HuskerTornado's Game Preview

Check out the Big Red Report game preview as the Huskers host the Kansas Jayhawks.

GAME FIVE.......September 30th, 2006.........6:00 PM CT........FSN.....Lincoln, NE

#21 NEBRASKA (3 - 1)


KANSAS (3 - 1)


Player Breakdowns


Kansas Offense


The Kansas Jayhawks are coming to Lincoln this week after a tough battle with South Florida last week, winning 13-7.  The Jayhawks average 364.75 yards in total offense, placing them 49th in the nation.  Kansas currently ranks 54th in passing (205.75 ypg), 74th in passing efficiency (120.93 rating), 45th rushing (159 ypg), 40th scoring offense (28.50 ppg), and 110th in turnover margin (- 1.50).


QB:  Sr. Adam Barmann (27 of 37, 280 yds) should get the start this week in place of injured Fr. Kerry Meier (47 of 87, 538 yds, 6 TDs, 7 INTs).  Barmann has a sharper arm than Meier at this stage, but lacks the athleticism Meier possesses.  Meier is Kansas' second leading rusher, tallying 146 yards and 4 touchdowns on 39 carries.  Meier is questionable for Saturday, so he may get an opportunity to play, if the opportunity presents itself.  So far this season, Meier has had his share of freshman mistakes with a 7 to 6 interception to touchdown ratio, however, has shown that he could be a major player in a couple of seasons. 


RB: Starting at RB is Sr. Jon Cornish (82 carries, 437 yds, 2 TDs).  Cornish had a big day against the Huskers last year, rushing for 101 yards, including a 72 yard TD run.  Cornish has also been a solid receiver this season, catching 12 passes for 118 yards.  Behind Cornish are Fr. Jake Sharp (10 carries, 63 yds), a heralded Kansas high school talent and Jr. FB Brandon McAnderson (6 carries, 20 yds, 1 TD).  Combined, these backs are averaging nearly 5.4 yards per carry. 


WR/TE:  Sr. Brian Murph (17 catches, 174 yds, 1 TD), Jr. Marcus Henry (13 catches, 175 yds, 3 TDs), and So. Dextron Fields (13 catches, 133 yds, 2 TDs) round out the top of the Jayhawk receiving corps.  Murph is a burner, as is Fields, while Henry's 6'4" frame make him a dangerous deep ball threat.  So. Marcus Herford (7 catches, 104 yds) should also be considered a threat at receiver for KU, he is quickly becoming more important to this offense.  At TE, Jr. Derek Fine (9 catches, 85 yds) has been solid, however, Jr. Marc Jones started in his place last week.  Jones did not catch a pass against South Florida.


OL:  Starting at the tackle positions will be Sr. Caesar Rodriguez on the left, and So. Anthony Collins on the right.  These are tall and lean tackles that have been fairly solid this season in both pass and run protection.  At guard will be Sr. Bob Whitaker at left, and Sr. Travis Dambach at right.  Whitaker is the biggest man on the line, weighing in at 317 pounds.  He has been successful at blowing holes open in opposing defensive fronts this season.  Sr. David Ochoa starts at center, and is also a solid performer.  This is one of the better lines in the north division of the Big XII, however, has given up 9 sacks thus far in 2006.    



Kansas Defense


The Jayhawk defense is 52nd nationally in total defense (313.25 ypg), 95th pass defense (231.50 ypg), 20th pass efficiency defense (100.56 rating), 21st rush defense (81.75 ypg), and 55th in scoring defense (20.25 ppg).  After losing 8 starters from the 2005 defense, KU isn't nearly as solid against the run or pass.


DL:  Seniors Paul Como (18 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR, 4 QBH, 2 PBU) and Rodney Allen (10 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 PBU) start on the ends, while Sr. Wayne Wilder (10 tackles, 3 QBH, 1 PBU) and Jr. James McClinton (8 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FF, 3 QBH) start at tackle.  This is an average sized line, averaging about 6'2", 276 lbs.  Opposing offenses have averaged just 2.9 yards per carry against this front.  Como is an absolute menace, flying after the ball.  He is the lightest lineman and uses his speed to beat opposing tackles. 


LB: So. Mike Rivera (35 tackles, 1 sack, 4 QBH, 4 PBU) starts as middle linebacker, while So. Joe Mortensen (26 tackles, 1 sack, 1 PBU) and Eric Washington (30 tackles, 1 FR, 3 QBH, 1 PBU) start on the outsides.  All three are new starters, however, all saw action in nearly every game in 2005.  Fr. backup at MLB, Brandon Duncan (7 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FF) has also had a good showing this season.  This group has done a good job at picking up where Kevin Kane, Nick Reid, and Banks Floodman left off last season. 


DB: In the defensive backfield, So. Aqib Talib (8 tackles, 1 INT, 4 PBU) and Jr. Blake Bueltel (14 tackles, 1 QBH, 3 PBU are expected to start at corner, while Sr. Jerome Kemp (21 tackles, 2 PBU) starts at SS, and Jr. Sadiq Muhammad (13 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 PBU) starts at FS.  Expect to see a lot of Fr. CB Anthony Webb (6 tackles, 2 PBU) , So. S Raymond Brown (9 tackles), and Fr. DB Justin Thornton (13 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBU).  This is a decent group with Talib being the top prospect of the bunch.  They will face their biggest test this week against Nebraska's passing attack. 



Kansas Special Teams


The Jayhawks special teams have been outstanding in the return game, while the kicking and punting have been slightly shaky.


K: Jr. Scott Webb is 2 for 4 this season in field goals, with a long of 42.  8 of his 22 kickoffs have been touchbacks. 


P: So. Kyle Tucker has had a drop-off in production from his 2005 campaign when he averaged 42.9 yards per punt.  This season he is averaging 36.9 yards per punt, with 7 of his 17 punts being downed inside the opponents' 20. 


KR/PR: So. Marcus Herford has been dominant at kick returner, averaging 30.5 yards per return on 10 returns.  At punt returner, Sr. Brian Murph has been a force, averaging 21.8 yards on 5 returns, with one return for touchdown. 


Coverage: The Jayhawks opponents are averaging 22.5 yards per kick return (14), and just 5 yards per punt return (5).




Nebraska Offense


Nebraska's 472.50 total offense yards per game is good enough for 6th in the nation, also ranking 26th in passing (248.25 ypg), 2nd pass efficiency (178.81 rating), 10th rushing (224.25 ypg), 2nd scoring offense (42.75 ppg), and 18th in turnover margin (+ 1.00).  Nebraska's offense soared past the Troy Trojans a week ago, and they will be looking to exact revenge from a 15 point effort against KU last season.


QB: Sr. Zac Taylor (63 of 89, 872 yds, 8 TDs, 2 INT) continues his solid 2006 campaign.  Zac hasn't had to throw much through four games, but will likely see a larger role as the season goes along and the competition stays in game longer than two quarters.  Against Troy last week, he was able to show off his long ball, averaging over 19 yards per completion.  So. backup Joe Ganz (6 for 12, 93 yds, 2 TDs) has looked decent in his three attempts at mop-up duties.


RB: So.'s Marlon Lucky (51 carries, 365 yds, 5 TDs) and Cody Glenn (24 carries, 135 yds, 3 TDs) still stand as co-number ones at running back, however,   Glenn hasn't touched the ball since game two against Nicholls State.  Jr.'s Kenny Wilson (62 carries, 291 yds, 3 TDs) and Brandon Jackson (23 carries, 133 yds, 2 TDs) have seen their roles become larger in his absence, especially in the case of Wilson.  Wilson is trying to climb up the chart, and after his last couple of performances, it may happen sooner than later.  Marlon Lucky has shown great hands this season, catching 6 passes for 69 yards while Brandon Jackson has caught 7 passes for 61 yards.  Sr. FB Dane Todd (2 catches, 9 yards, 1 TD) rarely touches the ball, but has been a solid blocker.


WR/TE: Jr. Terrence Nunn (14 catches, 209 yds) and So. Nate Swift (6 catches, 125 yds) lead the Huskers' receiving corps.  Surprisingly, neither of them has caught a touchdown pass this year.  Jr. Frantz Hardy (4 catches, 54 yds, 1 TD) is a threat in the open field, as his agility makes him tough to bring down.  Jr. Maurice Purify (5 catches, 134 yards, 1 TD) is a home run hitter, standing at 6'4", 210lb.  He will present match-up problems for opposing defenses all season long.  So. Todd Peterson (4 catches, 89 yds) is another tall receiver that rarely drops a ball.  At TE, Sr. Matt Herian (8 catches, 135 yds, 2 TDs) has played well through four games after a year and a half away due to a broken leg.  Jr. J.B. Phillips (7 catches, 41 yds, 2 TDs) is a solid second option at tight end, seeing most of the action last week as Herian did not catch a pass.


OL: Nebraska's running backs are averaging 5.65 yards per carry, a number that is shocking considering the Husker backs averaged just 3.6 yards per carry in 2005.  Nebraska's offensive line play is much improved over last season's line.  Against the three teams not named USC that Nebraska has faced this year, the backs are averaging 6.45 yards per carry.  Through four games this year, the line has allowed just 3 sacks, while they allowed 38 sacks in 12 games a season ago.  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 a number 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 above average job in his three starts. 



Nebraska Defense


After playing four games, the Blackshirts rank 21st nationally in total defense (257.75 ypg), 17th pass defense (146.75 ypg), 47th pass efficiency defense (116.15 rating), 49th rush defense (111 ypg), and 15th in scoring defense (11.25 ppg).  The Husker defense played an inspired game against Troy a week ago.  Much will be made of the revenge factor this week against a Kansas team that racked up 40 points against the Blackshirts a season ago. 


DL: Nebraska's defensive line is led by Sr. defensive ends Adam Carriker (14 tackles, 1 sack, 4 QBH, 2 PBU) and Jay Moore (8 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 QBH, 1 PBU).  So. Barry Turner (7 tackles, 4 QBH, 1 FR) is a quick footed DE that shares a number of snaps with Moore.  At DT, Sr.'s Ola Dagunduro (5 tackles, 1 sack) and Barry Cryer (6 tackles, 0.5 sack) start.  Backup sophomore DTs Ndamukong Suh (8 tackles, 2.5 sacks) and Ty Steinkuhler (12 tackles, 1 FF) are seeing more action in the rotation and are looking very impressive.  This is one of the best starting front four in the country, a very physical bunch.


LB: Starting at MLB is Jr. Corey McKeon (21 tackles, 1 FR, 1 PBU).  On the outside, Jr. Bo Ruud (18 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FF) starts at weak side, with Jr. Steve Octavien (9 tackles) backing him up, while Sr. Stewart Bradley (21 tackles, 1 FF, 2 FRs, 1 PBU, 1 QBH) starts on the strong side.  Back-up Jr. Lance Brandenburgh (5 tackles) has looked good filling in at all three linebacker positions when needed.  This is an excellent crew that has great ball hawkers.


DB: Jr. Cortney Grixby (17 tackles, 2 PBU, 1 FF, 1 FR) is a three year starter at WCB, while Jr. Andre Jones (12 tackles, 2 PBU) will be starting his fifth game at SCB after transferring from the JUCO ranks.  Grixby has typically been picked on because of his 5'9" frame, which this season has worked in teams' favors if they possess a 6'4"-plus type receiver.  Jones is a big, physical, cover corner that has done well in making a clean transition from JUCO to 1A football.  Aside from having trouble covering the all-American caliber wide outs of USC, the corners have been solid.  At safety is Jr. Tierre Green (21 tackles) at SS and Sr. Andrew Shanle (12 tackles, 1 INT, 1 PBU, 1 QBH) starts at FS.  True freshmen Major Culbert (1 tackle) and Rickey Thenarse (2 tackles) are starting to get experience, moving up and around in the depth chart.  Depth is a big concern as injuries have left the defensive backfield bare. 



Nebraska Special Teams


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


K: So. Jordan Congdon is 1 for 2 on field goals, with a long of 38.  On kickoffs, he averages just 55.8 yards on 24 attempts (1 touchback), while So. Jake Wesch has four kickoffs for a 60 yard average.  Failing to get kickoffs through the endzone will give opponents an immediate advantage in field position. 


P: So. Dan Titchener has been fairly solid through four games.  He is averaging 39.4 yards on 11 punts with a long of 53, having 3 punts downed inside the opponents' 20.  He has also thrown a pass on a fake punt for a 28 yard gain.


KR/PR: Jr. Tierre Green has returned three kickoffs  for an average of 19.7 yards, while Jr. Kenny Wilson looked impressive on his sole return, taking it for 27 yards.  Jr. Terrence Nunn is averaging 8.2 yards on 13 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 14.6 yards on 26 kickoff returns, while punt return coverage allows a 4.8 yard average on 4 punt returns. 



Nebraska's Offense vs. Kansas' Defense

Against Troy last week, Nebraska's offense could be stated as the "scoring explosion", racking up 597 yards and 56 points rather easily.  Many of the yards were gained as the Nebraska running backs slashed through the Troy defensive front.  Kansas' defensive front is more physical and giving up just 2.9 yards per carry.  Of course, Kansas hasn't played a team with the size and talent of Nebraska.  Nebraska's offensive line versus the Kansas defensive line will be an important match-up that will dictate the pace this game will be played.  If the Huskers can average 4 yards per carry, Kansas will be in big trouble.  Nebraska's Zac Taylor is the second ranked QB by passing efficiency and can pick apart a defense.  He hasn't had many opportunities to "open it up" this year, but has made the most of his opportunities.


Kansas' Offense vs. Nebraska's Defense

Kansas' offensive strategy may be very different depending on which QB starts.  If Kerry Meier is too injured to start and Adam Barmann must play, look for an attack with more drop back passing.  If Meier plays, there will be more opportunities for the QB to make plays with his legs, as Meier has shown the ability to do so.  Nebraska's defense has historically had trouble against mobile QBs under defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove, however, Meier, being a freshman, is more apt to make mistakes against a tenacious front seven of Nebraska.  Barmann has played against the Huskers twice before, and has had very little success, leading the offense to a total of nine points.  Nebraska should concentrate on shutting down RB Jon Cornish and forcing Barmann to win the game on the road with his arm.  Kansas netted just 13 points against South Florida last week at home.  It won't be friendlier this week.


Keys to the Game


For Nebraska to Win:

1.) Shut down RB Cornish.

2.) Score early, don't leave the door open for KU.

3.) Establish ground game, creating openings on passing downs.

4.) Depending on QB - Barmann: blitz him to force mistakes.  Meier: disguise blitzes, confuse him, forcing mistakes.

5.) Minimize "stupid" penalties.  Penalties are killing drives for this team.


For Kansas to Win:

1.) No turnovers.

2.) Cannot get into a hole.

3.) Continue rush defense success.

4.) Must get takeaways.

5.) Eliminate penalties.


Latest Line - Nebraska by 22.5


Position Advantages:


QBs: Nebraska

RBs: Nebraska

WR/TE's: Nebraska

OL: Even

DL: Nebraska

LB: Nebraska

DB: Even

Special Teams: Even

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



QB - Kerry Meier - shoulder - questionable

DE - John McCoy - suspension - questionable

DB - Darrell Stuckey - ankle - questionable

S - James Holt - leg - out indefinitely


Game Breakdown & Prediction


40-15 was awfully sweet for the Jayhawk faithful in Lawrence in 2005.  The first win over Nebraska since 1968.  They will attempt to win the first back-to-back games against the Huskers since 1967-1968, and beat the Huskers in Lincoln for the first time since 1968 as well Saturday. 


40-15 was awfully bitter for the Husker faithful in Lincoln in 2005.  The streak of 36 consecutive victories coming to an end.  An entire generation of fans grew up never tasting defeat at the hands of Kansas - over.  Many lashed out at the coaching staff.  Nebraska's coach Bill Callahan's seat had never been warmer. 


After that fateful day in November of 2005, Kansas would finish 2-1, while the Huskers would start to come out of their slumber, finishing the season 3-0.  Both can consider it a turning point for the programs.  The Jayhawks now have more confidence than ever, while the Huskers have seemed to "wake up" since that loss, with the offense finally clicking.  The win has seemed to make Kansas coach Mark Mangino a "made" man in Lawrence, as it is his career defining victory at this point in his tenure.


Coming into Saturday, the media has been making much of the revenge factor the Huskers may be looking for this weekend against the Jayhawks.  The coaches and team have denied it playing any role, as they are looking at it as just another game.  They were embarrassed by their play last season, as they never really seemed to look alive against the Jayhawks.  The truth is that this is a game Nebraska wants badly, and needs badly if they really intend on "restoring the order".


Nebraska has looked great thus far against lesser foes, but Kansas has played lesser foes and hasn't come away looking very impressive.  Against division 1A opponents, the Jayhawks are 2-1, outscoring their opponents by 2 total points (65-63).  Meanwhile the Huskers area also 2-1 against division 1A opponents, but they have outscored their 1A opponents by 77 total points (115-38). 


Much of Nebraska's success can be seen in their 57% third down conversion percentage.  A season ago, the Huskers were 33% on third downs.  Nebraska's defense is holding opponents to 34% on third downs.  If you can't stop a team on third down, you can't beat them.  The Jayhawks are converting on 42% of their third downs, and allowing their opponents a 37% conversion percentage. 


No one wants to start (0-1) in conference play, so I expect Kansas to play Nebraska tough in the first half.  The Jayhawk defense has played fairly well through four games, but do not appear to be ready for a team that can be effectively balanced on offense.  Kansas will need a lot of help in this game, from Nebraska penalties and turnovers.  Based on the way Nebraska has played this season, it just doesn't appear like those things are going to happen for Kansas.  The Jayhawks just aren't deep enough to hang with the Huskers for four quarters, and don't have the starting horses to pull off a sequel to 2005's showing.  Nebraska pulls away after half-time.


Nebraska - 38

Kansas - 9


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