GAME TWO.......September 9th, 2006.........12:35 PM CT........NO TV.....Lincoln, NE
#21 NEBRASKA (1 - 0)
NICHOLLS STATE (1 - 0)
After an opening game against division II Southern Arkansas, Nicholls State is averaging 261 in total offense yards per game (61st Div. 1AA). The Colonels rank 93rd in passing (66 ypg), 20th rushing (195 ypg), 13th scoring offense (35 ppg), and 6th in turnover margin (+ 3). Nicholls State returned 5 starters from 2005's Southland Conference Championship Team.
QB: So. Vincent Montgomery (2 for 3, 37 yds) is smaller than most QBs you will find, at 5'11", 195 lbs. He is however, still learning to run the option offense. Against Southern Arkansas last week, Montgomery rushed for 21 yards, while throwing for 37. Hardly prolific, but got the job done against inferior competition.
RB: A lot of backs will get carries in this offense. Leading the pack is Jr. Michael McClendon (6 carries, 43 yds, 2 TDs). Also getting a few carries each will be So. Zack Morgan (5 carries, 51 yds, 1 TD), Jr. Grant Thorne (3 carries, 29 yds), and So. Dwayne Jones (4 carries, 16 yds). At FB for the Colonels are Jr.'s Broderick Cole (8 carries, 37 yds, 1 TD) and Cal Jones (2 carries, 3 yds). Cole is a prototype option fullback, with good speed and power that allows him to slam between the tackles for positive yards every time he carries the ball. Nicholls' base offensive set uses 2 running backs and a full back, so there are a number of backs that see action.
WR/TE: So. Patrick Gordon and Jr. Michael Okoronkwo (2 catches, 37 yds) are the top receivers for the Colonels, but don't look for them to be much of a presence Saturday. Nicholls State threw just 4 passes last week and likes to keep it that way, averaging just 6 attempts per game in 2005.
OL: Southern Arkansas was able to get to the QB 5 times last week. This is an offensive line that is adequate at run blocking, however, is inept in passing downs. The Colonels offensive line allowed its backfield to gain an average of 4.1 yards per rush. Starting for Nicholls State is Sr. Jacob Bender at LT, Jr. Davonn Dutton at RT, Jr. Benjamin Gombossy at LG, Jr. Jesse Frazier at RG, and So. Nigel Cormier at C. This is not a terribly large line, with just two players over 300 lbs, and an average size of 6'2" and 283 lbs.
The Colonels are 20th in division 1AA total defense (200 ypg), 27th pass defense (106 ypg), 8th pass efficiency defense (57.37 rating), 31st rush defense (94 ypg), and 1st in scoring defense (0 ppg). Nicholls State returned just 3 starters from 2005, however, forced 5 turnovers last week against Southern Arkansas. The Colonels run out of a base 4-3 defense and have a new defensive coordinator in Steve Ellis, a former player.
DL: Starting on the defensive line for the Colonels are Sr. Greg Casnave (3 tackles) and Fr. Matt Fairchild (1 tackle) at DT, and So.'s Chris Noble (3 tackles) and Jairus Jarvis (7 tackles, 1 FF) at DE. Sr. Greg Vavala (6 tackles) and Jr. Dominique Cooper (5 tackles) also see playing time at DE. This is a very small defensive front as none of them are over 280. Jarvis comes in the lightest at 220, a converted WR. This group will have a tough time battling with a beefy division 1A offensive line like Nebraska's for four quarters.
LB: A trio of seniors starts for the Colonels. Levon Bailey (3 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FF) on the strongside, Dustin Gisclair (6 tackles, 1 PBU) at weakside, and Cory Valva (6 tackles) in the middle. Jr. SLB Mike Heyl (5 tackles) and Sr. WLB Robert Ellis (4 tackles) will get a number of snaps as well. This should be a pretty decent group, led by all-conference performer Cory Valva. Valva led the Colonels in 2005 with 85 tackles and 4 interceptions.
DB: A fairly experienced crew, despite only one returning starter in Sr. SS Toney Edison (5 tackles). Sr. FS Danarus Hall (3 tackles), Sr. CB Marques Lewis (5 tackles) and Jr. CB Jermaine Boggans (1 tackle, 2 INTs, 1 FR) round out the starting defensive backfield. Boggans was names SLC conference player of the week last week after an impressive 3 takeaway day against Southern Arkansas. This is another undersized position for the Colonels, as only Edison is 6 feet tall, with Lewis, Hall, and So. nickel back Dominique Sykes (3 tackles) standing at 5'9" and Boggans at 5'10".
Nicholls returns nearly every starter at the special teams spots, and by 1AA standards, should be solid.
K: Jr. Alex Romero missed from 48 yards out in his only attempt last week.
P: Jr. Sean Comeaux had 2 punts last week, averaging 37 yards.
KR/PR: Jr. Lester Brooks took Nicholls' lone kickoff return for 17 yards last week. Punt returners Kareem Moore (1 return, 13 yds) and Grant Thorne (1 return, 6 yds) failed to show breakaway moves against Southern Arkansas.
Coverage: Kick return coverage allowed a 25.3 yard average on 5 kickoffs last week, while both punts were fair caught.
Nebraska's 584 total offense yards per game is good enough for 2nd in the nation, while they rank 7th in passing (332 ypg), 17th pass efficiency (175.28 rating), 11th rushing (252 ypg), 9th scoring offense (49 ppg), and 16th in turnover margin (+ 1). Nebraska will look to keep the offensive balance against Nicholls this week.
QB: Sr. Zac Taylor (22 of 33, 287 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT) looked great against Louisiana Tech. For the most part, his throws were on time, and in the right place. There were a few dropped balls that should have been caught, while he made only a couple of poor decisions. His interception came on a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage. So. backup Joe Ganz (2 for 3, 45 yds, 1 TD) looked impressive as well last week, as he seems to have his timing down.
RB: So.'s Marlon Lucky (13 carries, 79 yds, 1 TD) and Cody Glenn (13 carries, 88 yds, 1 TD) both had great days last week, each getting into the endzone. Lucky showed off great hands as he caught 3 passes for 42 yards. Jr.'s Brandon Jackson (3 carries, 36 yds) and Kenny Wilson (15 carries, 47 yds) also looked good, with Brandon Jackson's highlight being a 25 yard TD run in which he broke 5 tackles. This 4 headed monster will be difficult for Nicholls State's defense to slow down.
WR/TE: Jr. Terrence Nunn (5 catches, 54 yds) and So. Nate Swift (3 catches, 46 yds) played well against Louisiana Tech and should have similar success as the receiving corps will present match up problems for the Colonels defensive backs. Jr. Frantz Hardy (2 catches, 24 yds), So. Todd Peterson (2 catches, 30 yds), and Jr. Maurice Purify (1 catch, 28 yards) also caught passes last week. The tight ends became a bigger part of the passing game last week, accounting for 4 touchdowns. Sr. Matt Herian (3 catches, 61 yds, 1 TD), playing in his first game in a year and a half showed his stellar hands, but looked tentative in the open field, protecting his legs from major impact. Jr.'s J.B. Phillips (2 catches, 8 yds, 1 TD) and Josh Mueller (2 catches, 10 yds, 1 TD), along with Hunter Teafatiller (1 catch, 29 yds, 1 TD) all caught TD passes.
OL: Last week, Nebraska's offensive line allowed an average of 5.2 yards per rush, nearly double the average of last year (2.7). Nebraska overpowered the undersized Louisiana Tech defensive line and again will get the chance against the undersized Nicholls State defensive front this week. Starting at the tackle positions will be Jr. Chris Patrick at LT, and So. Matt Slauson on RT. So. Lydon Murtha and Jr. Carl Nicks also play in a large number of snaps. Sr. Greg Austin starts at LG, while So. Mike Huff is solid at RG. Starting center, Sr. Kurt Mann, has a virus and will not play this week. In his place will be Jr. Brett Byford.
The Blackshirt defense goes into game 2 ranked 54th nationally in total defense (305 ypg), 81st pass defense (238 ypg), 45th pass efficiency defense (175.28 rating), 26th rush defense (67 ypg), and 28th in scoring defense (10 ppg). Nebraska played a very conservative defense last week, as Kevin Cosgrove stated he called just 6 different plays, and will likely continue this trend against Nicholls, a team that runs the triple option.
DL:Nebraska's defensive line is led by senior defensive ends Adam Carriker (3 tackles, 1 sack) and Jay Moore (2 tackles, 1 sack). So. Barry Turner (2 tackles, 1 FR) looked good, as he seemed to be near the ball every down he was active in. At DT Sr.'s Ola Dagunduro (1 tackle) and Barry Cryer (6 tackles, 1.5 sacks) start. So. Backup Ndamukong Suh (1 tackle) is a wall at DT that continues to get better. This is one of the best front four in the country, and will likely get opportunities for tackles for loss this week.
LB: Starting in the middle is Jr. Corey McKeon (4 tackles). So. MLB Phillip Dillard (4 tackles) is out for the season with an ACL tear, and will be replaced by Lance Brandenburgh. On the outside, Jr. Bo Ruud (1 INT) starts at weak side, with Jr. Steve Octavien (4 tackles) right behind him, while Sr. Stewart Bradley (3 tackles) starts on the strong side. So. Clayton Sievers will play behind Bradley, another change brought on by the Dillard injury.
DB: Jr. Cortney Grixby (6 tackles, 1 PBU, 1 FF, 1 FR) starts at WCB, while Jr. Andre Jones (1 tackle) is the starter at SCB. Grixby will have a smaller cast on his hand this week, which should allow him better motion. He struggled against Louisiana Tech, while Jones played very well in his first start at the division 1A level. At safety, Jr. Tierre Green (4 tackles) starts at SS and Sr. Andrew Shanle (4 tackles) will start at FS. Depth continues to be a concern here as top WBC backup, Isaiah Fluellen went down with an ACL tear. Expect True freshmen Major Culbert and Ricky Thenarse to start getting in the action.
Nebraska seems to have found an excellent replacement for Sam Koch at punter, while kickoffs and return coverage still have some work to do.
K: So. Jordan Congdon did not attempt any field goals, however, was 7 for 7 on extra points. On kickoffs, he averaged just 56.4 yards on 7 attempts, while So. Jake Wesch had one kickoff for 60 yards. A major positive was that none of the kickoffs went out of bounds, something that Nebraska's kickers did multiple times in 2005.
P: So. Dan Titchener looked good in his first start. He averaged 42.3 yards on 3 punts with a long of 53, while 1 punt was downed inside the opponents' 20.
KR/PR: Jr. Tierre Green returned one kickoff for 14 yards. Jr. Terrence Nunn averaged just 3.3 yards on 3 punt returns. Nunn made key mistakes in the return game including fumbling his first return for a loss.
Coverage: Nebraska's kick coverage allowed 17.6 yards on 8 kickoffs, while punt return coverage allowed an 8 yard average on 2 punts. Kick coverage looked spotty and will need to improve. Far too much over-pursuit gave Louisiana Tech good field position to start drives with.
Nebraska's Offense vs. Nicholls State's Defense
Nebraska should be able to march down the field at will against an undersized Nicholls State defense replacing 8 starters from 2005. Look for Nebraska to again run a very "vanilla" offense with few downfield plays simply because they are not necessary. Nebraska's running game will be in overdrive, as the offensive line should be able to open up big holes in the small defensive front of the Colonels. QB Zac Taylor will only play in enough series' to put the game in control before handing the game over to backup Joe Ganz, who will get more much needed game experience.
Nicholls State's Offense vs. Nebraska's Defense
In a somewhat ironic moment, an option football team will take the field in Lincoln with an "N" on their helmets, but not be Nebraska. The Colonels offense is led by FB Broderick Cole while RB's Michael McClendon and Zack Morgan should get plenty of carries as well. If Nebraska is able to shut down Cole, and they should, it will be tough sledding for a Nicholls State team that only compiled 261 yards on a division II defense last week. Nicholls lives and dies by how well they can control the clock. Chugging down the field while eating the clock will be top priority, this isn't a quick strike offense.
Keys to the Game
For Nebraska to Win:
1.) Shut down FB Broderick Cole.
2.) Put Nicholls State in 3rd and longs.
3.) Establish run game, wearing down NSU defense.
4.) Take advantage of small defensive backfield.
For Nicholls State to Win:
1.) Defense must ball-hawk.
2.) Minimize Penalties.
3.) No Turnovers.
Latest Line - No Line.
Special Teams: Nebraska
CB - Zack Bowman - knee - out for season
CB - Isaiah Fluellen - knee - out for season
MLB - Phillip Dillard - knee - out for season
C - Kurt Mann - virus - doubtful
None to report.
Game Breakdown & Prediction
It won't be much of a surprise as to what Nebraska will try to do as they gear up for next week's game against USC. The Huskers will try and put this away early, giving the backups much needed experience. Division 1AA Nicholls State will provide Nebraska with the challenge of facing a triple option attack, something that isn't seen often in major college football today.
One difficulty in defending the option is that a missed assignment can easily be the difference between a 3 and 30 yard gain. The linebackers especially will have to play disciplined, assignment football. Lately, Nebraska' defense has had a tendency to over-pursue rushing plays. This will not get it done against an option team. Nicholls State may be a 1AA team, and they may not be the best of the division, but they have running backs that can make big plays if given the opportunity. The Huskers will have to make sure those opportunities do not arise Saturday. Nicholls State had troubles getting the vehicle in motion against Southern Arkansas last week, gaining only 295 yards, their lowest game output since 2004. There is no reason to expect it to get any better this week.
Assuming that Nebraska does play solidly on the defense, Nicholls State will have a tough time getting anything going on offense. Nebraska's coach Bill Callahan stated this week that he expects Nicholls State to pull all the stops, especially on special teams. Look for fake punts, fake field goals, onside kicks, laterals, and everything you can think of from Nicholls in an attempt to get something going in their direction.
Nebraska's offense was impressive against Louisiana Tech, showing nice balance with running and throwing, something that Bill Callahan has been looking for nearly 3 years. Nebraska's 584 yards of total offense was the most since 2002's meeting with division 1AA McNeese State which ended with 595 yards of offense. Now that Nebraska's offense has taken off, we will see how far it can take them. The key to the success of this team is the continued development of the run game. The Huskers got off to a good start, gaining 252 rushing yards last week using the four top backs. Keeping that momentum is critical, although naive to expect that output week in and week out.
Nebraska should be able to put points up through the ground or air this week, keeping the game at a respectable difference. Because of the style of Nicholls State's offense, Nebraska will simply not see enough plays to put up huge numbers on the scoreboard. The Cornhuskers should still put up their share of points, but will find it difficult to
Nicholls State, like the Louisiana Tech team that Nebraska played a week ago is an undersized team that will be overwhelmed athletically. The Huskers won't get caught looking ahead and will cruise to an easy victory.
Nebraska - 44
Nicholls State - 6