Shock, dismay and utter disbelief. That’s how I felt during Nebraska’s game (scrimmage?) against Ohio State last week. Nebraska’s offense struggled which, especially after QB Tommy Armstrong left with a head injury, wasn’t a huge surprise. The total meltdown on defense was what left most fans and coaches shaking their heads. Bad habits came back en masse as defensive players were continually out of position, missed tackles and allowed themselves to be blocked out of plays. For a defense that had apparently turned a corner this season, it was a huge setback. I fully expected OSU to win but absolutely not by 59 points.
Last week is gone, however, and it’s time to turn the page to a pretty stout Minnesota team. Nebraska coach Mike Riley seems encouraged that Armstrong will be back in the fold at quarterback this week which is good news for the offense. In other good news, left guard Jerald Foster, who was sidelined in fall camp with an MCL tear, has been medically cleared to play and even practice this week. Along with returning players David Knevel and Tanner Farmer, the offensive line suddenly has depth they’ve missed in weeks past. Will it be enough to overcome a tough, hard-hitting Gopher defense? Let’s review what the Huskers will need to do to win.
Run the Ball Effectively
This will be tough against a defense that ranks 16th nationally against the run but Nebraska will be sporting the healthiest offensive line they’ve had in weeks. It will surely be tough going early on but Nebraska must find a way to keep the ball moving on the ground. Mike Riley discussed Nebraska’s offense needing go-to run plays so expect to see them run inside-zone early and often.
Know Your Personnel
Running back Devine Ozigbo weighs 230 pounds yet the Husker staff used him to run outside against Ohio State’s athletic defense. They preceded that by using the quicker Mikale Wilbon and Terrell Newby to run up the middle. What the what? This needs to be the opposite, plain and simple. Use Ozigbo to pull the defense in then use the outside space with your faster backs.
Keep Leidner in the Pocket
It’s no secret that Mitch Leidner is much better with legs than his arm. He is completing 59% of his passes this season but only has five touchdown passes. If Nebraska can keep him in the pocket and make Minnesota throw the ball, they have a really good chance of winning.
- 34 – Yards per carry given up by Minnesota’s defense.
- 6 – Number of Minnesota defensive players ejected for ‘targeting’ this season.
- 6 – Interceptions thrown by QB Mitch Leidner
- A double dose of the ground game.
- Stereotypical buzz words to describe Leidner like “intelligent” and “field general”.
- Stereotypical buzz words to describe Armstrong like “toughness” and “athletic”.
Minnesota 20 – Nebraska 31
And the Huskers keep the greatest trophy in all of college football.