Nevada vs. #19/#20 Nebraska

Check out our first gameday breakdown of the year as Vince Campisi tears it down to the skinny on Nebraska hosting the Nevada Wolfpack.

September 1st, 2007
2:30 PM CT
Lincoln, NE

Nevada (0 - 0) (0 - 0)
#19/#20 NEBRASKA (0 - 0) (0 - 0)

Player Breakdowns

Nevada Offense

QB:  Last year's starter Jeff Rowe (172 of 266, 1907 yds, 17 TDs, 8 INTs), as well as the top back-up Travis Moore (35 of 56, 437 yds, 5 TDs, 4 INTs) are both gone.  So. Nick Graziano (9 of 17, 92 yds, 1 TD) has been given the reigns to the offense to start the season.  Graziano is an accurate passer, and has been doing a great job in recent scrimmages.  He has pretty good wheels and will be able to handle many of the rollouts that Nevada's offense runs.  Although Graziano has been named the starter, Head Coach Chris Ault has mentioned that back-up RFr. Colin Kaepernick will see action.  Much of this will depend on how well Graziano plays in his first start, on the road in a tough environment. 

RB:  Although last season's starter Robert Hubbard (209 carries, 996 yds, 6 TDs) is gone, Jr. Luke Lippincott (94 carries, 456 yds, 9 TDs) and So. Brandon Fragger (55 carries, 270 yds, 3 TDs) both return with limited starting experience.  Lippincott, named the starter, is a power back, while Fragger is quick-footed back.  Together, they should provide a nice combination for the Wolf Pack.  Lippincott showed last year that he has pretty good hands, catching 8 passes for 35 yards.  Fragger caught just one pass last season, an 11 yard touchdown.  Nevada's running backs get a lot of passes thrown their way, so their ability to catch the ball out of the backfield will be of great importance for them to have success.  If Lippincott and Fragger can't get it going on Saturday, there is a possibility that Redshirt Freshmen Courtney Randall and Vai Taua could see action. 

  Nevada's receiving crew lost 3 of their top 7 receivers from a year ago, including top wide out Caleb Spencer (55 catches, 564 yds, 2 TDs).  This season's group is led by Sr. Kyle Sammons at the X, Jr. Marko Mitchell (39 catches, 493 yds, 4 TDs) at F, and So. Arthur King Jr. (7 catches, 72 yds) starting at Z.  Sammons missed all of last season with a broken collar bone, but has earned a starting spot this fall.  In 2005, Sammons caught 27 passes for 275 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Mitchell is the biggest target in this offense, at 6'4", 200 lbs, and has tremendous hands.  He will make the transition easier for the new starter at QB.  Top reserve receivers include Jr. Mike McCoy (23 catches, 346 yds, 9 TDs), Sr. Alex Rosenblum, and RFr. Chris Wellington.  McCoy is a big time play maker, leading the Wolf Pack in touchdowns last season, and should see plenty of action Saturday.  At tight end, Sr. Adam Bishop (11 catches, 129 yds, 1 TD) starts and So. Junior Puloka serves as his back-up.  Nevada doesn't employ their tight ends often, but Bishop is a quality blocker with decent hands.

OL: The Wolf Pack offensive line will look to replace a couple of starters from last year's group.  Nevada lost two Seniors from 2006, and will be without the services of So. Dominic Green due to a foot injury.  Last season, the line paved the way for 4.3 yards per rush for the offense, while giving up 26 sacks.  Starting on the line at tackle is RFr. John Bender (6'8", 325 lbs) at left, and So. Alonzo Durham (6'4", 285 lbs) on the right.  These two will need to mature quickly so that Graziano can get better protection.  At guard is Sr. Charles Manu (6'3", 300 lbs) on the left side, with Jr. Greg Hall (6'3", 290 lbs) starts on the right.  Manu and Hall should provide good rush blocking, while their ability to pass protect is questionable.  Starting at center will be Jr. Josh Catapano (6'3", 285 lbs), filling in for the injured Dominic Green.  There is little experience behind the starters.

Nevada Defense

At the end of the 2006 season, the Nevada Wolf Pack defense ranked 48th nationally in total defense (325.5 ypg), 52nd pass defense (196.9 ypg), 48th pass efficiency defense (121.9 rating), 52nd rush defense (128.5 ypg), and 30th in scoring defense (19.2 ppg).  There are 7 starters back from last season, however, has to replace 3 of their top 5 tacklers.  The linebacking corps are the strength of this defense, however, the Wolf Pack will be without All-WAC performer Ezra Butler for this game, due to suspension.

DL:  Nevada's defensive line let opponents push through for a 4 yard per carry average in 2006.  Starting on the line at end will be Jr. Mundrae Clifton (7 tackles) on the left, and Sr. Erics Clark (19 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 PBU) on the right.  Sr. Jay Dixon (8 tackles, 2.5 sacks,1 QBH) will be backing up both Clifton and Clark.  Starting at nose tackle is Sr. Matt Hines (33 tackles, 1 sack, 1 QBH, 1 PBU, 2 FF, 1 BK).  His back-up is So. Thomas Flinn.  This line should be pretty solid this season, assuming Clifton shows to be a quality replacement for 2006 starter J.J. Milan.  This unit will have their hands full, however, Saturday, against a much bigger Nebraska offensive line.
LB: Nevada should have a good linebacking corps this season, however, will not be at full strength this week with 2006 All-WAC performer Ezra Butler (71 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF, 2 FR, 1 QBH, 1 PBU) out for a suspension.  Replacing Butler this week at the Bandit position will be Sr. Nick Fuhr (7 tackles).  This group will struggle without Butler helping out, so a lot of pressure will be on Fuhr to perform on Saturday.  Starting at MIKE linebacker is Jr. Kevin Porter (18 tackles, 1 FR, 1 QBH).  At WOLF will be Jr. Joshua Mauga (56 tackles, 3 INTs, 2 FF, 2 FR, 2 PBU) while Sr. Jeremy Engstrom (41 tackles, 1 INT, 2 FR, 1 PBU) starts at SAM.  The only back-up with any experience is MIKE  LB Jr. Jerome Johnson (1 tackle). 

DB: Nevada returns starting experience at all positions in the defensive backfield.  CB Joe Garcia and FS Nick Hawthorne are starters that graduated last season.  This season's starting cornerbacks are So. Jonathon Amaya (42 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 FR, 1 PBU) at LCB and Sr. Paul Pratt (24 tackles, 1 INT, 6 PBU) starts at RCB.  Sr. Shannon Sevor (7 tackles) backs up Amaya, while Sr. Devon Walker (18 tackles, 1 FF, 2 PBU) serves as Pratt's back-up.  Looking at safety, Jr. Uche Anyanwu (29 tackles, 1 INT, 3 FF) starts at SS, with So. Tristan Davis backing him up.  Sr. Justin Jackson (22 tackles,1 FR, 2 PBU) starts at FS, and So. Mike Samples is his back-up.  Samples also brings back starting experience from 2005 after redshirting last season.  This is, overall, a pretty decent group of athletes, although not particularly known for ball-hawking abilities.

Nevada Special Teams

The Wolf Pack's special team units were fair last season.  Nevada finished 2006 ranked 103rd in net punting (32.3 yd avg), 9th in punt returns (13.6 yd avg), and 14th in kickoff returns (23.7 yd avg).  Top punt return man DeAngelo Wilson was dismissed from the team in the Spring, so a quality replacement must be found to get to the great numbers from a season ago.

K: Jr. Brett Jaekle made 8 of his 11 attempts in 2006, with a long of 44.  Jaekle averaged 58.9 yards with just 28 of his 72 kickoffs going for a touchback.  With kickoffs moving back 5 yards, Jaekle will have to get a bit more leg into his kicks to avoid giving opponents great field position.

P: Sr. Zacary Whited punted 40 times for an average of 39.1 yards in 2006.  14 of his 40 punts were downed inside of the opponents' 20.

KR/PR: Nevada had a great return game in 2006, they should be solid again in 2007.  So. Dwayne Sanders (22 returns, 25 yd avg) and RFr. Chris Wellington will handle kickoff return duties.  On punt returns, So. Arthur King Jr. (22 returns, 5.5 yd avg) and Sr. Alex Rosenblum (2 returns, 10 yd avg, 1 TD) are the top return men.

Coverage: Nevada's kick coverage team was stingy in 2006, allowing 19 yards per return on 34 kickoff return attempts.  Punt coverage was fair with opponents averaging 7.9 yards per punt return on 24 returns. 

Nebraska Offense

Nebraska is coming into the 2007 season after finishing with a 9-5 record in 2006.  Head Coach Bill Callahan appointed Shawn Watson as the new offensive coordinator, taking over for the departed Jay Norvell.  In Nebraska's West Coast Offense, the offensive coordinator gives insights to Callahan, whom ultimately calls each play.  Nebraska's 414.6 yards per game in 2006 placed them 14th nationally in total offense.  The Cornhuskers also ranked 23rd in passing (244.1 ypg), 13th in pass efficiency (151.04 rating), 23rd in rushing (170.5 ypg), 17th in scoring offense (30.6 ppg), and 58th in turnover margin (0.00) at the end of last season.  Nebraska returns 7 full time starters on offense, however, all positions outside of FB bring some kind of starting experience. 

QB:  Two year starter and 2006 Big XII offensive player of the year Zac Taylor (219 of 365, 3071 yds, 25 TDs, 7 INTs) is gone.  With his departure, a heated QB battle ensued between Arizona State transfer, Sr. Sam Keller and Jr. Joe Ganz (7 for 13, 122 yds, 3 TDs).  In 2005, Sam Keller started 8 games for Arizona State before injuring his thumb.  In those 8 games, he completed 155 of 264 passes for 2,165 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions.  Keller ended up winning the battle in fall camp, as Bill Callahan named him the starter in mid-August.  He should have a solid season, but could struggle early on, since he hasn't played in a real game since October, 2005.

RB: Nebraska utilized four talented running backs in 2006.  This off-season was not kind to that running back stable, however.  It started with top back Brandon Jackson declaring for the NFL Draft, and was followed up by Marlon Lucky getting hospitalized and Kenny Wilson breaking his leg.  Jr. Marlon Lucky (141 carries, 728 yds, 6 TDs) has been named starter, and is an outstanding back when healthy.  TFr. Quentin Castille will start the season second string, while TFr. Roy Helu is listed third and So. Major Culbert is fourth.  Castille has impressed with his physical attributes in fall camp, while Helu has also turned some heads.  One name that is missing from the depth chart is Jr. Cody Glenn (71 carries, 370 yds, 8 TDs), who has battled with a foot injury since last year.  The backs are a critical piece of the passing game, and Marlon Lucky has the best hands of the group, catching 32 passes for 383 yards last season.  Sr. Andy Sand has been given the starting nod at FB, a position that rarely touches the ball in Nebraska's offense. 
WR/TE: This season's receiving crew might be one of the best in Nebraska history.  There is a nice mix of quality deep threats and possession receivers that will give QB Sam Keller plenty to throw to.  Sr. Maurice Purify (34 catches, 630 yards, 7 TDs) is the team's biggest target and could have All-American type numbers this season. However, he has been suspended for the season opener against Nevada.  Starting Z receiver, Sr. Terrence Nunn (42 catches, 597 yds, 3 TDs) led the team in receptions in 2006, and is solid on intermediate routes.  Behind Nunn at Z will be Sr. Frantz Hardy (14 catches, 317 yds, 3 TDs), a speedy deep threat.  Starting at X this week will be Jr. Nate Swift (22 catches, 374 yds, 2 TDs), who had a diminished role in 2006, but will get a good chance to get back on track this week as a starter.  Jr. Todd Peterson (19 catches, 307 yds, 2 TDs), a sure handed receiver, has been listed behind Swift at X.  Sr. Dan Erickson (4 catches, 85 yds), So. Menelik Holt, and TFr. Niles Paul should also see the field Saturday.  Tight end has been a weakness in the Nebraska offense over the past couple of seasons.  Starting this year at TE will be Sr. J.B. Phillips (13 catches, 82 yds, 2 TDs) who has been decent at best in his career.  Jr. Josh Mueller (5 catches, 26 yds, 2 TDs) has been named second string, but is also not considered a great threat.

OL: Nebraska's running backs averaged 5.29 yards per carry in 2006 in large part to a good effort by the offensive line.  The line was beaten by quick, athletic defensive linemen a little too often, however.  Last season, they allowed 30 sacks in 14 games.  Nebraska lost three players with starting experience from last season, however, all five starters for this season have started in the past.  Starting at the tackle positions are Sr. Carl Nicks (6'5", 330 lbs) at LT, and Jr. Lydon Murtha (6'7", 310 lbs) at RT.  RFr. Mike Smith (6'6", 290 lbs) and RFr. D.J. Jones (6'5", 310 lbs) should see a lot of action as the top tackle reserves.  Jr. Andy Christensen (6'3", 300 lbs) will start at LG with Sr. Jordan Picou (6'3", 300 lbs.) backing him up.  Jr. Mike Huff (6'4", 300 lbs) and Jr. Matt Slauson (6'5", 335 lbs) will share starting time at RG, since Slauson is still not quite 100% back from his injury.  Sr. Brett Byford (6'3", 300 lbs) will start at center, after doing a solid job for most of last season.

Nebraska Defense

Nebraska's Blackshirt defense had an up and down 2006 season.  They finished 56th nationally in total defense (331.9 ypg), 79th pass defense (215.3 ypg), 35th pass efficiency defense (117.4 rating), 37th rush defense (116.6 ypg), and 24th in scoring defense (18.3 ppg).  The Huskers return 6 starters on the defensive side of the ball, having to replace all four starters on the line. 

DL:  Nebraska's defensive line lost senior defensive ends Adam Carriker and Jay Moore, as well as senior defensive tackles Ola Dagunduro and Barry Cryer.  Those losses are huge, and filling those holes is of the highest importance.  Jr. Barry Turner (18 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 FR, 6 QBH, 2 PBU, 1 BK) gets the starting spot at open end.  He has great athleticism that makes him a terrific pass rusher, however, he has put on some bulk in the off-season which should allow him to play the run more effectively.  Getting playing time behind Turner will be Jr. Clayton Sievers (1 tackle).  Starting at base end will be Jr. Zach Potter (3 tackles), who has spent his first two seasons primarily on special teams.  Potter's back-up will be RFr. Pierre Allen.  So. Ndamukong Suh (19 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF, 2 QBH) has been impressive in camp and will be starting at nose tackle, with Jr. Shukree Barfield and Se. Brandon Johnson sharing back-up duties.  So. Ty Steinkuhler (22 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1 FF) has been named starting defensive tackle, and is backed up by Jr. Kevin Dixon.  Nebraska's opponents in 2006 averaged 3.7 yards per carry on the season, a solid effort.  This line should be quite good once they have get used to playing together, but depth, especially at defensive end, is a question mark. 

LB: Probably the strongest link of this defense, Nebraska's linebacking corps should be set for big things in 2007, as long as they stay healthy.  Jr. Corey McKeon (69 tackles, 1 sack, 2 FF, 1 FR, 2 QBH, 3 PBU) enters his third season as starter at MLB for the Huskers.  Back-up So. Phillip Dillard (4 tackles) will see plenty of action, however, especially when Nebraska lines up in 3-4 schemes.  Sr. Bo Ruud (65 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 INTs, 3 FF, 2 FR, 4 QBH, 4 PBU) starts at WLB, with TFr. Blake Lawrence listed as the top reserve.  Jr. Steve Octavien (32 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FF, 1 QBH, 2 PBU) now starts at SLB, replacing multi-year starter Stew Bradley, who is now in the NFL.  Octavien has had trouble staying healthy, but is an outstanding player when 100%.  Jr. Lance Brandenburgh (41 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1 FF), one of the sure tacklers on the team, is the top back-up for Octavien.

DB: Nebraska's secondary, with its returning experience and being infused with some new blood should be solid this season.  Sr. Cortney Grixby (53 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 FR, 11 PBU), begins year four as a starter, at WCB Saturday.  His 5'9" frame often makes him a target of opponents, but is a great athlete and one of the unit's better tacklers.  JUCO transfer, Jr. Armando Murillo has been given the starting nod over Sr. Andre Jones (74 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, 7 PBU) who started all 14 games last season at LCB, and will now serve as his back-up.  Sr. Zack Bowman, who missed all of 2006 with a knee injury should see action Saturday in a reserve roll.  Once 100%, it is likely he will return to his former starting role.  Sr. Tierre Green (65 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FR, 2 PBU) will start at FS and JUCO transfer, So. Larry Asante has been named starter at SS.  So. Rickey Thenarse (9 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 PBU) is Green's top back-up, while Sr. Bryan Wilson (4 tackles, 1 FR, 1 QBH) will be Asante's primary back-up. 

Nebraska Special Teams

Nebraska's special teams play was quite poor last season.  Struggles in the return game, as well as kickoffs and field goals will need to be remedied for Nebraska to enjoy success in 2007.  The Huskers ended 2006 ranked 24th in net punting (37.2 yd avg), 69th in punt returns (8.2 yd avg), and 112th in kickoff returns (17.4 yd avg). 

K:  Last season's starter at PK, Jordan Congdon, left the team over the off-season and will be replaced by TFr. Adi Kunalic, who has great leg strength, however, accuracy will be the main question with him. 

P:  Jr. Dan Titchener punted well last season.  He averaged 39.3 yards on 66 punts with a long of 58, having 26 punts downed inside the opponents' 20.  He has above average leg power, with solid consistency.
KR/PR:  Nebraska's return game in 2006 was sub-standard.  It will be important for this to improve in 2007.  Seniors Andre Jones and Cortney Grixby have been listed as the top kickoff return team.  Neither player returned a kickoff in 2006.  Seniors Cortney Grixby and Terrence Nunn will again be the top options for returning punts this season.  Nunn averaged 8.5 yards on 18 punt returns, but had fumbling issues.  Grixby averaged 7.1 yards per return on 13 returns.

Coverage:  Nebraska's coverage teams were very good in 2006.  The kick coverage unit allowed 18 yards on 61 kickoff returns, while the punt return coverage team allowed just 4.1 yard average on 18 punt returns. 

Unit Match-Ups

Nebraska's Offense vs. Nevada's Defense

Nebraska's returns so much talent on offense, that despite losing QB Zac Taylor to graduation and RB Brandon Jackson to the NFL, the unit could put up better numbers in 2007.  This will depend heavily on QB Sam Keller's ability to take the reigns to the offense and get things done.  If Keller can return to form from early 2005, the Huskers will be poised to have a very good season.  In 2006, Nebraska held a solid 3rd down conversion percentage of 45%, while their red-zone offense was just above 86%. 

Nevada's defense has some quality athletes, especially at linebacker and nose tackle.  It will be interesting to see how they play this week without the services of Bandit LB Ezra Butler, the team's best defender.  They will to have step-up their level of play if they want to leave Lincoln with a victory.  The Wolf Pack had a decent 3rd down defense in 2006, as opponents converted 36% of their attempts.  Nevada had success getting into the opponent's backfield last season, garnering 73 tackles for loss that includes an impressive 37 sacks. 

The Nebraska offensive line should be able to find success against Nevada's defensive front.  The key battle to watch will be between NT Matt Hines and C Brett Byford.  The Huskers are anticipating this year's offensive line to be their best in a number of years.  Nebraska's average offensive lineman is 6'4", 309 lbs, while Nevada's average defensive lineman stands at 6'3", 282 lbs.  This should pave the way for a solid rushing effort from Marlon Lucky and company.  Nebraska's receivers should also have a good day, playing against a Nevada secondary that has lost two multiple season starters.

Nevada's Offense vs. Nebraska's Defense

Nevada's offense has to replace last season's great QB, Jeff Rowe.  Nick Graziano, who has been outstanding in fall scrimmages, will get the first attempt at replacing Rowe.  He has an accurate arm and has done a good job of spreading the ball to multiple receivers in the scrimmages.  The Wolf Pack has talent returning at running back and wide receiver, however, lost their best player in both units.  The offensive line will likely struggle, without 3 starters from a year ago.  Nevada's third down conversion percentage in 2006 was 43%, and had a 76% red zone scoring average.

The Nebraska defense will first look to replace all four starters from last year on the defensive line.  NT Ndamukong Suh has been looking like a future NFL draft pick in scrimmages, pushing around the Huskers' offensive line.  Both OE Barry Turner and DT Ty Steinkuhler have a lot of game experience, so the X factor will likely be BE Zach Potter.  Potter's job will be to replace first round NFL Draft pick Adam Carriker, which will be no small task.  Nebraska's pass defense should be much improved over last season, with some upgrades and the return of CB Zack Bowman.  In 2006, the Huskers earned 105 tackles for loss and 31 sacks.  The Nebraska defense was solid on 3rd downs as well, allowing opponents to convert on just 33% of their attempts. 

Much of Nevada's offensive success will come from how well Graziano can spread the ball around on Saturday.  Nevada's average offensive lineman is 6'4", 297 lbs, while Nebraska's average defensive lineman stands at 6'4", 284 lbs.  Nevada likes to utilize their running backs in the passing game, and RB Luke Lippincott has shown that he can catch the ball fairly well.  The Wolf Pack will also likely run plenty of misdirection plays, trying to keep a Nebraska defense that is starting 7 new full-time starters, off balance.  Nebraska's linebackers will be required to make a lot of plays against Nevada, who favors short and intermediate receiving routes. 

Keys to the Game

For Nebraska to Win:

1.) Apply pressure to QB Nick Graziano.  A first time starter in Memorial Stadium, Graziano could crack under the pressure.
2.) Pass protection for Sam Keller will be a premium, and must be there.
3.) Out-muscle the undersized defensive line of Nevada to get the ground game going.
4.) Must win turnover battle.  Most of Nebraska's losses were due to ill-timed turnovers. 
5.) Kicking game needs to be much improved.  With Nevada's outstanding return game, deep kickoffs will be a must. 

For Nevada to Win:
1.) QBs Graziano and/or Kaepernick need to have a solid and steady day. 
2.) RB Luke Lippincott needs to show that he has improved and have a big day.
3.) Bandit LB Nick Fuhr will need to come up big in his replacement of Ezra Butler. 
4.) Play clean football, limit penalties and turnovers to near zero. 
5.) Get pressure on QB Sam Keller.  He had interception issues when under pressure in 2005.

Gametime Weather
Weather Report for Nebraska vs. Nevada

Latest Line - Nebraska by 21.

Position Advantages:

QBs: Nebraska
RBs: Nebraska
WR/TE's: Nebraska
OL: Nebraska
DL: Nebraska
LB: Nebraska
DB: Nebraska
Special Teams: Nevada
Coaching: Nebraska

Injury Report

WR - Maurice Purify - suspension - out for game
RB - Kenny Wilson - leg - out for season
TE - Hunter Teafatiller - suspension - out indefinitely

LB - Ezra Butler - suspension - our for game
OL - Dominic Green - foot - late Sept.

Game Breakdown & Outlook

This will be the first ever meeting between Nebraska and Nevada.  Nevada has not played a Big XII school since 1950, while Nebraska's last opponent from the WAC was last season's opener against Louisiana Tech.  Nebraska ended the 2006 season with back-to-back losses to Oklahoma in the Big XII Championship and to Auburn in the Cotton Bowl.  Nevada also finished 2006 with back-to-back losses, to Boise State, and Miami (Fl) in the MPC Computers Bowl.  Nevada Coach Chris Ault is 15-17 away from Reno, and 1-4 against top 25 teams.  Nebraska Coach Bill Callahan is 15-5 in Lincoln, and is 3-0 in season openers.  The Wolf Pack have lost 11 consecutive road openers, while Nebraska has won 17 straight home openers.

Last season, Nebraska was 0 for 4 against top 10 teams, and much of that had to do with mental errors and turnovers.  Nebraska's lackluster performances against top ten competition have kept them from re-joining the nation's elite.  This will be a difficult season, playing 8 bowl teams from 2006, and there will be little margin for error.  Nevada had a similar season in 2006, winning the games they should have, but not really going above and beyond expectations.  Nevada will have a much tougher task on Saturday, but is starting to gain confidence as a program following two straight bowl seasons. 

Nebraska's offense will be an interesting one to watch this season, and all eyes will be on QB Sam Keller.  At 6'4", he definitely has a presence in the pocket.  Nevada will want to blitz often in this game, to try and see how much rust is on the Nebraska signal caller.  Keller will need better blocking than Nebraska's offensive line has provided for its QBs over the past few seasons, and should get it, due to returning, improved linemen.  With this improved offensive line, the running backs, led by Marlon Lucky should find larger holes to run through.  Lucky has suffered two concussions recently, which is concerning for Nebraska.  This makes it imperative for true freshmen Quentin Castille and Roy Helu, among other backs to be able to come in and contribute from game one.  The Nebraska receiving corps should be mentioned among the best in the Big XII conference this season, but will be without star Maurice Purify this week.  Without the big 6'4" threat out there, others must step in and contribute.  With Nevada's big losses on defense, as well as losing Ezra Butler for this game, Nebraska does have a chance to put up sizable numbers.

Nevada's offense will likely struggle, due to a large re-building cycle they will be under.  There are many veterans to replace from last season and we should find out in a hurry if QB Nick Graziano will be the guy this year.  If he can play well under pressure in Lincoln, then he can play well anywhere.  He does have a athletic receiving corps to throw to, highlighted by Marko Mitchell and Kyle Sammons, who will test Nebraska's revamped secondary.  Nebraska's defensive backfield should be much better than last season thanks to some new JUCO additions to the starting line-up in Armando Murillo and Larry Asante.  The Wolf Pack will need RB Luke Lippincott to have a great day for Nevada to have any chance of winning.  Lippincott, according to coaches, has improved his lateral movement, which coupled with his good straight ahead speed, should make him interesting to watch this season.  It will also be interesting to see how they play against Nebraska's four new starters on the defensive front.

On paper, this game doesn't look close.  Nebraska simply has more talent at the skill positions, and more big bruisers in the trenches.  But, games aren't won on paper and Nevada shouldn't be taken lightly by the Huskers.  Look for Nebraska to pound the ball at Nevada's smallish defensive front, which will open up big plays from the passing game.  If Keller gets adequate time in the pocket, he should be able to return to his 2005 form, and spread the ball to multiple receivers.  It will be important for Keller to have a good game, so that he and Nebraska will build some confidence moving into the rest of the season.  If Nevada's defense cannot slow down the Nebraska run game, this contest has the ability to get ugly, but there should be enough talent at DL and LB to keep it interesting, at least for a while.  Nevada will run a lot of misdirection plays, because they are good at it, and because teams had success against Nebraska running them in 2006.  They will also use a smattering of short to intermediate passes, which should be a good way to get Graziano comfortable.

This should be a good battle for the first 20 to 30 minutes.  After that, Nebraska should be able to take over the game.  QB Sam Keller will probably have a break-in period, and the faster he re-acclimated himself to being on the field, the more effective the Husker offense will be.  Not having Ezra Butler will hurt the Nevada defense, and having a revamped and inexperienced offensive line will also hamper the Wolf Pack.  Look for Nebraska to roll in the second half.

Nevada - 9
Nebraska - 38

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