Game 6 - October 7th, 2006 - 7:00
P.M. CST - ABC - Ames, IA
IOWA STATE (3-2)
Iowa State Offense
The Iowa State Cyclones are entering this week's game with Nebraska following an unlikely 28-27 come from behind victory over 1AA Northern Iowa. The Cyclones are currently averaging 356.60 yards in total offense, placing them 53rd in the nation. Iowa State currently ranks 31st in passing (242.80 ypg), 39th in passing efficiency (139.52 rating), 81st rushing (113.80 ypg), 61st scoring offense (24 ppg), and 73rd in turnover margin (- 0.20).
QB: Jr. Bret Meyer (94 of 149, 1186 yds, 7 TDs, 4 INTs) looked good last week against Northern Iowa, after struggling to get into rhythm through the first four games. Granted this was against a 1AA opponent, Bret Meyer is still a very capable QB against major competition and remains one of the better QBs in the conference. Meyer is the top dual threat QB in the Big XII, and this season has rushed for 152 yards for 4 scores. Those numbers would be larger, however, the Cyclone offensive line has allowed 14 sacks this season, pushing Meyer backwards 87 yards.
RB: Sr. Stevie Hicks (78 carries, 368 yds, 2 TDs) is a tough running back that has been having somewhat of a disappointing season. The Cyclones all but abandoned the running game in the second half comeback versus Northern Iowa last week, as Hicks finished the game with just 30 yards on 7 carries. Behind Hicks is So. Jason Scales (16 carries, 53 yds), a serviceable back-up that should see a few carries. Hicks and Scales can also be effective catching out of the backfield, as they have combined for 7 catches and 35 yards. At FB is Sr. Ryan Kock (11 carries, 21 yds, 2 TDs), arguably the best FB in the conference this season. He doesn't carry the ball much unless it is inside the 5, and he is tough to shut down in short yardage situations.
WR/TE: One of the better receiving corps in the nation, Iowa State boasts Jr. Todd Blythe (19 catches, 257 yds, 5 TDs), Sr. Jon Davis (21 catches, 304 yds, 1 TD) and Sr. Austin Flynn (23 catches, 287 yds). Jon Davis stands at 6'4", while Blythe is 6'5", giving the Cyclones a decided height advantage over any defensive back they come up against. Flynn is more of a burner, with good speed and quickness after the catch. So. R.J. Sumrall (8 catches, 115 yds) is another speedy receiving threat of the Cyclones, and is having a nice season. At TE, Sr. Walter Nickel (10 catches, 143 yds, 1 TD) and Jr. Ben Barkema (4 catches, 29 yds) split time and have shown to be effective in this offense.
OL: The Iowa State offensive line has been a sore spot for the team in 2006. They Cyclones are averaging just 3.4 yards per carry this season, and the line has allowed 14 sacks through 5 games thus far. Surprisingly, an improvement over 2005's campaign in which ISU averaged just 2.7 yards per carry and allowed 39 sacks. Starting for the Cyclones is Sr. Scott Stephenson (6'4", 305 lbs) at center, Sr.'s Scott Fisher (6'7", 335 lbs) and Aaron Bryant (6'7", 320 lbs) at left and right tackle, while Sr. Seth Zehr (6'6", 300 lbs) and So. Tom Schmeling (6'3", 290 lbs) start at left and right guard. This is a monster sized veteran group, but hasn't seemed to pull it all together yet.
Iowa State Defense
The Cyclone defense ranks 95th nationally in total defense (377.40 ypg), 108th pass defense (252.60 ypg), 106th pass efficiency defense (148.88 rating), 61st rush defense (124.80 ypg), and 96th in scoring defense (28.80 ppg). These numbers spell trouble going against one of the most balanced attacks in the country this week in Nebraska.
DL: The Cyclone defensive front is giving opponents 3.8 yards per carry this season, and has accounted for 9 sacks. Last week against Northern Iowa, the Cyclones allowed 4.8 yards per carry, as teams continue to exploit this weak defensive front. Sr. Shawn Moorehead (14 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 PBU) and Fr. Rashawn Parker (21 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 PBU) start at the defensive ends spots, while Sr. Brent Curvey (18 tackles, 2.5 sacks) is at DT and Jr. Ahtyba Rubin (14 tackles) starts at NG.
LB: With So. SLB Adam Carper (39 tackles, 1 PBU, 1 QBH) now out for the season, it should be interesting to see how this crew reacts. Replacing Carper will be Jr. Jon Banks (42 tackles, 3 PBU) at SLB, while Jr. Alvin Bowen (69 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FR, 1 PBU) will continue to start at WLB. Starting at MLB is So. Tyrone McKenzie (56 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, 2 FF, 1 PBU, 1 QBH). This is an inexperienced group, with no returning starters from 2005, but is probably the best unit on the defense.
DB: The struggling Iowa State secondary is led by Sr. LCB DeAndre Jackson (22 tackles, 1 FF, 2 PBU), the lone returning starter. Also starting for the Cyclones is So. Chris Singleton (17 tackles, 2 INT, 1 PBU) at RCB, Jr. Caleb Berg (31 tackles, 1 FR, 1 PBU) at SS, and Fr. Steve Johnson at FS. Johnson will replace Jon Banks, who will be taking over at SLB. This group has been picked on all season, the worst group statistically in the Big XII, and is among the worst in the nation.
Iowa State Special Teams
The Cyclone special teams have been solid this season, with the punt return for touchdown against UNI last week being a huge contributor to the come from behind win.
K: Jr. Bret Culbertson is 3 for 4 on the season, with a long of 39 yards. His miss was from 45 yards. Jr. Josh Griebahn handles kickoff duties, pushing 2 of his 22 kickoffs for touchbacks, with an average of 58.3 yards.
P: Fr. Mike Brandtner has done a nice job this season, punting 18 times for an average of 39.8 yards. 4 of his 18 punts have been downed inside of the opponents' 20.
KR/PR: Handing kickoffs have been Sr. DeAndre Jackson (7 returns, 23 yd avg) and Fr. Drenard Williams (6 returns, 17 yd avg). Both have done a nice job thus far. On punt returns, Sr. Ryan Baum is averaging 18.2 yards on 10 returns, and has 1 return for touchdown.
Coverage: Iowa State's kickoff coverage is allowing 22.2 yards per return on 17 kickoffs. Opponents are averaging 9.9 yards per punt return on 9 returns.
Nebraska's 480.20 yards per game is good enough for 5th in the nation in total offense, also ranking 14th in passing (277.60 ypg), 3rd pass efficiency (180.62 rating), 17th rushing (202.60 ypg), 3rd scoring offense (42 ppg), and 14th in turnover margin (+ 1.00). Much of the yardage gained against Kansas was by way of big plays in the passing game. The run game was fairly stagnant against a very good Kansas front seven.
QB: Sr. Zac Taylor (78 of 122, 1267 yds, 12 TDs, 2 INT) had a solid outing against the Jayhawks last week, but forced throws that he would typically throw away. His mental mistakes will have to be held to a minimum this week in Ames. If the typical Zac Taylor shows up, he could be in for a big day against a less than stellar Cyclone defense. 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 (64 carries, 405 yds, 5 TDs) and Cody Glenn (31 carries, 168 yds, 4 TDs) are co-number ones at running back, Lucky being the home run threat, while Glenn is a power back. Jr.'s Kenny Wilson (66 carries, 311 yds, 3 TDs) and Brandon Jackson (27 carries, 154 yds, 2 TDs) have been equally impressive, each possessing great tackle breaking abilities. Marlon Lucky has shown great hands this season, catching 8 passes for 85 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: The Nebraska receiving corps broke free for 3 plays of 75 yards or more last week against Kansas. There should be opportunities for big plays against a defense that ranks near the bottom of all pass defense stat columns. Jr. Terrence Nunn (17 catches, 307 yds, 1 TD) and So. Nate Swift (8 catches, 150 yds) lead the Huskers' receiving corps. Jr. Frantz Hardy (7 catches, 213 yds, 3 TDs) is a threat in the open field, as he took two receptions (78 and 75 yards) to the house against Kansas last week. Jr. Maurice Purify (9 catches, 225 yards, 1 TD) is a big time playmaker, standing at 6'4", 210lb. He has shown hands of glue, as anything thrown near him, he will come down with. So. Todd Peterson (5 catches, 95 yds, 1 TD) is another tall receiver that rarely drops a ball. At TE, Sr. Matt Herian (8 catches, 135 yds, 2 TDs) has played well this season after missing a year and a half due to a broken leg. Jr. J.B. Phillips (7 catches, 41 yds, 2 TDs) is a solid second option at tight end. None of the tight ends caught a pass against Kansas, and Herian hasn't seen a ball his way in two weeks.
OL: Nebraska's running backs are averaging 5.52 yards per carry, a big improvement over last season's 3.6 yards per carry. Nebraska's offensive line play is much improved over last season's line, although still a work in progress. Kansas was able to pressure Taylor on nearly every passing down last week. Through five games this year, the line has allowed 5 sacks (2 vs. KU), while they allowed 38 sacks in 12 games a season ago. Starting at the tackle positions will be Jr. Chris Patrick (6'4", 290 lbs) at LT, and So. Matt Slauson (6'5", 335 lbs) at RT. So. Lydon Murtha (6'7", 315 lbs) and Jr. Carl Nicks (6'5", 325 lbs) also will also shuffle in and see a number of snaps. Sr. Greg Austin (6'1", 295 lbs) starts at LG, while So. Mike Huff (6'4", 305 lbs) is at RG. Starting center, Sr. Kurt Mann (6'4", 290 lbs), has struggled with a viral infection, missing the last four games. In his place has been Jr. Brett Byford (6'3", 300 lbs), who has done an admirable job in his four starts. Mann has been back in practice and will travel to Ames. He is probable at this point.
Entering game six, the Blackshirts rank 56th nationally in total defense (321 ypg), 65th pass defense (198.40 ypg), 49th pass efficiency defense (115.39 rating), 59th rush defense (122.60 ypg), and 27th in scoring defense (15.40 ppg). Nebraska's defense had one of its worst outings in recent memory against the Kansas Jayhawks, giving up 574 yards, pushing the total defense ranking from 21st to 56th.
DL: Nebraska's defensive line is led by Sr. defensive ends Adam Carriker (22 tackles, 1 sack, 5 QBH, 2 PBU) and Jay Moore (13 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 QBH, 1 PBU). So. Barry Turner (8 tackles, 4 QBH, 1 FR) is a quick footed DE that shares a number of snaps with Moore. At DT, Sr.'s Ola Dagunduro (7 tackles, 1 sack) and Barry Cryer (13 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1 PBU) start. Backup sophomore DTs Ndamukong Suh (9 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 FF) and Ty Steinkuhler (12 tackles, 1 FF) are seeing more action in the rotation and are looking impressive. Nebraska's opponents are averaging 3.7 yards per carry, which is up from the 3.2 yard average in 2005. This is still one of the better starting front fours in the country, but will need to step it up and get past last week's poor performance.
LB: Starting at MLB is Jr. Corey McKeon (30 tackles, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 QBH, 2 PBU). On the outside, Jr. Bo Ruud (24 tackles, 1 INT, 1 QBH, 1 FF) starts at weak side, with Jr. Steve Octavien (9 tackles) backing him up. Sr. Stewart Bradley (29 tackles, 1 FF, 2 FRs, 1 PBU, 2 QBH, 1 PBU) starts on the strong side and back-up Jr. Lance Brandenburgh (10 tackles) has looked good filling in at all three linebacker positions when needed. Octavien has been hampered with a hamstring injury for the past few weeks. He has struggled to get back to form after missing 2005 with a knee injury. This is a very good crew that looked very average against the Jayhawks last week.
DB: Jr. Cortney Grixby (21 tackles, 3 PBU, 1 FF, 1 FR) is a three year starter at WCB, while Jr. Andre Jones (19 tackles, 1 INT, 4 PBU) starts his sixth game at SCB after transferring from the JUCO ranks. Grixby has been picked on because of his 5'9" frame, which this season has worked in teams' favors, especially if they possess a 6'4"-plus type receiver. Jones is a big, physical, cover corner that is doing well in making a clean transition from JUCO to 1A football. Grixby really struggled against Kansas, getting burned numerous times. At safety is Jr. Tierre Green (28 tackles, 1 FR) at SS and Sr. Andrew Shanle (18 tackles, 3 INTs, 1 PBU, 1 QBH) starts at FS. True freshmen Major Culbert (2 tackles), Rickey Thenarse (3 tackles), and Corey Young (7 tackles) are starting to get much needed experience. Depth is a big concern as injuries have left the defensive backfield bare.
Nebraska Special Teams
Nebraska's special team play has been solid and steady over the first five games.
K: So. Jordan Congdon is 2 for 3 on field goals, with a long of 38. On kickoffs, he averages just 56.3 yards on 30 attempts (1 touchback), while So. Jake Wesch has four kickoffs for a 60 yard average. Failing to get kickoffs through the endzone has given opponents an advantage in field position.
P: So. Dan Titchener has been fairly solid through four games. He is averaging 39 yards on 18 punts with a long of 53, having 6 punts downed inside the opponents' 20. He has a great leg, but has been inconsistent. He'll have a great punt, then shank the next. He has 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, Jr. Brandon Jackson averages 16 yards on his two returns, and Jr. Kenny Wilson looked impressive on his single return, taking it for 27 yards. Jr. Terrence Nunn is averaging 9.7 yards on 14 punt returns. So. Nate Swift has returned 2 punts for an average of 24.5 yards.
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. Iowa State's Defense
Nebraska has shown over the past two games that they have an outstanding deep passing game and can score on any play. This was evidenced on last week's 3rd and 18 play in the fourth quarter which resulted in a 75 yard touchdown pass from Zac Taylor to Frantz Hardy. Iowa State's defense has shown that they are incompetent against the rush and pass, and against the 3rd best offense in the country, they will have all they can handle and then some. Iowa State, however, will see that Nebraska's offensive line struggled against Kansas' defensive front seven, and getting pressure on Taylor is not uncommon. Be that as it may, Iowa State's front seven is not as physical, nor talented as Kansas' front. A year ago, Zac Taylor threw for 317 yards against the Cyclone defense, a defense that has many new starters. There is no reason to believe that Taylor won't have a big day Saturday. The Nebraska running game was in neutral against the Jayhawks a week ago, but should be able to get back on track this week against a defense that gave up 4.8 yards per carry to a 1AA squad.
Iowa State's Offense vs. Nebraska's Defense
Iowa State's offensive coordinator, Barney Cotton, no doubt saw some things he liked about how Kansas was able to take what they wanted against the Nebraska defense in the game's final 2 1/2 quarters. There has to be a feeling that if they avoid turning the ball over, they will be in a position to win this game in the fourth quarter. The big question is whether or not the Nebraska defense that lined up against Kansas for those final 2 1/2 quarters is the real Husker defense. The Blackshirts didn't play that poorly against USC, a much more skilled and talented team than Kansas. Bret Meyer, who has to be disappointed with his 7 to 4 touchdown to interception ratio, is hoping to have a big day against a defense that made Adam Barmann look like Joe Montana. Last season, the Husker defense sacked Meyer 6 times and negated his ability to be a threat running the ball. If Nebraska can do that this year, Iowa State will be in trouble. The Nebraska defensive front hasn't been as dynamic this season, however, and if they fail at getting to Meyer, it could be Nebraska that will be in trouble.
Keys to the Game
For Nebraska to Win:
1.) Must get pressure on Meyer.
2.) Start fast, but do not let up - nearly cost Nebraska the game a week ago.
3.) Establish ground game, offensive line struggled to protect Taylor last week.
4.) Create turnovers.
5.) Minimize "stupid" penalties. Penalties continue to kill drives for this team.
For Iowa State to Win:
1.) No turnovers, fumble on punt return a week ago helped UNI.
2.) Cannot get into a hole. The Cyclones were able to come back against Northern Iowa, but this is a conference foe.
3.) Must stiffen up on run defense. Northern Iowa's success on the ground is not a good sign.
4.) Cannot allow Nebraska to make big plays in the passing game.
5.) Go after Nebraska CB Cortney Grixby. He has given up big plays in nearly every game this season.
Weather Report for Nebraska vs. Iowa State
Latest Line - Nebraska by 6.5.
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 - probable
LB - Steve Octavien - hamstring - doubtful
SS - James Smith - ankle - out indefinitely
DL - Kurtis Taylor - knee - out for season
LB - Adam Carper - knee - out for season
Game Breakdown & Prediction
Both Nebraska and Iowa State come into this game after disappointing performances in week 5. Nebraska, 39-32 winners in overtime against a Kansas team they were expected to defeat handily. Iowa State, 28-27 winners in a come from behind effort against 1AA opponent, Northern Iowa.
This could be considered an elimination game of sorts for Iowa State. After facing Nebraska, the next two games for the Cyclones are Oklahoma and Texas Tech. A loss against the Huskers could spin the season downward in a hurry. For Nebraska, there is a lot to prove. Not only to the fans and the media, but to themselves as well. They let a 17 point lead against Kansas slip away at home, and nearly lost the game. There is no doubt that this team will come out ready to play this week to erase memories of last week's poor performance defensively.
Nebraska has not won in Ames since 2000, and an Iowa State victory would be the first time Iowa State has beaten Nebraska 3 times in a 5 game stretch since 1957-1960.
The Huskers need a win badly in Ames Saturday, as they have to make a statement that they can win games on the road.
On paper, it looks as though Nebraska should be able to do what they want on offense and cruise to victory, although those that know how high the Cyclones get up for games like Iowa and Nebraska, it may not be the 95th ranked defense that shows up Saturday night.
Both offenses match up well against each others' defenses. Iowa State's offensive strength is their wide receivers, Nebraska's defensive weakness is their secondary. Nebraska's offensive strength is their offensive balance, Iowa State's struggles to stop both the run and the pass. This could very well be a shoot-out
Nebraska will likely line up and try to run the ball against the Cyclones this week. The Husker defense was on the field for nearly thirty more plays than the offense ran, due to many quick strike drives. Nebraska's defense was visibly gassed in the third quarter, something that the offense can help keep under control by winning the time of possession. The luxury Nebraska has right now with Marlon Lucky, Cody Glenn, Kenny Wilson, and Brandon Jackson is that if one is having an off night, another can go in and take over. They all bring something different to the table, and opposing defenses must adjust for them.
Iowa State's Stevie Hicks will look to make an impression in his last game against his home state's top team. His offensive line will have to be of assistance for him to get going. If Northern Iowa could shut down the Iowa State ground game, there is no reason to believe Nebraska can't do the same.
Taking a look at margin of victory, in the Cyclones three wins over Toledo, UNLV, and Northern Iowa, they have won by a total of 9 points. In their two losses to Iowa and Texas, they have been outscored by 33 points. Iowa State hasn't proven yet that they can put anyone away, as their defense has helped keep these wins close. Nebraska's four wins against Louisiana Tech, Nicholls State, Troy, and Kansas have been decided by 151 points, while their loss to USC was by 18.
The winner of this game should hinge on the play of the defenses. Both offenses should be able to put up some good numbers, but a turnover here, or a 3 and out there, and this game's complexion could change completely. Nebraska's defense has had three solid performances. The Huskers would like to think that last week's defensive performance was an anomaly. Everyone will find out Saturday night. Iowa State's defense really hasn't had an outstanding showing this season, aside from the UNLV game and will really need one against the Huskers.
Look for Nebraska's defense to make one more stop than does the Iowa State defense to solidify a win. Nebraska should win by about a TD.
Nebraska - 34
Iowa State - 27