LINCOLN, Neb. – Safe to say Nebraska set the bar high this season for its offense.
“Good,” offensive coordinator Tim Beck said this week,” is not good enough.”
In the season opener against Wyoming, Nebraska scored 37 points on 530 yards, averaged 6.2 yards per play, completed 74 percent of its passes and converted 53 percent of its third downs.
Still, in the wake of a surprisingly close, three-point win over the Cowboys, the Husker offensive coaches and players pointed the finger of blame at themselves, waving off suggestions that the defensive performance nearly triggered a big upset.
As 22nd-ranked Nebraska moves forward, hosting Southern Mississippi on Saturday at Memorial Stadium, the offensive plan involves leaving nothing to chance.
If the opportunity exists to dominate an opponent, tackle Jeremiah Sirles said, don’t let down.
“We’ve got to make sure everything is done the right way,” Sirles said. “Missing a block should feel like dying.”
Saturday should prevent an opportunity to get well. Southern Miss has lost an FBS-high 13 straight games, including a 22-15 decision last week against Texas State under new coach Todd Monken.
The Golden Eagles, of Conference USA, allowed just 207 yards in the opener, ninth nationally through one week.
Again, though, it matters little to the Nebraska offensive players.
If another situation arises like in the opener, the Huskers said they feel confident in their ability to outscore opponents.
“We want to make a huge jump this week,” I-back Ameer Abdullah said.
Offensively, the Huskers’ most significant problem against Wyoming unfolded late. After it built a 16-point lead early in the fourth quarter, regained possession and marched past midfield, quarterback Taylor Martinez threw an interception.
The Huskers’ next possession ended with a Martinez fumble on fourth and 1. Then Nebraska went three and out for just the third time, delivering the football to Wyoming with 91 seconds to play and a chance to win.
“We blew that,” said Martinez, who played most of the second half with a bruised left shoulder. “It’s a huge wakeup call. We can’t let up at any point, no matter how many points we’re up by. We have to be able to finish.”
Beck said he was dumfounded at times in watching film. For instance, the Huskers smoothly executed one play for a nice gain, he said, only to botch the same call minutes later, resulting in a loss of yardage.
Abdullah, the junior who rushed for a team-high 114 yards, spoke passionately to the team after the opener.
“We have a certain standard that we want to hold on this team,” he said. “I felt, personally, that we didn’t play up to that standard.”
They’re searching for nothing short of domination.
"We can talk about it all we want,” Sirles said, “but until we put it out there in front of the whole world to see, it doesn’t matter.”