Across the Field: Nebraska

By Elika on October 4, 2012 at 12:00p

This Saturday night, the newbie of the B1G rolls into Columbus, in search of another victory over the Buckeyes. Their historic comeback against the Buckeyes in Lincoln last year was heartbreaking for Ohio State, who now comes into the game with a chip on their shoulder.

Despite an unexpected loss to the Bruins in Week 2, the Huskers have made some improvements, and their second greatest comeback in program history, against the Badgers last week.

Here to dissect this 2012 Huskers team, and what to expect to see in the Shoe on Saturday, we welcome Erin Sorensen of Bleacher Report, and Husker Extraordinaire.

Nebraska is 4-1 so far this season. How does this compare to your preseason predictions for this team? What about the way the Huskers have played has surprised you?

I originally thought Nebraska would be 4-1 by the time they faced Ohio State, however I thought the one loss would be to Wisconsin, not UCLA. While Wisconsin has had their fair share of struggles, the Huskers have shown that they are not a perfect team either. Quarterback Taylor Martinez has improved, yet still shows signs of struggles from the past. This is the defense's first season with new defensive coordinator John Papuchis, so there are also some growing pains there that were exposed against the Bruins. To be 4-1 is a good thing, from my perspective, because it could have easily been 3-2.

With that said, the biggest surprise so far was how both sides of Nebraska's ball pulled together against Wisconsin. It was very reminiscent of last year's Ohio State game. Comebacks must be Nebraska's thing these days.

UCLA got an unexpected win over Nebraska in Week 2, and Wisconsin looked good for the first half against the Huskers last week. What can we learn from the Bruins and the Badgers in terms of how to beat the Huskers?

As I mentioned a little before, the Bruins really exposed the Husker defense's weaknesses. They found where Nebraska struggles and played to that. The inability to adjust was the biggest issue for Nebraska. For Wisconsin, the first half was very similar to the UCLA game. The Badgers knew when to put the ball in the air and force the corners to make plays they were unable to make, while also knowing when to run the ball up the middle. It was a smart game plan that paid off for awhile.

What we learned from both games is that Nebraska does have weak points but in Wisconsin's case, the team can rally. For Ohio State, it will be key to play to the Huskers weaknesses and play to that. Ohio State's Etienne Sabino and Ryan Shazier will be crucial also, as they will be the ones to stop Martinez from his explosive runs. The key to beating Nebraska is to put more pressure on them than they can handle, force Martinez to run and stop him before he can. If able to do that, Ohio State will be capable of forcing turnovers and controlling the momentum of the game. If not, Martinez can and will take off, making it difficult to catch him.

Who are the two or three key players, on each side of the ball, that you would say OSU fans should look out for on Saturday?

Can Ohio State shut down Rex Burkhead?

The key players on the offense for Nebraska are running back Ameer Abdullah and I-Back Rex Burkhead. Both are outstanding in their own ways. Abdullah is fast and if given a hole, he'll be gone. The Buckeyes will need to keep an eye on him, because most teams tend to watch Burkhead. However, "Superman," as Burkhead is called by many Husker fans, finds a way to power through most any situation. In fact, he carried a Badger defender on his back for a few yards last Saturday. Burkhead is strong. Between the two of them, the running game for Nebraska can be lethal.

On the defensive side of the ball, keep an eye out for Daimion Stafford. The safety is consistently putting pressure on a quarterback. It's a gamble pulling him and PJ Smith up, leaving the corners one-on-one with the receivers, but Stafford usually produces results. He's become familiar with quite a few opposing team quarterbacks to date.

Taylor Martinez has always seemed to be a bit of a Jekyll/Hyde scenario. Which version do you think we can expect to see on Saturday?

That's the million dollar question, isn't it? It seems there has been a lot more of "Mature Taylor" than the Taylor of the past this season, so I think we'll see a good side of him. If anything, he has learned to adjust when things aren't going as planned. It might not be perfect, but he's improving. Playing on the road against Ohio State will absolutely be a challenge, so we may not know what kind of quarterback Martinez has improved to until the clock hits zero on Saturday.

Nebraska's only loss so far this year came on the road, against UCLA, and the Huskers were able to put together a comeback in front of a home crowd against the Badgers on Saturday night. How much of a factor do you think this game being at Ohio State will be for Nebraska?

I honestly worry more about Nebraska at home than I do when they are on the road. While the Big Ten may not see this as much, head coach Bo Pelini was known for saying the Huskers played better on the road while members of the Big 12. The conference may be different but that sentiment may still ring true. Nebraska fans also travel extremely well, so expect to see a lot of "Husker Power" in the crowd. If anything, that may provide a little feel of home that is needed while still providing the pressure Martinez seems to thrive under.

In order to beat Ohio State on Saturday, Nebraska is going to have to ___________.

Play consistent. It's important Nebraska does not get behind and have to make up the deficit. While it seems the Huskers have good luck with this strategy from time to time, it's key to not make that a strategy. The Huskers need to play smart, play strong and get the lead early. From there, it will be about holding on and controlling the game. If the team can keep their cool and play together, good things can and will happen.

Both teams have had their struggles so far this season, but what do you see as the most favorable matchup for the Huskers, in trying to beat the Buckeyes on Saturday?

I'm very anxious to see how each team's defenses hold up against the other's offenses. Braxton Miller and Taylor Martinez both have their own issues this season and how the two face off is extremely exciting to me. Nebraska and Ohio State have been very difficult to score on in the red zone. Regardless of any other defensive struggles, both teams really step up and make it difficult to score once in the red zone. I'll be anxious to see who keeps their cool between Miller and Martinez, so as predictable as it is, I'm anxious to see how each quarterback holds up against the opposing side's defense.

What are your thoughts and predictions for the game?

My prediction is that this is going to be a bit of a blood bath. Ohio State has a chip on their shoulder from last year's loss, while Nebraska is fighting for a crucial win in their campaign towards becoming Big Ten champions. While Ohio State is favored to win, I don't think it's that easy to say who will and will not come out victorious. I love a good game and I think the Huskers and Buckeyes will provide one. I see Braxton Miller being a big threat and containing him will be a major part of Nebraska's game plan. If Miller is forced to win the game with his arm by the Nebraska defense, it could swing the Huskers' way. If not, Miller will run his way to a win.

Ohio State 24, Nebraska 20

Thanks again to Erin Sorensen for sharing her Husker insights. You can read more from Erin at the links below:

Twitter: @helloerinmarie

Bleacher Report: Erin Sorensen


Comments Show All Comments

BeijingBucks's picture

This game feels like the true measuring stick of this year's squad. A spread attack will challenge the Bucks weakness. 
But at night in the Shoe! Hope the fans bring the 12th man (warrior) with a vengeance

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

Boxley's picture

I agree, as goes this games, goes the rest of our season.
Our biggest advantage, at home, at night. These two teams are very evenly matched in terms of defense and offense. who plays harder wins this one.
Key killer, turnovers, we cannot lose the turnover battle. We were very lucky last week against MSU. That and the significant number of dropped passes, they catch three or five of those drops,  and that game goes the other way.

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

dancorona5's picture

shouldnt the D be ready for a spread attack...i mean, the practice against it all the time, right?

yrro's picture

On the other hand, that doesn't mean that we have the personnel in the right places to defend it.  Our linebackers seem to be a bit better at attacking downhill than at running sideline to sideline. Similarly, if our players are better at getting off of blocks than they are at tackling in the open field, familiarly won't necessarily help us.

cplunk's picture

Practicing against it is great, but it doesnt help if your personnel don't have the skillset or all aspects of the skillset needed to defend it. We've had trouble with speed backs and being spread out from sideline to sideline. This week we'll find out if we can make adjustments to fix that or if its a personnel weakness and it is what it is.

gwalther's picture

Does Nebraska even have the right personnel to run a spread offense? I heard of this Akeem kid this week, I'm not particularly frightened of Rex Burkhead, and they have an inconsistent QB who can run. I cannot name a single wide receiver on their team.

Class of 2008

dancorona5's picture

I think Kenny Bell is their good WR..but nothing to worry about really.

cplunk's picture

A 23-9 record during Martinez's time there says they have the personnel to have a go at it.
Based just on games I've watched over the past few years, it has seemed to me that their offense is pretty good but sometimes falls victim to Martinez syndrome and looks like we sometimes have this year for a quarter here or there.
Their defense has collapsed numerous times I've watched.
Again, that's just the games I've watched and a personal opinion. I can see this game being fairly high scoring if our defense plays Martinez and Abdullah the way they've played other fast outside runners this year and last. In that case they'll score and I think our offense can keep pace, so it'll be high scoring.
If early on it looks like our D is containing Martinez and taking good angles then I think this is an easy OSU win. I really feel like we'll know pretty early how this one is going to go. The OSU defense from prior to MSU loses this game. The defense from last game wins it going away.
Of course I'm no coach, so take it for what its worth.

gwalther's picture

Haha. That record just isn't that good man. If Tressel did 23-9 over three seasons, he would've been fired.

Class of 2008

Grayskullsession's picture

We are really going to need an angry football team for this game. Hopefully Urbz can make them really angry for Saturday night.

"if irony were made of strawberries, we' d all be drinking a lot of smoothies right now."

DJRoss926's picture

Watching this should get everyone good and angry

Dougger's picture

yep. definitely good and angry.
tough to watch

I like football

highwire's picture

Martinez seems to be confusing football with shot put.

aj99's picture

We will be ready. We only have one weak spot and that's at linebacker. These guys that think making brax throw is their best chance have another thing coming. The kid can throw. Where is Nebraska better than us other than linebacker?  The coaches will be ready. They crowd will be jacked. The team will be angry about last year. We win by two tds at least. 

WiliestBuckeye's picture

I think our linebackers are improving with each game. Hopefully they can at least play well enough to not be a detriment to the team this week. That is all we really need them to do in order to beat Nebraska. Not to mention that this week is Eat-Too Brutus, which is a good luck charm for our Buckeyes.

"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment."

causeicouldntgo43's picture

Hopefully there will be plenty of foam spittle shooting out of Pelini's frustated mouth this Saturday night to keep the field turf at Ohio Stadium nice and slippery for Martinez........Who would win a beet-red face contest - Pelini or Brian Kelly?

southernstatesbuckeye's picture

I do believe we continue to see the playbook and defensive scheme opened up. One nice thing is that there is no upcoming matchup in the next several weeks to "look ahead to". And yes, it happens all the time. While preparing for a current game. Coaches DO throw in a play or two designed for two weeks ahead, that is, if the further opponent is a concern. That is not the case this week, and Nebraska has 100% of the scheme prep time. Given Urban's knack for thorough preparation, especially in situations like this, the plan itself will be flawless. The only question mark this week will be execution.

I think this team is ready to execute.

The Bucks will roll.

I like cookies.