After getting his first win at Nebraska, head coach Mike Riley will take his bunch to Miami on Saturday for a 2:30 CT contest with the Hurricanes.
“I understand the great history of this (Miami) game and some of the historical ramifications of the game against Miami being played for national championships,” said Riley. "That’s pretty good stuff, and it’s led to a nice, current day rivalry.
“I did not realize how they felt except through time, hearing them talk. I think… unfortunately it won’t happen, but I think the first thing De’Mornay (Pierson-El) said to me when he got hurt is, 'I really want to play in that Miami game.' So I’ve been getting a feel for what this means to this team and program.”
Nebraska is coming off a 48-9 victory over South Alabama, where the Huskers had an easy time running the football after struggling to establish a rushing attack against BYU in week one.
“It will tell the tale, right? There’s no doubt about it. You know, BYU is a very strong, physical, very good run defense and we were, I would say, average. So I understand that. We’re not naïve to that. It’s still good to run the ball, right? And we still saw some stuff that was better,” said Riley when asked if Nebraska made improvements or it was just a lesser opponent. “Our assignments were better, technically we were good. We were not playing the same level of opponent as we did or as we will, but at least we did it and that’s good. Now can we step it up and do that against better teams? That’s it. I certainly understand that and agree with that totally."
Miami comes into the contest 2-0, after beating Florida Atlantic last week, 44-20. The Hurricanes were only up three at halftime. Sophomore quarterback Brad Kaaya, who threw for over 300 yards in Lincoln last season, leads the Miami offense.
The trip to South Florida will be the Huskers’ first road game in the Mike Riley era.
“Everybody that plays college football, plays football at all, understands you have away games. I think that if you want to be a great team you have to win on the road,” said Riley. There’s going to be a field and lines on the field and goal posts, so there’s going to be a football game breakout, but it is different. You have to handle the travel, you’ve got to do all that stuff, and then you’ve got to play in a game. I think it’s really good for us right now and I think that, again, how you do on the road is a big part of what your season is going to be about.”
The series: While the two sides have only met 11 total times (Nebraska leads series 6-5), three times it was with a national championship on the line. The two schools have combined for 1,478 wins and 10 national championships – pumping out 170 All-Americans in the process. Last season the rivalry was renewed, when Miami came to Nebraska and lost in a primetime affair, 41-31.
What a win means for Nebraska: If Nebraska fans are honest with themselves, the same questions surrounding the Huskers after the BYU game are still there – South Alabama didn’t provide many answers. While 1-2 doesn’t change Nebraska’s goal of winning the Big Ten West, the atmosphere around Lincoln won’t be enjoyable until Riley gets his first decent win.
What a win means for Miami: A win wouldn’t save Al Golden’s job, but would relieve some of the pressure the head coach has to be feeling. An unblemished record heading into a bye week before the start of conference play would have the Hurricanes feeling pretty confident.
Who to watch on offense and defense:
CB.) Daniel Davie, Sr. – The corner has struggled in the first two weeks, but has been very close to making a play. Multiple times Davie has run stride-for-stride with receivers and just not finished at the end, allowing the catch. He’s going to have to be better against a wide receiver crew that will likely be one of the best Nebraska faces this season.
QB.) Tommy Armstrong, Jr. – Picking a quarterback each week seems like a no brainer, which is why we stayed away from it in week one and two. But, with a game against Miami, Armstrong has to be highlighted. This has the potential to be a national breakout game for the junior quarterback. While Armstrong found success on the ground against Miami last year, he struggled to throw the football. So far this season Armstrong has been hitting on over 60 percent of his throws. He will need a similar like effort on the road to probably win.
Reason to be concerned? Much has been made about the Nebraska secondary this last week, but what about the defensive line? A line that came into the season with lots of hype, but has yet to establish a consistent pass rush. Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya can not be allowed to sit in the pocket and eat a sandwich – if he has enough time, he’s good enough to pick the Nebraska secondary apart.
Did you know? Nebraska starting running back Terrell Newby and Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya were former high school teammates. “We’ve been real close since [we were] six-years-old,” said Newby. “We played with each other. He’s a little younger than me, but I’ve known him since then, so I’ve definitely been shooting him some texts this week.”
Quote to note: “They are quick and good up front. They return a lot on their defense, and then they have some big guys. They will be tough to just move out of the way, and they have some back end speed especially at linebacker.” – Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf
Josh Harvey’s prediction: I would love to pick Nebraska in this one, but I just don’t have enough confidence in the secondary at this point. I think it will be a close game going into the fourth quarter. I think it will be a little chippy on both sides. Ultimately Kaaya outplays Armstrong in the second half.
Miami: 38 Nebraska: 34
Beth Long, Scout.com: Nebraska 31 Miami 28
Joe Quinn, AM 590: Miami 45 Nebraska 38
Brett Edwards, KLKN-TV: Nebraska 34 Miami 27
Peter Terpstra, KLKN-TV: Nebraska 27 Miami 24
Andrew Ward, KLKN-TV: Miami 28 Nebraska 24