It was a great day for Nebraska, a record setting day even. Quarterback, Joe Dailey's almost flawless performance against Baylor had people regaling all who would listen about how this team might have finally turned the corner.
It was against Baylor though, so while optimism exists anew following the humiliation down in Lubbock, it's still mostly of the cautious type right now that says it's not what you've done, but what you are about to do. "We want to be consistent and we're not there yet." Offensive coordinator, Jay Norvell said. "We continue to strive for it and we continue to work for it."
"We've worked hard and we've put ourselves into position now to play some meaningful games if we continue to improve, so this is kind of the stretch-run to that."
The stretch-run is figuratively a myriad of things, but some choose to look at it based on what Nebraska did just this last weekend. A stretch-run from a corner that Nebraska hopefully turned with their dominating performance against Baylor.
Again, though, Baylor only proved that Nebraska could beat another easily beaten team. This weekend comes the true test. "They've got the full package." Head coach, Bill Callahan said of Kansas State. "Looking at their record (2-4), their record is not indicative of their performance. They are well coached. They are very athletic and as we all know, the game is going to come down to two or three plays in any contest that is tightly contested."
The record would have most thinking that Kansas State is approaching mediocre status reminiscent of days gone by, but this last weekend where the Wildcats fought well against Oklahoma, one of the best teams in the country, it speaks a different message. Callahan noted that and the fact that the team he plans on facing in Manhattan isn't the same team most people saw two or even more weeks ago. "This is a week to week business." Callahan said. "That's how we live."
"It changes from one week to the next. The set of circumstances, the situations, who you are playing, how they are playing, what you've got to do to adjust to a particular team, it all changes."
"I think that it's important that you realize that and adapt quickly. The teams that don't adapt don't do very well."
"We've got great respect for the team we are playing and it will take a great effort to beat this team."
One of the reasons for Kansas State's success when they have been successful has been their superstar running back, Darren Sproles. In the two games that Kansas State has won, Sproles has ran for over 200 yards in each, but in the games they have lost, Sproles has averaged just 49 yards per game.
While that would seem to be the factor in beating Kansas State, there's a feeling that it's not what they do on the ground that could hurt NU in the end. Led by sophomore QB, Dylan Meier, Kansas State has managed to put together a fairly impressive air-attack.
Meier has averaged just around 177 yards a game in the air, but his efficiency is impressive, Meier throwing 60+ percent of his passes complete and he sports a better than two to one ration in touchdowns to interceptions.
The key will be his receivers, who like Texas Tech were vast in number, KSU boasting 6 players that have caught double-digit balls on the season and it's here where Callahan thinks the danger could be. "Their ability to push the ball down the field vertically in the passing game- that will be a huge test for our backend. " he said. "As you look at last Saturday's game, we need to improve that phase of our coverage element."
The head coach is obviously talking about the 300 yards given up to the Baylor Bears, the most yards that Baylor has accumulated all year in that aspect of the game, that including contests against Texas State, UAB and North Texas.
That has red flags flying for the red clad fanatics across the state and the country, but for the head coach, it's just another part of the game to improve. "We have to play the ball in flight much better." He said. "We had ample opportunities to pick some plays off during last Saturday's game and unfortunately, we didn't come up with those plays."
"Again, the deep ball is a play that will challenge corners in man-to-man."
The adjustment to mostly "man" coverage has been a continuing issue for the defense, that seemingly the only real constant as the blame for the defense's subpar performances against the pass thus far this year. The loss of key players like Trevor Johnson and Demorrio Williams has had a definite effect, but Cosgrove maintains that the lack of execution is just that and can be easily fixed. "It comes down to definition of techniques and fundamentals." Cosgrove said. "It's obvious. You have to improve at that."
What about Joe Dailey, though? What about that record-setting performance, the confidence it must have instilled and how much it means as they had down to play Kansas State? After such a record-setting day, you'd think that the belief in this offensive unit would be at a high, but as coaches are want to do, this last Saturday is all but forgotten. "We have a lot of work to do." Norvell said. "We are striving for consistency day in and day out, a standard of performance and we aren't there yet."
"That consistency is what we are striving for."
Nebraska will take their perfect record in north-division play down to Manhattan with a real chance at putting some distance between everyone else except for Missouri. Should NU win that game, it's realistic to assume that Missouri is the only thing standing in the way of the Huskers and a trip to the Big XII title-game in Kansas City.
Don't ask the head coach to look that far down the road though. He's not buying just yet. "We're not counting our eggs before they're hatched." Callahan said. "We haven't played (K. State) so it's going to be important every week to center your focus a little bit tighter, a little bit more energized as you prepare."
"Every week is different. We aren't counting anything yet."
Nebraska will face Kansas State at 1:10 p.m. central time. The Huskers are currently picked to lose to Kansas State by 5, according to the Vegas Odds-makers.