Nebraska QB Having Great Season

Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor talks to Inside the Auburn Tigers about the Cotton Bowl.

Dallas, Tex.--For a school known for its history of pounding opposing defenses with the option run, it's been a record setting year for the Cornhuskers throwing the ball in Bill Callahan's balanced West Coast system.

Quarterback Zac Taylor has shattered last season's school-record of 2,653 passing yards with 3,071 as a senior on way to being named the Big XII Offensive Player of the Year. However, it's the running game that has told the story in Nebraska's 9-4 season. Brandon Jackson (4), Marlon Lucky (2), Cody Glenn (1) and Kenny Wilson (1) have combined for eight 100-yard rushing performances this year and only one of those has come in a loss.

"People think with the West Coast offense you're just going to throw the ball 60 times a game," Taylor explains. "That's not the case. Last year we threw it a lot just because we had more success in the passing game. This year we've used four running backs and that's good.

"The West Coast is really a balanced attack," he adds. "If you can have a great running game and a great passing game it's really going to help the offense move along. With the emergence of Brandon and Marlon and those guys we've had a lot of success running the ball. There have been games we've run the ball 50 times a game and we haven't had to throw very much."

Using its size and strength against the speed and quickness of the Southeastern Conference, Nebraska has won 12 of its last 13 bowl games against teams from the SEC.

"Their speed is the biggest thing you see on film," Taylor says. "We just have to be ready for that. We've had a couple of weeks to prepare. I think we've had two good practices the last two days.

"They're physical and they've got good quickness," he continues. "That's something that really jumps out at you when you watch them on film. Their corners have great feet and so you really have to be on the money with your throws and your receivers have to be ready to be physical in return because those guys are going to line up and they're not afraid to get up in your grill."

One of those corners is Jonathan Wilhite, Taylor's old friend from his sophomore year at Butler Community College.

"I played with him for a year and we were on a team that went to the national championship together," Taylor says. "He was a big part of that. He's a great corner and I wanted him to come to Nebraska but he went to Auburn. I know about him and he's a good player. He doesn't have many weaknesses. It'll be fun to play against somebody I know."

As a senior QB who has played in the ACC at Wake Forest, in the junior college ranks at Butler and is now Nebraska's all-time leading passer, Taylor has seen just about any defense that could be thrown at him. Even though Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp throws in a few different wrinkles and blitz packages, Taylor says the Nebraska offense should be well prepared for what they will see on Jan. 1.

"We've played a lot of great defenses--USC, Texas--so we've seen some great players and some great schemes," Taylor explains. "By the 14th week of the season there's not much new you're going to see. That's the good news. They do have a lot of good speed and that's something you notice. With Auburn and SEC football there's a lot of good athletes out there so we have to be prepared for their pass rush."

At 6-2, 210, Taylor isn't the biggest quarterback but he has a strong arm, good mobility and he makes smart decisions.

The Cornhuskers are putting up an impressive 31.8 points per game and 428.8 yards per contest in 2006. However, Taylor says that it hasn't come easy as Nebraska is looking for its first 10-win season since 2003.

"I transferred in a year after (offensive coordinator) Jay Norvell installed (the West Coast) so guys had already been through it for a year," Taylor notes. "For me that first spring was a nightmare really. It wasn't what I expected and it was really tough, but all of a sudden it clicks. It clicked about midway through last season and everyone was on the same page. We saw why this offense was so successful with so many teams and why coach Callahan brought it in because it gives you a lot of different options. Once everybody got the hang of it we got a lot of success from it."

The biggest difference this year, Taylor says, has been the experience in the system on offense.

The Cotton Bowl is Nebraska's first New Year's bowl game since the 37-14 thumping at the hands of Miami in the Rose Bowl/BCS National Championship Game after the 2001 season.

"It's been a blast up here in Dallas," Taylor says. "It's a great city and it's a great place to play a bowl game. This is a game everybody has watched growing up their whole life. I remember seeing a lot of great teams to play in this game so it's an honor to be a part of this game and hopefully people will remember this game for a while. It's got two great teams and it should be a fun game to watch.

"We got to go to this arcade last night," he adds. "I think it was called the Main Event. They kind of gave us free reign out there. We played some laser tag, some video games and things like that. And we've tried to explore the night life. It's the middle of the week so not a whole lot has been going on. It's been a good time and our hotel has been great so we've hung out there a lot."

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