NU’s Second Game Will Be McNeese State’s First
Most teams in college football played their first games last weekend, but there were exceptions. McNeese State was among them. It's been said that teams improve the most between their first and second games of the season. If that's the case, the Cowboys could be in trouble.
Troy State found themselves in a similar position against Nebraska back in 2001. NU had already played an opener against TCU, while the Trojans were playing their opening game of the season. TSU was playing their first game as a member of Division I-A (which we'd now call the FBS), so in that sense they were very comparable to McNeese State.
If there was any rust, it didn't show early. The Trojans jumped out to a 7-0 lead after an NU fumble on a punt return gave Troy State a short field. The Huskers then mounted a drive that was all rushes, mostly by Dahrran Diedrick to tie the game. NU then picked off a pass and Eric Crouch did the rest with a big run and a long pass to Wilson Thomas. The teams traded punts before the Huskers forced a fumble and returned it for a score. Crouch and Diedrick combined to drive Nebraska to a 28-7 lead but Troy State answered to close the gap to 28-14.
From there the defense and special teams took over as NU capitalized on short fields from big punt returns to make it a 42-14 final. The Huskers finished with 330 yards rushing, 127 yards passing, 8 sacks and a three forced turnovers. They held Troy to negative rushing yards and 165 total yards.
The major difference might be that Troy State wasn't coming off the kind of offensive season that McNeese State had in 2013. McNeese State averaged 40 points per game a year ago while allowing 28. TSU had scored 27 per game and allowed 16 back in 2000. Osi Umenyiora was a standout defensive end for the Trojans. The Cowboys must replace their quarterback, top rusher, and top receiver. They still bring back a small running back that averaged over 7 yards per carry and another big back that scored 12 touchdowns with fewer than 90 touches. They still feature some of their top deep threats as well.
McNeese State can still be a dangerous team. Hopefully, some first-game rust keeps them from being completely sharp. Maybe, having a game under your belt isn't a huge advantage. Then again, Notre Dame screamed bloody murder about it in 2001 when the Huskers were playing their third game and it was the first for the Fighting Irish. NU jumped out to a 27-3 halftime lead in that one before hanging on for a 27-10 victory.