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Knee-Jerk Reactions: Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Tommy Armstrong

Tommy Armstrong

After a game that featured more starts and stops than a kid driving his first manual transmission, Nebraska came out on top against the Golden Eagles of Southern Mississippi 36-28. Per usual, there are some immediate takeaways from what is the Huskers’ last non-conference game. Let’s review:

- Tommy Armstrong became the second player in school history to reach 1,000 yards passing in just four games also chalking up a career-high 431 yards of total offense.

Plenty of career-highs were chalked up against the Golden Eagles, but Tommy Arm-So-Strong had himself what is becoming a regular efficient day aside from a few hiccups here and there.

- The running game still has room to improve, but lo! It’s the Andy Janovich Show! The H-back tallied 68 yards on the ground and 53 yards receiving. Said Riley of his performance, “I don't know if every game running-wise will work out like that for our fullback, but it certainly was good today." Aw shucks, coach.

- Surely this will shock you. Jordan Westerkamp set a new career-high 11 catches netting Nebraska 118 yards and a score. Brandon Riley also had a day and a half with three snags for 112 yards.

It was a very disappointing day for Cethan Carter who didn’t seem to have his head in the game as he gave a half-hearted effort. His route running and pass catching were tepid at best.

- This offensive line needs a kick in the pants as after four games, the best of the five is redshirt freshman Nick Gates. The others don’t play to the whistle or take plays off including captain Alex Lewis and center Ryan Reeves still suffers from high snaps.

- It stinks having Jack Gangwish on the sideline, but depth is being built with the work of Freedom Akinmoladun. He’s outplaying junior Greg McMullen on the opposite end and when Gangwish is ready to return, I look forward to see if there’s a battle for a Blackshirt.

- Considering what Trent Bray and the Nebraska linebackers have had to deal with this season, I have to say they’ve performed admirably. Groin issues plague this group forcing Chris Weber, Luke Gifford and Marcus Newby to step up.

There’s going to be yards given up. If you were an opposing offensive coordinator, wouldn’t you take advantage? It’s tough to watch, but this group does have its moments despite razor thin depth.

- The changes to the secondary didn’t suddenly hold the Golden Eagles to under 200 yards passing, but there may be a new weak link.

While Jonathan Rose, Chris Jones and Joshua Kalu all work well at the cornerback and nickel roles respectively, safety Byerson Cockrell’s play is becoming a concern quickly.

- How about Drew Brown? Brown tied the NCAA record for most field goals in the first half and set a new career-long of 50 yards besting his 49-yarder versus Miami earlier this season. The kid went five of six on the day and that is why you have a special teams coach.

Unfortunately, there was a botch on an onside kick following a Southern Miss score. However, Riley took responsibility and noted that after the mistake, he and special teams coach Bruce Read made sure that Westerkamp was back to recover a pooch kick later in the game.

Bottom Line: After a rough 2-2 non-conference slate, the Huskers are pretty banged up. However, they may see a very welcome face return to the sideline all padded up next week.  Yeah, No. 15.

— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow Brandon on Twitter @eightlaces and Periscope (eightlaces), and like his Facebook page.