Date: Saturday, November 19th
Kickoff: 11:00 a.m.
Venue: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE
Network: ESPN News
No. 18Nebraska (8-2, 5-2) will square off against Maryland (5-5, 2-5) this Saturday in hopes of finishing out its undefeated home-game stretch.
Nebraska is coming off of another late-game thriller battle won in the fourth quarter against Minnesota last week. The Huskers foe is coming off a similar 62-3 loss to Ohio State.
Maryland, despite only having just two Big Ten wins, presents a high-powered spread offense that is the No. 33 in the country in scoring. The Terrapins will look to spread the field and poke holes in the Blackshirt defense. Defensive coordinator Mark Banker said that their offense possess a lot of threats that they will need to prepare for. http://www.scout.com/college/nebraska/story/1719350-sports-illustrated-i...
"Maryland would parallel Ohio State,” Banker said. “There are a lot of things that come out of their package that Ohio State ran. The other thing is, right now their quarterback position is unsettled, and they all bring something different. This is a dangerous team from a standpoint that they're going to do anything they can to score points."
As Banker noted, Maryland’s efficiency stems from its senior quarterback Perry Hills, who is currently listed as questionable with a shoulder injury. Hills possesses a 67 percent completion percentage and has 10 touchdowns compared to his three interceptions on the year. His favorite target is D.J. Moore, who has big-play capability. Moore’s productivity has him with 31 catches, five touchdowns, and 469 receiving yards on the year. The Terrapins biggest success offensively, however, is their rushing attack, which head coach Mike Riley is well aware of.
“We are playing a Maryland team that runs a spread offense, a lot of zone read stuff. They’re the third-ranked running team in the conference,” Riley said.
The Terrapins’ have a strong ground attack with their backfield duo of Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison. Johnson’s explosive ability leads the team in yards with 656 and averages 8.5 yards a carry. In Harrison’s 88 carries, he averages 7.2 per play and has racked up five touchdowns, including a 62-yard score. Unfortunately for the Terrapins, a BB gun incident may have Harrison out for this one, so Johnson may have to carry the load offensively in this cold and windy morning game.
Nebraska is in a very similar situation they were in just a week ago at the quarterback position. Senior quarterback Tommy Armstrong went down last game with a hamstring injury late in the fourth quarter, and did not return to the game. The Huskers’ second in command will be Ryker Fyfe, and he may get the nod to start, regardless of how Armstrong responds. Sophomore wide receiver Zach Darlington will backup Fyfe and could see the field if Armstrong is completely ruled out.
Nebraska’s fourth quarter dominance in its 24-17 win last week is nothing new to defensive end Ross Dzuris. The senior, from Plattsmouth, Nebraska, explained how Nebraska’s late-game success of outscoring their opponents is due to how the team responds, something that they have improved in drastically since last season.
"It mainly has to do with -- as the game goes on -- we just feel more and more comfortable,” Dzuris said. “We've given up just a play here or there a couple times in a few games and by the end of the game, we've figured out those little fixes that we need to adapt in the game and by the time the fourth quarter comes around, we have a lot of confidence.”
The Huskers will look to end the regular season 7-0 at home, which is something they have not done since 2012. Senior tight end Trey Foster noted that the team and the fans should be proud of how the Huskers have improved from just a year ago.
“I think we’ve done a good job coming out every single week, especially when we are at home getting the job done and making plays when we need to,” Foster said. “I feel like it’s just a testament to how much we put in this season.”
This will be the first time these two football programs will square off against each other. Maryland joined the Big Ten in 2014 and is the last team in the conference Nebraska has yet to face.
What A Win Means For Nebraska:
A win for Nebraska would improve their record to 9-2 and 6-2 in the Big Ten. What’s more impressive though, is that it would mean the Huskers would finish out undefeated at home if they can get the win on their senior day. After going just 3-4 a season ago at Memorial Stadium, a 7-0 record at home would be a drastic improvement.
What A Win Means For Maryland:
This would be the biggest win of the year for this Maryland team, and it could also solidify their chances of a bowl game. As of now, they are on the bubble on making a post-season game, but picking up their sixth win on the road against a ranked Husker squad would impress everyone and validate their worthiness of a bowl game. A win this week would put the Terrapin’s record over .500 and they could help them end on a winning note, as they finish their season with Rutgers at home.
Nebraska Players To Watch On Offense:
The senior quarterback showed guts and determination last week, battling through multiple injuries and eventually scoring the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Armstrong has showed throughout the whole season that he is a competitor and will not quit on any game. If he plays, the Texas native will undoubtedly have a big game since it is his last in Lincoln. Despite not practicing the full week, the 6-foot-1, 220-pounder finished last week’s game going 19-27 for 217 yards and was responsible for three touchdowns, and his performance earned him the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week. Whether or not he plays is still up in the air, but as Riley noted from last week’s situation, “He only got to practice half the time during the week, yet I felt that he was sharp with all the parts so that’s a great sign, how engaged he stayed during the week.”
Despite the preseason critics, Newby has shown each week that he has rightfully earned his role as Nebraska’s top back. The senior from California had yet another great fourth quarter performance and carried the team on his back to eat up some yards and clock. Though his efficiency may not be the sexiest thing to watch sometimes, the 5-foot-10, 200-pounder showed his elusiveness and balance in his 31-yard score off of a screen. Senior day in Nebraska will be accompanied by cold weather and gusts of wind. Expect Newby to have a big game and once again, carry the load on offense.
Westerkamp is one of those rare type of players in terms of how much he will be missed next year. His sure hands and acrobatic catches have been nothing new since starting his freshman year. As a top prospect from Illinois, the senior has lived up to his potential, and then some. The senior wide out is climbing the record books for Nebraska and should finish strongly this season after overcoming a scary injury. His impact will certainly last once he is gone, and years down the road, most Nebraska fans will remember who caught the Hail Mary pass to beat Northwestern in 2013.
Nebraska Players To Watch On Defense:
Banderas was a guy that Nebraska fans had high expectations for early on. Though his first three years did not pan out as well as he’d like, the senior from Lincoln has played his best football this season, and may be the best player on this Blackshirt defense. Senior wide out Brandon Reilly recognized how well his classmate has played this year. “He struggled for a little while there, and I am like ‘Guys, just wait. Bando is an animal.’ I think these last few weeks it has really shown.”
The middle linebacker leads the team in tackles with 71, and has been averaging double-digit tackles in his last few games. With his athleticism and knowledge of the sport, ‘Bando’ could work his way right into an NFL draft pick. Look for the senior captain to get his named called more often than not against Maryland’s ground attack.
The senior’s play has been exceptional since the moment he stepped foot on the field as a true freshman. Gerry brings leadership and energy to this Blackshirt defense, and was recently selected to play in the Senior Bowl at the end of the year. The Sioux Falls native has been consistently dominant in his final year in Lincoln, and is second on the team in tackles and interceptions, despite missing the first game of the season.
Mark Banker noted how Gerry will be at the top half of the Nebraska record books when he is gone. "He's positioned himself right now very handsomely from the standpoint of where he is within the team in tackles, interceptions, historically within the program,” Banker said. Nebraska fans will miss the safety next year, but will most likely be watching him play on Sundays.
Though he may not be a household name amongst the casual Nebraska fan, Maurice has been undoubtedly the best player on the defensive line this year. The senior has been a solid block up the middle with his 28 tackles on the year and is a big part of why this Nebraska defense is in the top half of every defensive category in the Big Ten. A possible NFL draft pick, the 6-foot-3, 300-pounder could have a big game against a Maryland team that ranks third in the Big Ten in rush offense. He will finish out strong, but will definitely be missed by this Blackshirt defense.
"Kevin Maurice is the heart and soul of that defensive front, I don't care what the numbers say," Banker said. "He's a great leader, he's a great guy to be around. He brings a certain amount of toughness, great work ethic.”
Reasons To Be Concerned:
Nebraska may be without its starting quarterback Tommy Armstrong. The senior quarterback is currently listed as questionable with a hamstring injury, which would mean backup quarterback Ryker Fyfe would have to fill in. Fyfe is just 0-1 in his career starts in Lincoln. Additionally, it is senior day at Memorial Stadium, which could cause players to lose focus and not have their heads in all four quarters of the game.
Injury Report For Nebraska:
Tommy Armstrong (hamstring) Questionable
Husker fans will experience a little déjà vu with the status of senior quarterback Tommy Armstrong. Like last week, Armstrong will have a limited role in practice and the decision of whether or not he plays will be decided late this week. Something tells me that he will play, given that he has battled injuries all year, is a heck of a competitor and it is his last game at Memorial Stadium. As of now, Mike Riley noted that it’s still 50/50.
“Can I imagine him not playing? I don’t want to,” said Riley. “It’s senior day. All those parts. He’s had a terrific career here at Nebraska. Part of this thing is biology, and the hamstring is a hard one.”
Dylan Utter (ankle) Probable
The senior center took a few nasty spills last week against Minnesota, and eventually hurt his ankle. Utter was seen walking around in a boot earlier this week, but is expected to start this week.
Brandon Reilly (hamstring) Probable
Reilly has had a tweaked hamstring for the majority of the season, and has been limited in most of his games. The former walk-on was in and out of their game last week, but with his hamstring feeling better and it being senior day, the Lincoln native should definitely see the field.
Quote To Note:
“It’ll be a bittersweet feeling. We put a lot of hard work in this place and a lot of guys have played a lot of snaps here. It’s going to be special. And with old’ Foltzie not being there too, it just adds to the emotion that happens on a senior day. The most important thing is leaving this stadium with a win and going undefeated at home as a senior.” – Nebraska senior center Dylan Utter.
I think regardless of who is under center for this one, Nebraska will pick up a convincing win to finish out their home-game win streak. It’s going to be a cold and windy one, which means that senior back Terrell Newby could statistically have his biggest game of the year on the ground. Maryland has a very efficient quarterback and an electrifying wide out in Moore, but it’s become customary now to see at least one turnover from this Blackshirt defense inside Memorial Stadium. The Huskers are also playing on senior day, which, as I noted above, could affect their mindset in this one. However, I think they will use it as fuel to play even better for the fans in Lincoln for one last time. Nebraska wins this one big and will carry momentum into their final game of the regular season next week.