch of guys and they are working hard, but we obviously have a lot of work to do and I've got to do a better job myself."

Watson said the Huskers would take what they can from Saturday's win and move forward with preparations for New Mexico State next week.

"San Jose played a really good game," Watson said. "You have to give them credit. They punched us in the mouth and we had to answer. To our kids' credit, they hung in there and they answered. Wins are hard in this day and age in college football. We can fix our issues. I'm not worried about that either. We just go back to work."



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