By: Joe Franco
Nebraska vs Wyoming Primer
Date: Saturday, September 10
Kickoff: 11:00 a.m.
Venue: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE
Network: ESPN 2
Nebraska will host Wyoming for the second game of the year after both squads started off their season with a win. Though many feel that this game will be a one-sided victory for Nebraska, including Vegas, Wyoming is an opponent that should not be taken lightly.
Head coach Craig Bohl is entering his third year at Wyoming. Despite having a losing record of just 7-18 at with the Cowboys, Bohl has an impressive head-coaching résumé. In his 11 seasons at North Dakota State prior to Wyoming, Bohl finished with a record of 104-32, including three NCAA Division I FCS championships. Bohl also helped Nebraska win two national titles in 1995 and 1997 as the linebackers’ coach.
Wyoming also has a star safety in sophomore Andrew Wingard. As a freshman last year, Wingard was awarded to the second-team All-Mountain West Conference and led the Mountain West in tackles. In their season-opener, Wingard recorded 12 tackles in their win against Northern Illinois.
Nebraska has shown that they are a run-first team last week with 51 attempts on the ground and only 13 passes. Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf wants to find a right balance between the two, but also noted that if the run game is working, they will not shy away from it.
“I think the balance is key,” Langsdorf said. “I think we’ve said that since day one, that for us, the balance is a good thing. In that game where we scored 43 and had as much success running, I think that was a little bit of an anomaly. It wasn’t bad, I don’t want to sound negative about running the ball well, I think the focus for us was just needing to throw the ball a little better.”
Defensively, the Huskers are on the right track back to being one of the most feared defenses in the nation. Yes, it was just one game, but the Blackshirts held Fresno State to just 31 rushing yards in 26 attempts. Wyoming likes to run the ball, but also tries to balance their attack through the air with some play-action. Last game, they threw 29 times and had 56 rushing attempts.
“Offensively, they’ve been historically, at North Dakota State and at Wyoming, a run-play action, run-action team,” said Riley on Monday. “They have a real good runner, #5 (Brian) Hill. Their quarterback (Josh Allen) is really strong. Big guy, 6-5. I haven’t seen the whole film yet, but I guess he scrambled for the winning score the other night in overtime for a touchdown.”
Nebraska’s biggest goal going forward will be to clean up their penalties they have earned thus far, especially unsportsmanlike conduct and personal fouls—penalties that can easily be avoided. On the other side of the field, Wyoming is a very smart and disciplined team that will not shoot themselves in the foot.
“As I talked to all the coaches, offense, defense, special teams, it was almost uniform in describing Wyoming that they are well-coached. And I talked to them separately,” said Riley. “So that is kind of the pervading thing as you look at it. This is a team that is going to be on the rise. They already started off with a nice win. And [Bohl] is young in his time there at Wyoming, so we expect a good football team that is well-coached coming in here.”
The History: Long story short, Wyoming has never beaten Nebraska in their seven attempts. But, that is not the only history involved in this game; the Wyoming coaching staff has a lot of ties with the Nebraska. Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl was born in Lincoln, played for the Huskers in the late 70’s and was an assistant coach for 11 years, including the 1995 and 1997 National Champion seasons. Defensive coordinator Steve Stanard and wide receivers coach Mike Grant also played football for Nebraska.
What A Win Means For Nebraska
A win for Nebraska would be the right step into the direction heading towards next week against a ranked Oregon squad. This is the first time in Mike Riley’s career at Nebraska he has had a winning record, so he definitely would like to carry the momentum of a two-game win-streak for Nebraska’s first test against a team from a power five conference next week.
What A Win Means For Wyoming
Beating Nebraska would be the highlight of the season for Wyoming. After starting 1-0 this year, a win against Nebraska would maintain a strong season and give the Cowboys a chance to have an undefeated season. Beating Nebraska would also put them on the map in terms of recruiting and could refine their recruiting process to land some top-tier talent.
Nebraska Players To Watch On Offense:
RB) Devine Ozigbo- In the first game of the year, the backup running back had a career game against Fresno State. In just 17 rushing attempts, the sophomore had 103 yards and two rushing touchdowns. After having such a quality performance on the year, it will be interesting to see how many carries the 6-foot, 230-pound I-back will have this week. Terrell Newby looks to be the starter yet again, which could be the fuel that Ozigbo needs to have another great game on the ground.
QB) Tommy Armstrong Jr.- The senior quarterback did not have a great game throwing the ball in the season-opener against Fresno State. Armstrong Jr. credited his 5-of-10 passing performance to miscommunications from both himself and the wide receivers. With a run-first offense Nebraska has shown, it appears that Armstrong Jr.’s throws will be limited each game, forcing him to take advantage of his opportunities airing it out. Armstrong Jr. must have an accurate game passing to prove Nebraska can be a threat on both the run and pass game.
All Wide Receivers- As stated above, Nebraska has shown that they are a run-first team. Last week, they ran the ball 51 times and only threw 13. It will be interesting to see how this style affects their wide receivers’ play. Jordan Westerkamp’s streak of at least one reception a game for the last 26 games was in jeopardy last week until late in the 4th quarter when Ryker Fyfe through him a 6-yard pass-his only catch of the game. There were only a total of six receptions last week, so it will be interesting to see how one of the best wide receiver groups in the Big Ten will respond going forward.
Nebraska Players To Watch On Defense:
S) Kieron Williams- Williams had a standout game last week against Fresno State after he led the team with ten tackles and had one interception. Williams did not earn a blackshirt the week prior to the first game, which could have led to his extra motivation for the game, as he was the star of the defense last week. It will be interesting to see how much playing time he gets with Nate Gerry returning from his one-game suspension, and also whether or not he can continue the momentum from last week.
S) Nate Gerry- The senior captain was absent from the field in their season-opener last week due to a one-game suspension. Now back for his first game of the year, Gerry will bring energy and leadership for the rest of the defense to follow. Without a doubt, Gerry brings more talent to the field, but he is also the nucleus to how the defense operates. With him back on the field, look for Gerry to have a big game, but also watch to see if the defense, as a whole, improves. "I mean, he really isn't up to game speed at all," defensive coordinator Mark Banker said. "He hasn't played a (full) game since Rutgers. I mean he will know what to do and how to do it, but we will have to see that. He will have to sharpen up his tools a little bit, but it's good to have him back."
CB) Lamar Jackson- Nebraska’s highly recruited corner made his Cornhusker debut last week starting as a cornerback. The true freshman had a so-so game against Fresno State, having both good and bad moments. He was clearly targeted and picked on by Fresno State last week, as he played conservatively against his man. He allowed several passes to be completed, including Fresno State’s first touchdown of the game. On the flipside, Jackson also had six tackles in the game, including an 11-yard sack. Head coach Mike Riley has also stated how much he likes the true freshman and that he wants to get him on the field anyway he can. Look for Jackson to make the most of his moments on the field and to see if and how much he improves from last week.
Reasons To Be Concerned:
This game’s an early one. An 11 a.m. kickoff has concerns for Husker fans and Mike Riley. Last year’s 11 a.m. kickoff games were against Northwestern and Purdue, in which Nebraska lost both. Riley has stated his concern for early games this year, as he said the team seemed lethargic in last year’s. He has even gone as far as to get the players glasses to wear three hours before bed that block out blue light and suppress melatonin. It will be interesting to see if Nebraska comes out the gate as fired up as they were in last week’s game.
Quote To Note:
“Some of you know Craig Bohl, he’s done an outstanding job coaching and he’ll do a great job at Wyoming. They had a solid win against a good team the other night, and so we’re looking forward to beginning the preparation for this game and improving, which we have to do in some areas. We liked the rushing yards, obviously, but we didn’t have anywhere near the balance we’ll need as we go forward in the passing game.” – Nebraska Head Coach Mike Riley
Prediction (If you want it):
I believe this game could go one of two ways. Nebraska could come out swinging and could put Wyoming away with a semi-balanced run and pass game. If this is the case, this game will be a bigger blowout than last week’s Fresno State game. Scenario number two, Nebraska comes out slow in the run game, like last week, and struggle for the first half. This could give Wyoming some life and they could keep it close until the fourth quarter. In either case, I predict Nebraska to win comfortably by at least three scores.