Nebraska takes on Idaho

Check out our game preview as the Huskers host Nebraska native, quarterback Nathan Enderle and his Idaho Vandals.

Vince Campisi's College Football Game Preview
Idaho Vandals vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers

--by Vince Campisi

September 11th, 2010
11:30 AM CDT
Memorial Stadium
Lincoln, NE
Television Coverage: FSN PPV

IDAHO (1 - 0) (0 - 0)
#6 (AP)/#7 (C) NEBRASKA (1 - 0) (0 - 0)

Gametime Weather
Weather Report for Idaho vs. Nebraska

Latest Line
Opening: Nebraska by 28.5.
Current: Nebraska by 28.


09/02/10 - vs. North Dakota - W 45-0
09/11/10 - at. Nebraska
09/18/10 - vs. UNLV
09/25/10 - at. Colorado State
10/02/10 - at. Western Michigan
10/16/10 - at. Louisiana Tech
10/23/10 - vs. New Mexico State
10/30/10 - at. Hawaii
11/06/10 - vs. Nevada
11/12/10 - vs. Boise State
11/20/10 - at. Utah State
11/27/10 - at. Fresno State
12/04/10 - vs. San Jose State

09/04/10 - vs. Western Kentucky - W 49-10
09/11/10 - vs. Idaho
09/18/10 - at. Washington
09/25/10 - vs. South Dakota State
10/07/10 - at. Kansas State
10/16/10 - vs. Texas
10/23/10 - at. Oklahoma State
10/30/10 - vs. Missouri
11/06/10 - at. Iowa State
11/13/10 - vs. Kansas
11/20/10 - at. Texas A&M
11/26/10 - vs. Colorado

Historically Speaking

Saturday will mark the first ever meeting between Idaho and Nebraska.  The Vandals have faced teams from the Big XII conference 5 times prior to this week, facing Iowa State, Missouri, and Texas.  Idaho lost all 5 of those games, most recently a 0-48 loss on September 22nd, 1974 in Ames, Iowa.  The Vandals have also lost 20 consecutive games to members of BCS conferences.  Nebraska is 21-1 against current WAC teams with games against Hawaii, Louisiana Tech, Nevada, New Mexico State, San Jose State, and Utah State.  The Huskers last played teams from the WAC in September of 2008, defeating San Jose State 35-12 and New Mexico State 38-7.   

Player Breakdowns


Idaho Offense

Idaho easily took care of business last weekend against FCS North Dakota.  The Vandals did a nice job of finishing off the Fighting Sioux after an initial slow start, putting up some of the more impressive numbers of the weekend.  Idaho is currently ranked 10th nationally in total offense (547.00 ypg), 4th in passing (399.00 ypg), 42nd in passing efficiency (150.93 rating), 64th in rushing (148.00 ypg), 24th in scoring offense (45 ppg), 48th in interceptions thrown (1), 1st in fumbles lost (0), and 19th in giveaways (0).  

QB: Sr. Nathan Enderle (24 of 37, 311 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT) is in his fourth year as Idaho's starting QB.  Enderle has a strong arm and really had his coming out party last season, throwing for nearly 3,000 yards in 2009 (22 TDs/9 INTs).  He has definitely come a long way from his 10 touchdowns to 18 interceptions freshman campaign, but he'll still get into situations where he haphazardly slings the ball around.  He had a solid outing in the season opener against North Dakota, helping to spread the ball around to 11 different receivers (along with back-up Reader).  He's not much of a threat to take off and run with the ball, and struggles to escape a good pass rush.  This could be a problem until the offensive line gets their play together.  Fortunately, most of the passing game is driven by quick throws, so he shouldn't be under constant duress.  Enderle rushed for a loss of 25 yards 6 carries (lost 30 yards on 4 sacks) last week.  Behind Enderle is Jr. Brian Reader (4 of 9, 88 yds, 1 TD).  Reader was mediocre last year, coming in to start two games while Enderle was out with a rotator cuff injury against Fresno State and Boise State.  The Vandals lost both contests, with Reader throwing 5 interceptions in the Boise State game.  He's a more mobile option than Enderle, but like last season, don't look for him to see the field unless it is in mop-up duty or in relief of injury.  

RB: The Vandals' running game is led by Jr. Princeton McCarty (12 carries, 89 yds, 2 TDs).  McCarty is taking over for last year's top RB DeMaundray Woolridge, and should be every bit as good.  McCarty is lightning quick with straight-line speed to match.  He should be one of the WAC's better backs this season.  One possible issue to watch for is how McCarty carries the ball.  In the season opener, he often held the ball away from his body while maneuvering through the defense.  He got away with it against North Dakota, but it will result in fumbles against better defenders.  Sr. Deonte' Jackson (1 carry, 11 yds) and Jr. Kama Bailey (6 carries, 50 yds) will share back-up carries this season.  Jackson is a small, speedy back that has had an up-and-down career at Idaho.  He went from starting as a redshirt freshman to a third string back last season.  Bailey, has a similar skill set to McCarty and Jackson, being small, quick footed, and fast.  So. Troy Vital (1 carry, 1 yd, 1 TD) is the team's power back at 223 pounds, but isn't likely to see many carries outside of short yardage situations.  The backs get used fairly often in the passing game, with McCarty (4 catches, 39 yds) and Bailey (2 catches, 15 yds) catching multiple passes last week.  

WR/TE: The Vandals' receiving corps is a strength for the offense, with a depth of quality talent.  Starting at the receiver spots are Sr. Eric Greenwood (4 catches, 41 yds, 1 TD) at "X", Sr. Maurice Shaw (3 catches, 16 yds) at "Z", and Jr. Preston Davis (1 catch, 6 yds) in the slot.  Greenwood is a tall target at 6'6", and mixed with his speed and hands, makes him a very dangerous target as well.  Shaw isn't small, either, at 6'3", but isn't as consistent as he needs to be.  He'll have big games, but he'll also have games where he just doesn't seem to fight hard to get open.  Davis struggled with a knee injury and still ended up third on the team in receiving yards last season.  He had just one catch last week, but he'll see the ball much more often moving forward.  Reserves in the rotation at receiver include So. Justin Veltung (2 catches, 59 yds, 1 TD), Jr. Marsel Posey (3 catches, 30 yds), Jr. Armauni Johnson (3 catch, 86 yds, 1 TD), and So. Justin Hernandez (1 catch, 17 yds).  Veltung has excellent speed and his leaping ability can be a quarterback's best friend when called upon.  Johnson is a JUCO transfer that has great athleticism on his 6'4" frame.  He had a team best 54 yard touchdown reception last week off a blown coverage.  At tight end is Sr. Daniel Hardy (4 catches, 82 yds), with RFr. Taylor Elmo backing him up.  Hardy is one of the best tight ends in the WAC.  He's not a great blocker, but is quick and has very good hands.  

OL: Idaho's offensive line lost 4 Senior starters from last year's team, and as expected, there were growing pains in the season opener for the revamped line.  There were many mistakes, which Idaho attributed to communication issues.  This is the largest offensive line, weight-wise, in the FBS.  Starting at tackle is Jr. Matt Cleveland (6'4", 311 lbs) on the left and Jr. Tyrone Novikoff (6'7", 318 lbs) on the right.  Cleveland is the only returning starter from last year's solid line, and should be one of the better tackles in the WAC this season.  Novikoff lacks great athleticism and will struggle against speed rushers.  He suffered a minor leg injury in the season opener, but is expected to play this weekend.  The top reserves at tackle are Jr. Charles Wiley (6'5", 325 lbs) and So. Ron Mallory (6'6", 306 lbs).  Wiley is a good pass blocker from the JUCO ranks that should battle with Novikoff throughout the season for that right tackle spot.  Starting at guard is Jr. Sam Tupua (6'2", 374 lbs) on the left and Sr. Tevita Halaholo (6'5", 335 lbs) on the right.  Tupua is a massive guard that moves very well and should turn into an excellent WAC guard.  Halaholo is another big guard that has the strength to bully many of the defensive tackles he'll go up against this year.  These two guards should prove to be quality road graters come conference play.  Top back-ups at guard include So. Guy Reynolds (6'2", 301 lbs) and RFr. Jordan Johnson (6'6", 319 lbs).  Starting at center is Sr. Clell Hasenbank (6'0", 287 lbs), with TFr. Mike Marboe (6'2", 298 lbs) backing him up.  Hasenbank is a small, yet nimble center that is good in both rush and pass blocking, but not great in any one area.

Idaho Defense

Idaho's defense struggled mightily last season, especially down the stretch, ranking 114th in scoring defense (36 ppg) and 107th in total defense (433.23 ypg).  Things looked good in the opener last weekend, especially on the scoreboard, but that was against FCS foe North Dakota.  The Vandals gave up a couple long drives, but were able to force turnovers to keep North Dakota from the endzone.  Last week's shutout was the first in 13 years for Idaho.  This week will be their first real test.  The Vandals are currently ranked 41st nationally in total defense (270.00 ypg), 32nd in pass defense (122.00 ypg), 15th in pass efficiency defense (72.15 rating), 69th in rush defense (148.00 ypg), 1st in scoring defense (0 ppg), 11th in interceptions forced (2), 2nd in fumbles recovered (3), and 1st in total takeaways (5).  

DL: The Vandals' defensive line return all four of their starters from last season, but they'll need to show improvement from a year ago for that to mean much.  There's some talent in this group, but they just need to show it on a more consistent basis.  Starting at defensive end is Sr. Aaron Lavarias (1 tackle, 1 PBU) at base end and So. Benson Mayowa (1 QBH) at rush end.  Lavarias is a tough pass rusher that also works well stopping opposing running backs.  Mayawa is a pure speed rusher with linebacker-like measurables (6'3", 238 lbs).  He's young, but his athleticism will make him an asset for the defense.  Top reserves at end include Jr. Charles Smith Jr. (2 tackles) and Jr. Andre Ferguson (2 tackles, 1 FR).  Ferguson is a former linebacker that should do quite well at rush end this season.  He'll give opposing offensive tackles problems with his quickness and agility.  Smith, like the other ends, is a good athlete that has the ability to be a playmaker for the defense.  Also like the others, he hasn't quite put it all together yet.  Starting at defensive tackle is Jr. Michael Cosgrove (1 QBH), with Sr. Fono Sekona backing him up.  Cosgrove is a decent enough space eater in the middle, but isn't a standout in stuffing the run or creating a good pass rush.  Sr. Jonah Sataraka (2 tackles, 1 QBH) starts at nose tackle, with So. Bryan Wilson (1 tackle) serving as his top back-up.  Sataraka is the line's best run stopper, and finds his way into the backfield to disrupt the opposing passing game fairly often as well.

LB: The Vandals' linebacking crew, like the defensive line, has returned starters at all spots in the unit.  This group ultimately will need to do a better job of flying to the ball and making plays for the 2010 Idaho defense to be considered a success.  Starting at middle linebacker is Sr. JoJo Dickson (2 tackles, 1 INT), with Jr. Tre'Shawn Robinson (9 tackles) backing him up.  Dickson is the best of the linebacking corps, and one of the better backers in the WAC.  He's a strong presence in run support, but will also come up with some big plays in coverage from time to time as well.  He came up with an interception last week that he returned to the North Dakota 5, setting up an easy scoring drive for the offense.  Robinson is also a quality run stopper, but needs to get better in pass coverage to become a more complete linebacker.  He did lead the team in tackles last week in the season opener with 9, including 2 for loss.  At weakside linebacker is Jr. Robert Siavii (2 tackles, 2 QBH), while Sr. Korey Toomer backs him up.  Siavii is a LB/DB hybrid-type, with a good combination of speed and strength.  Because of his athleticism, he's a good option as a blitzing LB, and also isn't much of a liability in pass coverage.  Jr. Homer Mauga (5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 PBU) starts at strongside linebacker, with So. Conrad Scheidt (3 tackles) backing him up.  Mauga was a standout JUCO defender that consistently made big plays at that level.  In his first action last week, he showed flashes of being a quality defender for the Vandals, making plays all over the field.  

DB: The Vandals' defensive backfield returned 3 of 4 starters from last year's bunch, but will need to do a much better job this season in coverage.  They did well in the season opener, but that was against North Dakota.  Starting at cornerback is Sr. Isaac Butts (4 tackles) at left corner and Jr. Kenneth Patten (2 tackles) at right corner.  Butts is now in his third year as a starting corner for the Vandals.  He is fair in coverage, but does tend to get burned by better receivers.  Patten is a second year starter that doesn't have prototypical size (5'9", 178 lbs), but does a pretty decent job in coverage and is a solid tackler.  Players in the reserve rotation include So. Aaron Grymes (5 tackles, 1 FF) and RFr. Tracy Carter (1 tackle).  Grymes started 5 games last year as a true freshman, showing off good speed and tackling ability.  Starting at strong safety is Sr. Shiloh Keo (8 tackles, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 INT, 1 QBH), with Jr. Quin Ashley (2 tackles) backing him up.  Keo is the star of the defense, and likely the best safety in the WAC.  He is a good all-around athlete, doesn't miss tackles, and is great in coverage.  Keo is listed on the Jim Thorpe award watch list, for the nation's best defensive back.  So. Gary Walker (1 tackle) starts at free safety, with Jr. Thaad Thompson (3 tackles) serving as the top back-up.  Walker played in all 13 games as a true freshman last year, but didn't show much with the ball in the air.  He was good in rush support, however.  

Idaho Special Teams

Idaho's special teams units are decent, but aren't going to stun many opponents in any area.  The Vandals currently rank 64th in net punting (35.20 yd avg), 86th in kickoff returns (15.00 yd avg), 66th in punt returns (4.50 yd avg), 61st in kickoff coverage (20.60 yd avg), and 64th in punt coverage (21.00 yd avg).  

K: So. Trey Farquhar made 1 of his 2 field goal attempts with a long of 22 last week.  His miss was from 56 yards out.  He has a big leg and the Vandals aren't confident he can make them from that distance and farther.  Farquhar is also the kickoff specialist, pushing 2 of his 7 kickoffs for a touchback, with a 68.6 yard average, kicking between the 1 and 2 yard line.  1 of his 7 kickoffs was sent out of bounds in the season opener.  Farquhar also had a successful onside kick last week.

P: So. Bobby Cowan has a decent leg and averaged 39.4 yards on his 5 punts with a long of 44 last week.  None of his punts were downed inside the opponents' 20.

KR/PR: The top kickoff return unit for the Vandals consists of Jr. Kama Bailey (1 kick return, 15 yd avg, 15 yd long) and So. Justin Veltung.  Sr. Shiloh Keo (2 punt returns, 4.5 yd avg, 9 yd long) works as the top punt return man.  Keo is a dangerous returner that has a history of breaking big returns.  These units should be much improved from a season ago, however, didn't get much of a chance to showcase their abilities last week against North Dakota.

Coverage: The Vandals' kick and punt coverage units were average last week.  Last week, the kick coverage unit allowed an average of 20.6 yards on 5 kickoff return attempts with a long of 30.  The punt coverage unit allowed an average of 21 yards on 1 punt return attempt with a long of 21.    


Nebraska Offense

Nebraska's offense looked fairly good out of the gate last weekend against Western Kentucky.  They started and finished strong, but the play in the middle quarters was pretty sloppy.  There is a renewed emphasis on the ground game, but the attack will need to be more consistent going forward.  Nebraska currently ranks 15th nationally in total offense (536.00 ypg), 42nd in passing (247.00 ypg), 26th in pass efficiency (164.19 rating), 12th in rushing (289.00 ypg), 15th in scoring offense (49 ppg), 1st in interceptions thrown (0), 90th in fumbles lost (2), and 55th in giveaways (2).  

QB: Nebraska's coaches announced RFr. Taylor Martinez (9 for 15, 136 yds) as the starting quarterback for the Huskers last Saturday, and for the time being, it looks like he will stay there.  He's the fastest of the QB's and is an explosive playmaker, rushing the ball 7 times for 127 yards and 3 touchdowns (lost 2 yards on a sack) last week.  While he has a strong arm, he tends to throw heat every time, unable to find a nice touch on the ball.  His decision making needs to get better, but he just needs more game snaps to learn.  With the Nebraska offense becoming more run oriented, Martinez could be the perfect fit, but until he faces a real defense, it will be hard to know for sure.  So. Cody Green (5 for 6, 66 yds, 1 TD) is the second option, and last week led two drives, both ended with touchdowns.  He looked calm and confident as the field general, running and throwing effectively on nearly every down.  He also looked good enough to be the starter.  He carried the ball 3 times for 17 yards last week.  Sr. Zac Lee (3 for 4, 45 yds), last year's starter, was the third QB seen in the season opener and also looked good.  He has a strong arm, and when he has good protection, can be successful.  Lee has decent speed and rushed for 21 yards on 3 attempts.  Lee looked great against Nebraska's Sun Belt opposition early last year, but his game fell off the map as soon as they started facing teams from BCS conferences.  It will be interesting to see if Nebraska's QB's suffer a similar fate this season.  

RB: Nebraska's group of running backs is deep and talented.  They are led by Sr. Roy Helu Jr. (5 carries, 29 yds, 1 TD).  Helu Jr. has a great combination of hard running, leaping, and cutting ability.  He can beat defenders by running around, by, and over them.  He has transformed himself into a complete back in his time at Nebraska.  He had an impressive TD run last week, after getting stood up at the one, used third and fourth efforts to bully in the endzone.  The top back-up to Helu Jr. is So. Rex Burkhead (5 carries, 57 yds, 1 TD), an impressive young back that does a very nice job running between the tackles.  He hits the hole quickly and breaks tackles well.  He also has the speed to pick up chunks of yards running to the outside.  One weakness, though, is that he tends to run into his blockers, slowing his momentum.  So. Dontrayevous Robinson (4 carries, 0 yds) is the third option and has shown a lot of potential in his limited carries, running with a good amount of power and decent quickness.  He looked sluggish in the opener, however, and had seemed to have trouble getting into gear.  These top three backs should all contribute a lot to the offense this season.  Jr. Austin Jones (2 carries, 13 yds, 1 TD), So. Lester Ward (1 carry, 2 yds), and So. Collins Okafor (1 carry, 2 yds) are backs that will likely only see action in blow outs or due to injury.  In the passing game, Helu Jr., Burkhead (2 catches, 47 yds), and Robinson should each be big contributors this season.  None of the running backs saw many carries or catches in the opener, likely to have some miles saved for later in the year.  At fullback, Jr. Tyler Legate is the top guy but hasn't really seen much time on the field.  He's a good blocker, but hasn't had many opportunities to show what he can do with the ball in his hands.  Jr. Ryan Hill (1 catch, 11 yds) is the top back-up.  A former TE, his hands can be an asset for Nebraska at the FB position.

WR/TE: Nebraska's receivers continued their 2009 struggles with consistency and route running in the 2010 season opener.  There were some dropped passes as well as lazily run routes.  One glaring problem is the receivers not knowing where the chains were and how deep to run their routes on third downs.  There is good potential in the group and they should show improvement this season, but they need to reach it on the field and consistently.  Starting at "Z" is Sr. Niles Paul (5 catches, 92 yds, 1 TD).  He has a great combination of size, speed, and quickness  He is very inconsistent, though, as it seems for every great catch he makes, he'll drop just as many easy ones.  He also has fumbling problems and concentration issues.  Starting at "X" is Jr. Brandon Kinnie (6 catches, 59 yds).  Kinnie has great measurables (6'3, 220 lbs) and looked like Nebraska's best receiver last week.  He's got the ability to be a big time playmaker for the Nebraska offense.  Sr. Mike McNeill (28 catches, 259 yds, 4 TDs) is the top receiver in the slot this year after switching from tight end.  McNeill does a nice job of picking up yards after catch, as well as getting open in the endzone.  Surprisingly, he didn't register a single catch last week.  Reserves at receiver include Jr. Curenski Gilleylen, TFr. Quincy Enunwa (1 catch, 10 yds), So. Khiry Cooper, Sr. Will Henry (1 catch, 24 yds), and So. Tim Marlowe.  Gilleylen is a speedster that can be a dangerous deep threat if he stops dropping so many passes.  Enunwa shined in Fall camp and saw his first catch in the second half of the season opener.  Cooper has plenty of upside, but needs to be more physical and work to get open.  Henry is a big body (6'5") but has yet to make an impact in his career.  Nebraska's top TE's are So. Ben Cotton and So. Kyler Reed (1 catch, 4 yds).  A possible season ending back injury to Sr. Dreu Young (5 catches, 78 yds) could force McNeill back to tight end if Cotton and Reed can't get the job done.  

OL: Nebraska's offensive line looked fair against Western Kentucky last week, but performance and consistency can always be better.  Playing against a much smaller, weaker line, they should have done a better job of imposing their will.  Run blocking was mediocre, especially in power sets.  They weren't at full health, however, and should be closer this week.  Starting at left tackle could be either RFr. Jeremiah Sirles (6'6", 310 lbs) or Jr. Jermarcus Hardrick (6'7", 320 lbs).  Both looked good in the opener, with Sirles earning the start and Hardrick coming off the bench.  Sirles has picked up the offense quickly, and should turn into a solid lineman, while Hardrick is a JUCO transfer that has the potential to be a force this season.  Jr. Marcel Jones (6'7", 315 lbs) and Sr. D.J. Jones (6'5", 310 lbs) are expected to split time at right tackle.  Marcel has the potential to be a rock on the right side, however, he has shown a difficulty against athletic defensive ends.  He missed last week's game with injury, but should be back in the lineup on Saturday.  D.J. doesn't have great torque in his hips and also will get beat often by athletic linemen.  Starting at left guard is Sr. Keith Williams (6'5", 310 lbs), while Sr. Ricky Henry (6'4", 305 lbs) starts at right guard.  Williams is a solid blocker that has had trouble staying healthy during his career.  He does very well as the pulling guard, plowing through his man and opening holes.  Henry is a player known for his strength and his nasty streak, which has sometimes gotten the better of him, drawing flags.  So. Brandon Thompson (6'6", 290 lbs) and RFr. Brent Qvale (6'7", 320 lbs), and TFr. Andrew Rodriguez (6'6", 325 lbs) are Nebraska's top reserves at guard.  Jr. Mike Caputo (6'1", 275 lbs) starts at center, with RFr. Cole Pensick (6'2", 270 lbs) backing him up.  Caputo isn't a prototypically sized center, but he has very good technique and use of leverage.

Nebraska Defense

Nebraska's defense started strong last week, but got sloppy as the game wore on, allowing Western Kentucky to have some lengthy drives and scoring opportunities.  They were breaking in a number of new starters, which accounts for some of it, but they will need to get better, especially the heart of the defense against the run.  The Huskers are currently ranked 46th nationally in total defense (299.00 ypg), 30th in pass defense (120.00 ypg), 31st in pass efficiency defense (91.23 rating), 75th in rush defense (179.00 ypg), 28th in scoring defense (10.00 ppg), 25th in interceptions (1), 20th in fumbles recovered (1), and 27th in total takeaways (2).

DL: Nebraska's defensive line play was spotty last week.  The losses of Ndamukong Suh and Barry Turner to graduation were glaring at times.  The group is talented and deep, but will need to get better than they were in the opener and make more stops in the backfield.  In their defense, Western Kentucky was doing an incredible amount of holding, which helped limit their effectiveness.  Starting at defensive end is Sr. Pierre Allen (5 tackles) on the right, with So. Cameron Meredith (4 tackles) on the left.  Allen is a great athlete that does well against the run and also as a pass rusher.  He should have a solid year getting after the QB.  Meredith has a good first step and enough strength to power by opposing tackles.  He was held often in the opener, which helped contribute to a shoulder injury he suffered during the game.  So. Josh Williams (2 tackles) and RFr. Jason Ankrah are the top reserves at defensive end.  Both were outstanding high school players, and each possesses excellent athleticism and the ability to become great pass rushers.  Williams appears to be a step ahead of Ankrah at this point.  Jr. Jared Crick (6 tackles, 1 QBH) starts at defensive tackle, with RFr. Thaddeus Randle providing back-up.  Crick turned into a big time d-tackle last season and should compete for All-American honors this season.  He's big, strong, and has good speed to get into the backfield and cause problems for opposing offenses.  Randle has shown a great motor in camp, and has a good first step.  He did struggle in the opener, however, to make any impact.  Starting at nose tackle is So. Baker Steinkuhler (1 tackle, 1 sack) or Jr. Terrence Moore.  It was a very close race throughout camp and both will see the field a lot.  Steinkuhler had the team's only sack in the opener, but had trouble getting off his blocks throughout the game.

LB: Nebraska's linebacking corps was definitely missing graduated Phillip Dillard as well as injured Sean Fisher and Will Compton in the season opener.  Fisher is out for the year, while Compton should be back sometime mid-season.  With those losses, it thrust a couple of guys into starting roles that may not have been 100% ready.  Not surprisingly, communication issues arose, which Nebraska coaches blamed for much of the defensive miscues last week.  Starting at weakside linebacker is RFr. Alonzo Whaley (5 tackles), with Jr. Matt May (2 tackles), and Sr. Thomas Grove (1 tackle) backing him up.  Whaley wasn't talked about much in fall camp, but was announced as the starter shortly before the opener.  He looked fairly sharp against the run at times, but had issues in coverage.  There were issues with over pursuit and getting swallowed in the line, but for a first time on the field, it wasn't too bad.  May did not play much linebacker last season, mostly limited to special teams action.  He's a good athlete, but won't likely jump into the starting spot unless Whaley really struggles.  Jr. Lavonte David (13 tackles) starts at middle linebacker, with So. Eric Martin (3 tackles) proving back-up.  David is a JUCO transfer that didn't arrive in Lincoln until the Summer, yet has quickly shown himself to be a player.  He led the team in stops in the opener, and is going to be a big time playmaker for the defense as he continues to learn the system.  He suffered from some of the same problems that Whaley had, mostly due to lack of experience at this level.  Martin is a special teams dynamo and has the ability to be a force at LB if he can get the mental aspect of his game to match his physicality.  There is a good chance that Martin could actually start at weakside this week.  Nebraska is calling their hybrid strongside linebacker/defensive back the "Peso", and starting at that spot is Sr. Eric Hagg (3 tackles, 1 FR, 1 QBH, 1 PBU), with Jr. Austin Cassidy backing him up.  Hagg is a great athlete and gets into the backfield quickly on the blitz and making tackles in the open field.  He has been fairly weak in coverage over the course of his career, however, this move to a hybrid LB position could be a perfect fit for him.  Cassidy is a walk-on that was just awarded a scholarship after putting in years of hard work.  He has worked himself into the lineup and should see the field more this year.   

DB: Nebraska's defensive backfield should be one of the best in the nation this season on the edges, but there is real concern in replacing multi-year starters at safety, Larry Asante and Matt O'Hanlon.  Sr. Prince Amukamara (3 tackles, 1 PBU) starts at LCB, with TFr. Ciante Evans (1 tackle) as the top reserve.  Amukamara is a great athlete and an outstanding cover corner.  He'll be one of the nation's best corners again this year, making it tough on opposing receivers.  Evans has quickly worked his way onto the field, a rare true freshman corner getting a good number of snaps in a season opener.  Jr. Alfonzo Dennard (6 tackles, 1 QBH) took over the role as starting RCB in the middle of last season and showed to be a star in the making.  He's a physical corner that makes plays on the football and is a very solid tackler.  Behind Dennard are So. Antonio Bell and RFr. Dijon Washington.  Starting at free safety is Sr. Rickey Thenarse (4 tackles), with So. P.J. Smith (4 tackles, 1 INT) battling him for that starting spot.  Thenarse missed most of last season with a knee injury and brings back his hard nosed, big hitting ability back for his final season.  He hasn't done much in the defensive backfield, but did struggle with coverage when he played.  Smith played sparingly last season and looked like a redshirt-Freshman, raw.  In the opener, he had the game's only interception.  At strong safety will be Sr. Dejon Gomes (6 tackles, 1 FF), with Sr. Anthony West being his top back-up.  Gomes was solid in coverage last year, showed great ball-hawking ability, but needs to be better at taking down physical running backs.  He had a huge forced fumble in the second half in which he chased down the ball carrier nearly 50 yards downfield and stripped the ball away less than a second before he was poised to cross the goal line.  He had an eerily similar play last season against a Kansas wide receiver.  Gomes works as Nebraska's top dime back and will shift there when the play calls for it.  West is a former starter at corner, but fell down the depth chart due to lackluster play.  He has only been average in his career, and a switch to safety isn't easy.

Nebraska Special Teams

Nebraska's special teams units should be some of the best in the nation this season.  They have some of the best kickers in the nation, and the return men have the ability to break free on any given return.  In their season opener last week, the kickoff coverage unit was quite poor, giving up uncharacteristically large returns.  The Huskers are currently ranked 37th in net punting (39.33 yd avg), 14th in kickoff returns (27.67 yd avg), 12th in punt returns (19.33 yd avg), 81st in kickoff coverage (22.00 yd avg), and 30th in punt coverage (5.00 yd avg).

K: Sr. Alex Henery possesses one of the strongest and most accurate legs in the nation.  He has made 35 of his last 36 kicks from under 50 yards.  Henery did not attempt a field goal in the season opener last week.  Sr. Adi Kunalic has a booming leg and has been the best kickoff specialist in the nation throughout his first 3 seasons.  Kunalic pushed 2 of 8 kickoffs for touchback in the season opener, with an excellent 69.1 yard average, kicking between the goal line and 1 yard line.

P: Sr. Alex Henery averaged 42.7 yards on his 3 punts with a long of 52 last week.  1 of his 3 punts was downed inside the opponents' 20.  He added punting duties to his repertoire last season, and was been a key weapon for the Huskers.  When directional punting or attempting to get the ball downed inside the 10, he is exceptional.

KR/PR: Nebraska's top kickoff return unit is made up of So. Tim Marlowe (2 kick returns, 34.5 yd avg, 42 yd long) and Jr. Brandon Kinnie (1 kick return, 14 yd avg, 14 yd long).  At punt returner is Sr. Niles Paul (3 punt returns, 19.3 yd avg, 31 yd long).  These units can be very good, but can also be very inconsistent.  

Coverage: Nebraska's coverage teams were fair last week, but missed some tackles and took poor angles to the opposing kickoff return men which resulted in longer than necessary returns.  The kick coverage unit allowed an average of 22 yards on 6 kickoff returns (29 yd long), while the punt coverage unit allowed an average of 5 yards on 2 punt returns (8 yd long).  

Position Advantages
QBs:  Idaho +
RBs: Nebraska ++
WR/TE's: Nebraska +
OL: Nebraska +++
DL: Nebraska +++
LB: Nebraska ++
DB: Nebraska ++
Special Teams: Nebraska ++
Coaching: Nebraska ++
+ = Slight
++ = Moderate
+++ = Large

Injury Report

RB - Deonte Jackson - Ankle - Probable
OT - Tyrone Novikoff - Cramps - Probable
FS - Gary Walker - Toe - Probable

DE - Cameron Meredith - Shoulder - Day-to-Day
RT - Marcel Jones - Back - Probable
DT - Chase Rome - Elbow - Questionable
LB - Will Compton - Foot - Out Indefinitely
TE - Dreu Young - Back - Out Indefinitely
LB - Sean Fisher - Leg - Out for Season
RT - Mike Smith - Leg - Out for Season
CB - Anthony Blue - Knee - Out for Season

Keys to the Game

1.) Attack the Middle - Nebraska's defensive weakness is down the center at the second and third levels.  Utilize your deep receiving pool to challenge their linebackers and safeties early and often.
2.) Enderle Has to Get Hot - He needs to be lights out and calculated.  If he starts winging it around like he's shown in the past, Nebraska's defensive backs are too good not to get some interceptions.
3.) Don't Give Up Big Plays - A good portion of Nebraska's offense in their opener came from big plays.  Force them to earn it, don't give them anything easy.

1.) Pressure the QB - Nebraska's pass rush was poor against Western Kentucky in the opener, the front four needs to get a better push.  Idaho has 4 new starters on the offensive line this year and gave up 4 sacks to a FCS school in their opener.  Pressure will be key to forcing mistakes and making this a less worrisome game.
2.) Continued Quality QB Play - Idaho has the ability to put up points, so if Nebraska's defensive struggles aren't shored up, the offense needs to be sharp.  Martinez, Green, and Lee all played well in the opener and again need to look dangerous with the ball in their hands.  
3.) Reduce Communication Problems - Coaches and players blamed much of the defensive issues on communication breakdowns which led to not having everyone lined up where they needed to be, putting them out of position to make plays.  If that can be remedied, at least to a degree, it will reduce the amount of time the defense has to be on the field.

Final Outlook

There were plenty of plusses and minuses to take away from both Idaho and Nebraska's season openers last weekend.  Neither team really struggled to win their game, but there were typical first game issues, such as too many penalties, mental mistakes, and sloppy play.  

Nebraska's starting QB Taylor Martinez had moments of brilliance in the opener, most of which came from running the football from the zone-read option.  He also had his share of freshman mistakes, with some poor passing decisions and not knowing when to escape the pocket.  He showed a strong arm, but after starting hot, went ice cold in the second quarter, as did the majority of the team.  Back-ups Cody Green and Zac Lee aren't that far behind Martinez, and should both continue to see plenty of snaps.  They need better performance from their receivers going forward, though, as they were lackluster in the opener.  WR Niles Paul continues to be an inconsistent player, while Brandon Kinnie looks like he might be the guy Nebraska's offense has been looking for.  Nebraska's crop of quality running backs are a known commodity and no single back got a large amount of carries.  Given Nebraska's RB injuries from a season ago, that was probably a good idea for the time being.  However, look for Roy Helu Jr. and Rex Burkhead to start carrying a larger load for the offense beginning in the next week or two.  Idaho's defense is experienced, with 10 of their 11 starters coming into this season with starting experience.  Experience is great, but the talent just isn't there to match up against decent teams from BCS conferences.  Nebraska is better than decent, and should be able to have a good amount of success both rushing and passing.  LB JoJo Dickson and S Shiloh Keo are the guys to try to stay away from, but there aren't really any other standouts on the defense.

Idaho's offense is in good hands with Nebraska-native QB Nathan Enderle.  It'll be a homecoming for Enderle, with many family and friends expected in the crowd on Saturday, and he'll be looking to make an impression on his home state.  He's gotten better over the years at throwing more touchdowns than interceptions, but he isn't quite perfect in his decision making and will throw some bad balls as well.  He can't afford to do that Saturday, however, if the Vandals are to pull a shocker.  Enderle's got a good group of receivers to throw to, and they didn't have much trouble getting wide open last week against North Dakota.  Armauni Johnson in particular looked the part of a big time receiver as he showed good hands, good speed, and an ability to stretch the field.  The Idaho running game is pretty solid with Princeton McCarty carrying the load, but the lackadaisical way he carries the ball could be a concern.  Nebraska is a hard hitting, ball hawking defense and failure to protect the football will result in multiple fumbles.  There are holes in their defense, notably the linebackers and safeties, as well as a young defensive line.  They're talented, though, and it is mostly an experience issue.  Still, Idaho might be able to catch them this early in the season with some big plays.  

Both teams are stepping up in competition, but Idaho's jump from North Dakota to Nebraska will be a stark one.  The Huskers are going to look sharper than they did in their opener, and won't suffer through two quarters of doldrums.  Enderle's arm keeps Idaho competitive in this game, but Nebraska forces some turnovers and pulls away.  Nebraska wins by about 24 points.  

Idaho - 21
Nebraska - 45


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