LINCOLN — The best football games are a violent mashup of poker and chess. Call it “choker,” for the pressure coaches feel is like the collars Dobermans wear. The game is not all guts and not all stats. It's all worry. It's made up of bluffs and math and rage and charts and even space. You have to pore over as abstract a thing as uninhabited air.
The way Nebraska's defense attacked open space Saturday night defined its 56-13 rout of Southern Mississippi. NU confidently invaded pass routes and jammed up running lanes with linebackers and ends running downhill. The Huskers beat USM skill players to the spot. That's knowledge, armed with the speed to do something with that knowledge. The Blackshirts still made mistakes. But they made more plays. It's the playmaking aspect of this defense — its ability create turnovers, sacks and tackles for loss — that will make the busts manageable.