“I don’t even look at it like that,” the Nebraska coach said. "We got better, and that happens during the course of the season, and we were fortunate to finish on a good note.”
The Cornhuskers are 6-1 after last year’s 40-15 embarrassment, with the only loss coming at USC this year. Nebraska boasts one of the top defenses in the Big 12 Conference, which isn’t surprising. What is a bit surprising is just how good the offense has been. The Cornhuskers lead the Big 12 in scoring and total offense, averaging more than 460 yards and close to 43 points per game.
They are also doing it with balance. Running behind a quartet of running backs with Marlon Lucky, Kenny Wilson, Brandon Jackson and Cody Glenn, the Cornhuskers are second in the conference in rushing, pounding out almost 225 yards per game. That’s a major departure from last year, when Nebraska was one of the worst rushing teams in the Big 12.
That consistency on the ground has also allowed for a deadly passing game. Zac Taylor has completed more than 70 percent of his passes on the year, averaging 218 yards per game while throwing eight touchdowns to just two interceptions. Terrence Nunn is his favorite receiver, catching 14 passes for 209 yards. Matt Herian, a deadly tight end back from a broken leg, is his second favorite target, averaging almost 17 yards per catch.
Part of the reason for Nebraska’s improvement has been the play of the offensive line. The ‘Huskers have allowed the fewest sacks in the conference, while averaging five yards per carry. Senior center Kurt Mann, the anchor of the line, will not play against Kansas.
Defensively, Nebraska has been just as strong. They rank first in the Big 12 in turnover margin, and are only allowing 11 points per game.
It all starts up front for the Cornhuskers, with a nasty defensive end duo of Adam Carriker and Jay Moore, who have combined for eight tackles for loss. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has also made a living in the backfield, picking up another five tackles behind the line.
Despite losing two defensive backs to season-ending injuries, the Cornhuskers still rank third in the Big 12 in passing defense. Senior safety Tierre Green leads the way with 21 tackles.
Nebraska may boast a lot of the same players that came into Lawrence last year, but the attitude is completely different.
“It was a wake up call to lose on the road like that, in the embarrassing style that we did,” McKeon said. “You realize that’s a low point and that you don’t want to reach that anymore, and if that takes working harder in practice, working longer then so be it.
“But just seeing the contrast, and asking ‘what’s the difference between playing the Kansas game and playing the Michigan game?'” McKeon said. “Coach (Phil) Elmassian spoke for a half hour about how Kansas was our wake up game and changed us into the team we are now. After listening to him say that, it’s all you think about is ‘do you want to play like you did in the Kansas game or do you want to play like you did in the Michigan game?’ And everyone obviously chooses Michigan.”