ARLINGTON, Texas - Nebraska suffered another disappointing setback in this year's Big 12 Championship. The Huskers fell to OU 23-20 to finish the regular season 10-3.
Here's the final report card grade out from Saturday's loss to the Sooners.
After the game offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said that Taylor Martinez was playing at about "90 to 95 percent" on Saturday, but I think the real area he struggled was with his management skills. Martinez was ineffective as a runner on Saturday and held the football too long in the pocket. Martinez was sacked seven times and a lot of them came in situations where he could've just thrown the football away, but instead took sacks and cost the Huskers costly field position. Martinez's biggest mistake though came when he threw a second quarter interception on a third-and-8 play that took away a field goal which would've made the game 20-7.
The question I now have for the future is if Martinez is the guy NU wants to lead them? He had a chance to take this program somewhere special tonight and he was spotted a 17 point lead in the second quarter, but he still buckled under the pressure. Watson said he thought about pulling Martinez in the second half, but they decided to stay with him and let him try to battle his way out of it. Hard to say if that was the right call. It will be second guessed by Husker fans over the next several months.
Running back: B
Roy Helu's first quarter touchdown run was huge and it gave this offense some early momentum, but they were never able to capitalize off of it. Helu also had a costly fumble, as did Rex Burkhead, but that one wasn't his fault as the snap was bad. I thought Burkhead ran very hard on Saturday and I felt like NU should've went to him more out of the Wildcat in the third quarter.
Wide receiver/Tight end: C
Martinez didn't give the wide receivers very many chances to make plays on Saturday, as he held the ball too long and also was very indecisive with his decision making at times. I thought Mike McNeill and Kyler Reed both played good games, but Brandon Kinnie was ineffective with just two catches for 18 yards. OU really focused their efforts on Brandon KinnieNiles Paul was greatly missed for the Huskers on Saturday night.
Offensive line: D+
Too many times NU's offensive line had assignment errors on early downs that put the Huskers in tough second and third down situations. I also thought the protection was very inconsistent as Martinez got flushed in the pocket and didn't have a lot of time to get his throws off. Jeremiah Sirles did do a good job of opening the hole for Helu on his long touchdown run, but he also got beat pretty bad and allowed OU to sack Martinez and force a fumble. Mike Caputo also had a bad snap to Burkhead in the Wildcat which led to a turnover.
Defensive line: B
Jared Crick did a solid job tonight and finished with two big sacks on third down plays that resulted in 22 yards of losses. I also thought NU did a good job of stopping OU in short yardage situations, as they never let DeMarco Murray take over on the ground. I wasn't all that impressed though with the defensive ends ability to get a pass rush off the edge on Saturday. OU quarterback Landry Jones had too much time in the pocket to make his throws.
Lavonte David finished the game with 17 tackles and he's just four behind Barrett Ruud's all-time regular season record at NU. David though did have trouble at times in coverage, as this is the one area that Phillip Dillard did such a good job at last year in taking out the check down reads.
For the first time since the Oklahoma State game Nebraska's secondary showed they were human by giving up 342 yards of passing offense. Jones was very effective and only had the one costly mistake. He threw a perfect ball over the top of Austin Cassidy for a touchdown for 49 yards and also threw a perfect ball to Kenny Stills after Alfonzo Dennard lost his footing in coverage. OU made the big plays championship teams make. NU desperately needed their secondary to do something big in the second half and they couldn't it get it done. Courtney Osborne's interception was all the Huskers could get out of their secondary on Saturday.
Special teams: A
It's too bad Alex Henery couldn't get a shot to at least tie the game on Saturday. I thought his 53 yard field goal that put NU up 10-0 was one of the best kicked balls he's ever had in his career. That kick would've been good from 65 yards. Henery's punting was also outstanding and the Sooners finished with just 47 total yards of returns. Special teams was not a problem for Nebraska.