Iowa State vs. Nebraska: Keys to Victory

In what could be perhaps the biggest game under head coach Dan McCarney, Iowa State takes on 20th-ranked Nebraska on Saturday afternoon in Ames. As usual, the Huskers are relying on their mammoth offensive line and power rushing game to wear down opposing defenses. That's why the Cyclones must force them into more passing downs, which is one of three keys to an ISU victory.

For Lord's sake, stop the run

While the Cyclone defense will probably not be able to complete shut down the Nebraska rushing attack, they must force their opponent into more passing downs than it'd prefer. Iowa State will stack eight to nine players on the line of scrimmage, in essence playing a goal-line defense, to have success against the Huskers.

ISU's choice of defense leaves its cornerback tandem of Atif Austin and Ellis Hobbs on an island to defend Wilson Thomas and Troy Hassebroek (only 12 combined receptions for 108 yards).

Defensive coordinator John Skladany is willing to take his chances with Nebraska quarterback Jammal Lord, who has completed just 27-of-56 passes for 328 yards and thrown four interceptions to just three scores. Lord has lacked the ability to make many plays in the passing game in his first four starts.

Don't respect the jersey

This has been a common theme this week on the Cyclone Nation message boards. While ISU has all the respect in the world for Nebraska's players and coaching staff, it can't get caught up in the mystique and tradition that the Huskers take to the field.

Plenty of bulletin-board material has come out of Lincoln this week from Nebraska players, which is perhaps a ploy to psyche out a Cyclone squad that hasn't had much success in recent years, losing by an average of 40 points during the Dan McCarney era.

Playing this game in Jack Trice Stadium certainly has to make it easier. Even Seneca Wallace found himself dazed after last season's initial onslaught in Lincoln. Being in awe of the Memorial Stadium environment and big-time opponent could have been blamed for his two first-quarter interceptions. Don't count on that to happen this season, though. All Wallace must do now is make sure his fellow teammates follow his lead.

Win turnover margin

ISU found itself in a 41-0 halftime hole last year in Lincoln, thanks in large part to Wallace's pair of interceptions and the 13 points Nebraska scored off of those. Eliminating those mistakes early will give the Cyclones a much more level playing field and could prevent them from facing another insurmountable deficit at the half.

On the other side of the ball, NU finished a plus-one in its first three games, beating Arizona State, Troy State and Utah State. However, a turnover margin of minus-three against Penn State had a snowball effect as the Huskers were pummeled 40-7.

Another way of looking at the importance of turnover margin is that it can often reverse the course of a game and lead to a shift in momentum. If the Cyclones can't stop Nebraska's rushing attack (they have allowed nearly 700 yards in the past two meeting combined), forcing and recovering a key fumble could be a difference maker late.

On the other hand, if ISU was to do a decent job against the run, a key interception on offense likewise could give NU a boost.


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