HuskerTornado's Game Preview

Check out the Big Red Report game preview as Nebraska hosts Troy University.

GAME FOUR.......September 23rd, 2006.........6:00 PM CT........PPV.....Lincoln, NE

#23/24 NEBRASKA (2 - 1)


TROY (1 - 2)


Player Breakdowns


Troy Offense


Troy is coming in to Lincoln on a two game skid, losing competitive games with Florida State and Georgia Tech. The Trojans average 335.67 yards in total offense, which ranks 72nd in the nation. Troy currently ranks 51st in passing (214.67 ypg), 82nd in passing efficiency (116.03 rating), 72nd rushing (121 ypg), 63rd scoring offense (25 ppg), and 86th in turnover margin (- 0.67).


QB: Jr. Omar Haugabook (67 of 110, 572 yds, 6 TDs, 6 INT) leads a pass oriented Trojan offense that will be looking to get some yards against a weak Nebraska secondary. Haugabook is a JUCO transfer that has a good arm that has done a nice job of spreading the ball to a myriad of wide outs. He also has compiled 30 yards and 2 scores on the ground and 10 yards receiving. Behind Haugabook is limited experience, with no one QB separating himself from the pack.


RB: So. FB Anthony Jones (18 carries, 117 yds, 1 TD) with RB's, Jr. Kenny Catthouse (23 carries, 99 yds), and Jr. Josh Allen (10 carries, 52 yds) are the top three rushers for the Trojans. Allen played wide receiver last season, and has caught 10 passes this year for 64 yards. Sr. FB Sean Dawkins is a true power runner, however has been hampered with injuries since Spring and is listed as questionable for this game.


WR/TE: There is plenty of experience for Troy at wide out. Jr. Gary Banks (23 catches, 246 yds, 4 TDs), Sr. Toris Rutledge (15 catches, 201 yds, 1 TD), and Sr. Smokey Hampton (6 catches, 33 yds, 1 TD) are the Trojans top receiving threats, while Sr. Marlo East (3 catches, 32 yds) and So. Mykeal Terry (3 catches, 16 yds, 1 TD) have also seen passes come their way. Hampton has been bothered by an ankle injury, however, should be ready to go Saturday. None of these top receivers are over 6'2" on the roster, but they are all fast. Troy's spread attack will allow all of these guys, as well as others opportunities to make plays.


OL: The Trojan offensive line is allowing the running backs 4 yards per carry so far in 2006. The Troy line has allowed 4 sacks through 3 games as well. At tackle will be Sr. Rob Austin on the left and Sr. Kirbie Bodiford on the right. Also starting on the line is So. Chris Jamison at left guard, Sr. James Gardner at right guard, and Sr. Zach Yenser starts at center. Average size of the line is 6'3", 293 lbs.



Troy Defense


The Trojans are 73rd nationally in total defense (338.33 ypg), 68th pass defense (195 ypg), 48th pass efficiency defense (115.78 rating), 78th rush defense (143.33 ypg), and 46th in scoring defense (19.67 ppg). The Troy defense is smaller than most, but has a number of good athletes that make up for lack of bulk.


DL: The defensive line is highlighted by light, quick defensive ends, giving the Trojans a strong pass rush. Starting at DE is So. Kenny Mainor (6 tackles, 1 sack, 2 PBU, 4 QBH) and Jr. Shawn Todd (6 tackles, 6 QBH). Top backups are Sr. Boo Smith (3 tackles) and Jr. Brandon Lang (4 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1 FF, 4 PBU, 1 QBH). In the middle is So. Steve McClendon (6 tackles, 1 QBH) at DT and Sr. Franklin Lloyd (5 tackles, 1 FF, 1 QBH) at NT. Jr. Marcus Pittman (2 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 4 PBU, 2 QBH) continues to push McClendon for playing time.


LB: Leading this group of speedy linebackers is Sr. Ryan Babb (20 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3 FF, 2 QBH) on the weakside, Jr. Marcus Richardson (10 tackles, 0.5 sack) at strongside, and Jr. Josh Maxwell (8 tackles, 1 QBH) in the middle. Fr. SLB Randy Underwood (10 tackles, 1 QBH) is gaining valuable experience, replacing the injured Marcus Richardson through late October. Top backups include Jr. WLB Romanique Lewis (6 tackles) and Fr. MLB Boris Lee (9 tackles, 2 PBU). This is a talented group that has given previous opponents this season fits.


DB: Jr. Leodis McKelvin (15 tackles, 1 FF, 4 PBU, 1 QBH) and So. Henry Chubb (8 tackles, 1 FF, 1 QBH) are the starting corners for the Trojans. Both stand at 5'11" with great speed. Also starting in the defensive backfield for the Trojans are Sr. Brannon Condren (23 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 PBU) at SS and So. Taveres Williams (5 tackles, 1 INT, 5 PBU) at FS. Top backups include Jr. CB Elbert Mack (8 tackles, 2 FR, 4 PBU), Sr. FS Derick Pendergrass (10 tackles, 2 PBU), and So. SS Terence Moore (8 tackles, 1 INT, 1 PBU).



Troy Special Teams


The Trojans' special teams have been spotty thus far with solid return play and average kicking.


K: Jr. Greg Whibbs (2 for 3, long of 39) has had an up and down career. An outstanding 12-14 freshman campaign was followed by an 11-20 sophomore slump. He has yet to impress this year on his limited attempts, having one kick blocked. He has sent 6 of 15 kickoffs for touchbacks.


P: Sr. Jason Wright has punted 14 times for an average of 37.6 yards, downing 4 inside the opponents' 20.


KR/PR: Top kick returner, Jr. Leodis McKelvin is averaging 18.2 yards after 4 returns. Also handling punt returns, he is averaging 11.4 yards after 8 returns.


Coverage: Coverage has been outstanding on punt returns, with opponents averaging just 1.4 yards per return. Kickoff return coverage hasn't been as strong though, as opponents are averaging 20.4 yards per return.



Nebraska Offense


Nebraska's 431 total offense yards per game puts them at 17th in the nation, while they rank 41st in passing (237.33 ypg), 5th pass efficiency (174.99 rating), 24th rushing (193.67 ypg), 9th scoring offense (38.33 ppg), and 24th in turnover margin (+ 0.67). Nebraska should have more success on the ground this week than they did against USC a week ago, when they averaged less than 2 yards a carry.


QB: Sr. Zac Taylor (49 of 72, 604 yds, 7 TDs, 1 INT) after attempting just 16 passes last week, will look to get his team back on track after the loss at USC. Zac pushed himself into neutral in the way of rushing yards, as he stands at zero yards, after rushing for his first touchdown of the year last week. Through three games this year, he has been sacked just twice, while he was sacked 38 times in 12 games a season ago. So. backup Joe Ganz (4 for 6, 80 yds, 1 TD) has looked more than comfortable during mop-up duties, giving Nebraska a viable option should something happen to Taylor.


RB: So.'s Marlon Lucky (41 carries, 209 yds, 2 TDs) and Cody Glenn (24 carries, 135 yds, 3 TDs) still stand as co-number ones at running back, however, Jr.'s Kenny Wilson (43 carries, 172 yds, 1 TD) and Brandon Jackson (12 carries, 66 yds, 1 TD) are also seeing plenty of snaps. Wilson could be climbing up the chart quickly, as he had the most carries last week against USC. Marlon Lucky has shown great hands this season, catching 5 passes for 67 yards while Brandon Jackson has caught 7 passes for 61 yards. Jackson was used often in swing passes against USC, and also had a big gain off a shovel pass. Sr. FB Dane Todd (2 catches, 9 yards, 1 TD) will likely not see many carries this season, but he should prove to be effective in the passing game.


WR/TE: Jr. Terrence Nunn (10 catches, 107 yds) and So. Nate Swift (3 catches, 46 yds) lead the Huskers' receiving corps. Nunn is one of Nebraska's top playmakers, while Swift's great hands make him trouble for opposing defenses. Surprisingly, Swift has not caught a ball since the season opener. Jr. Frantz Hardy (3 catches, 38 yds, 1 TD) runs sharp routes and is a threat in the open field. Jr. Maurice Purify (3 catches, 89 yards, 1 TD) will likely make a bigger impact on this team as the season goes along. The 6'4", 210lb receiver presents match-up problems for opposing defenses and has the wheels to scoot away after he makes the catch. So. Todd Peterson (4 catches, 89 yds) is another tall, fast receiver that catches everything thrown his way, highlighted with his fake punt pass catch last week. At TE, Sr. Matt Herian (8 catches, 135 yds, 2 TDs) is back and making big plays with his great hands while Jr. J.B. Phillips (5 catches, 25 yds, 1 TD) is a solid second option.


OL: Nebraska's running backs are averaging 4.85 yards per carry, a number that should improve this week as Troy's opponents have been averaging 4.2 yards per rush. Nebraska's offensive line play has vastly improved from where it has been the past few seasons. In the first two games, Nebraska overpowered their opponents' defensive fronts, opening up gaping holes for the backs to slash through. Last week, they weren't able to have their way with the USC front, which resulted in the Huskers averaging just 1.9 yards per rush. Starting at the tackle positions will be Jr. Chris Patrick at LT, and So. Matt Slauson at RT. So. Lydon Murtha and Jr. Carl Nicks also will also shuffle in and see their share of snaps. Sr. Greg Austin starts at LG, while So. Mike Huff is at RG. Starting center, Sr. Kurt Mann, has a viral infection and will miss yet again this week. In his place will again be Jr. Brett Byford, who has done an admirable job in his two starts.



Nebraska Defense


The Blackshirt defense comes into game four ranked 48th nationally in total defense (297 ypg), 34th pass defense (165 ypg), 64th pass efficiency defense (126.11 rating), 67th rush defense (132 ypg), and 33rd in scoring defense (15 ppg). The linebackers and secondary will be tested heavily against the spread attack of the Troy Trojans.


DL: Nebraska's defensive line is led by Sr. defensive ends Adam Carriker (11 tackles, 1 sack, 2 QBH) and Jay Moore (7 tackles, 1 sack, 1 PBU, 2 QBH). So. Barry Turner (4 tackles, 3 QBH, 1 FR) is a very fast DE that typically shares a number of snaps with Moore. At DT, Sr.'s Ola Dagunduro (3 tackles) and Barry Cryer (4 tackles) start. Backup sophomore DTs Ndamukong Suh (5 tackles, 1 sack) and Ty Steinkuhler (7 tackles) are seeing more and more action in the rotation as the season goes along. This is one of the best starting front four in the country, and had a good showing against USC a week ago.


LB: Starting in the middle is Jr. Corey McKeon (17 tackles, 1 FR). On the outside, Jr. Bo Ruud (14 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FF) starts at weak side, sharing time with Jr. Steve Octavien (9 tackles), while Sr. Stewart Bradley (17 tackles, 1 FF, 2 FR, 1 PBU, 1 QBH) starts on the strong side. Backing up Bradley is Jr. Lance Brandenburgh (4 tackles). This is an excellent crew that is known for their ball hawking abilities.


DB: Jr. Cortney Grixby (14 tackles, 2 PBU, 1 FF, 1 FR) is a three year starter at WCB, while Jr. Andre Jones (9 tackles, 2 PBU) is starting his third game at SCB after transferring from the JUCO ranks. Grixby will typically get picked on because of his 5'9" frame. Jones is a big, physical, cover corner that is trying to make a clean transition from JUCO to 1A football. Both corners had trouble covering the all-American caliber wide outs of USC last week. At safety is Jr. Tierre Green (14 tackles) at SS and Sr. Andrew Shanle (8 tackles, 1 PBU, 1 QBH) starts at FS. True freshmen Major Culbert (1 tackle) and Rickey Thenarse (1 tackle) are starting to get experience, and moving up the depth chart. Depth is a big concern as injuries have left the defensive backfield bare. Another concern might be the hands of the secondary. Grixby, Jones, and Shanle all had clean shots at interceptions last week, but dropped them all. Failing to capitalize on the opportunities cost Nebraska the game last week, and could cost them more in the future. This is a trend that can not continue.



Nebraska Special Teams


Nebraska's special team play has been pretty solid over the first three games.


K: So. Jordan Congdon is 1 for 2 on field goals, with a long of 38. On kickoffs, he averages just 55.4 yards on 18 attempts, while So. Jake Wesch has one kickoff for 62 yards and Fr. Jordan Alegria booted his one kickoff opportunity for 59 yards. Failing to get kickoffs through the endzone will give opponents an immediate advantage in field position.


P: So. Dan Titchener has been solid through three games. He is averaging 40.1 yards on 9 punts with a long of 53, having 3 punts downed inside the opponents' 20. He also threw a pass on a fake punt last week for a 28 yard gain.


KR/PR: Jr. Tierre Green has returned three kickoffs for an average of 19.7 yards. Jr. Terrence Nunn is averaging 9.5 yards on 11 punt returns. So. Nate Swift has returned 2 punts for an average of 24.5 yards. Nunn tends to catch punts with his body, which has resulted in ball handling problems on the returns. He can be explosive, but not if he doesn't hold on to the ball.


Coverage: So far the coverage team has been solid this season. Nebraska's kick coverage is allowing 15 yards on 18 kickoff returns, while punt return coverage allows a 6.7 yard average on 3 punt returns.



Nebraska's Offense vs. Troy's Defense

Nebraska's offensive line, for the third time this season, will line up against a much smaller defensive line. Troy has a lot of team speed on the defensive side of the ball and will likely be difficult to run east to west on them. Nebraska will likely find the most success running the football between the tackles, rather than outside. Look for the receiving corps to get more work against Troy than they did against USC. Troy kept a good offensive team, Georgia Tech, in check through three quarters before coming undone in the fourth last weekend. They will look to have similar success this week, except keep the pressure on through all four quarters, instead of three.


Troy's Offense vs. Nebraska's Defense

Troy's spread attack could present problems for a Nebraska defense that had trouble stopping the short to medium pass, most notably the swing pass, and quick outs. Luckily for the Blackshirt defense, this week's Trojans don't possess a Dwayne Jarrett or a Steve Smith, or any of the outstanding running backs that USC possesses. Troy, however, does have enough speed and athleticism to get points against Nebraska's defense. They will have to balance out the offense like they did against Georgia Tech, because getting into a near 50 pass night like against Florida State will be asking for trouble with a front seven like Nebraska has.


Keys to the Game


For Nebraska to Win:

1.) Front seven must get to Haugabook.

2.) Force Turnovers

3.) Establish ground game against small defensive front.

4.) Use receivers to create the mismatches in the Troy DB.

5.) Minimize "stupid" penalties. Holding calls behind the play have hurt this team.


For Troy to Win:

1.) No Turnovers.

2.) Minimize Penalties.

3.) Protect Haugabook, let him get comfortable.

4.) Use spread attack to challenge Nebraska secondary.

5.) Force Nebraska mistakes.


Gametime Weather

Weather Report for Nebraska vs. Troy


Latest Line - Nebraska by 23.5


Position Advantages:


QBs: Nebraska







Special Teams:Nebraska

Coaching Nebraska


Injury Report


CB - Zack Bowman - knee - out for season

CB - Isaiah Fluellen - knee - out for season

MLB - Phillip Dillard - knee - out for season

OLB - Nick Covey - knee - out for season

C - Kurt Mann - virus - out indefinitely



WR - Smokey Hampton - ankle - probable

RB - Shawn Dawkins - knee - questionable

OLB - Marcus Richardson - collarbone - out

FS - Sharrod Martin - shoulder - out


Game Breakdown & Prediction


Nebraska and Troy are meeting for the fourth time in six seasons, with Nebraska holding a three games to none lead in the series. One thing has been constant with the Trojans of Troy, they always come to play and they never give up. In all three games, Nebraska has struggled against Troy in the first half before putting the game away in the second. Who can forget the 2002 game in which Troy out gained the Huskers 347 to 313, despite losing 31-16?


Troy is hoping to catch Nebraska in a slide after their 28-10 loss to USC a week ago. Troy will be anxious to not start their season 1-3 and will likely play with a "nothing to lose" attitude, like they always have. This is when teams can be most dangerous.


The major question will be how hungry Nebraska will be this week after the USC loss. The Huskers 2005 season started downhill quickly after a last minute loss to Texas Tech early in the season. Nebraska can not afford to lose their focus this week, because Troy is a game foe.


Many will be watching for changes in the game plan this week from last, after Nebraska attempted just 17 passes a week ago. Likely, there will still be a heavy reliance on the running game, which is what this team is about, however, there should be more opportunities to throw the football against a Troy defense that isn't quite as imposing as the "other Trojans'" defense.


Nebraska should be able to open up a solid day on the ground, which will present the opportunities to throw passes downfield. This is the kind of game that a tall, game breaking receiver like a Maurice Purify could get a number of throws his way. He matches up extremely well with the smaller defensive backs. Of course, you can ask Georgia Tech WR Calvin Johnson about his day against Troy. He was held to just 9 yards on 2 catches.


Troy will set up their run game with the pass. The Trojans like to spread the ball around, as fifteen different receivers have caught balls through three games. If they have success against a shallow Nebraska defensive backfield, this will be a tight game going in to the fourth quarter, just like Florida State and Georgia Tech experienced with Troy.


It is debatable, but this year's Nebraska team is better than Georgia Tech, and probably better than Florida State. USC's win over Nebraska was hardly dominating, as Nebraska had multiple opportunities to change the complexion of the game, but simply dropped the ball. The Huskers know this and will battle to keep them moving in the right direction. Troy will keep it close early, before Nebraska puts them away around the third quarter.


Nebraska - 38

Troy - 10

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