Vince Campisi's GameDay Preview
September 8th, 2007
11:00 AM CT
#19/#20 NEBRASKA (1 - 0) (0 - 0)
WAKE FOREST (0 - 1) (0 - 1)
Wake Forest Offense
The Wake Forest Demon Deacons offense in 2006 enjoyed an efficient balanced attack. Last week, however, the run game was non-existent, while the passing game was solid, amounting for 366 of the 368 yards gained. Through one game, the Demon Deacons have 368 yards in total offense, which is currently 62nd nationally. Wake Forest is ranked 6th in passing (366 ypg), 57th in passing efficiency (123.91 rating), 111th rushing (2 ypg), 49th scoring offense (28 ppg), and 70th in turnover margin (-1).
QB: So. Riley Skinner (28 of 37, 236 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT), came in for the injured Ben Mauk in 2006, and with an efficient effort (66% completion, 2,051 yds in 2006), led Wake Forest to the ACC title. Unfortunately, last week against Boston College he separated his shoulder and will not play this week against Nebraska. Skinner will be replaced by So. Brett Hodges (17 of 23, 130 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT), who threw an accurate ball against Boston College last week and has a little extra mobility that Skinner lacks. Behind Hodges will be RFr. Zach McDowall, who had a big arm in high school, but hasn't played a snap in college football.
RB: So. Kevin Harris (4 carries, 10 yds) and Sr. Micah Andrews (7 carries, 7 yds) are listed as the top two backs for the Demon Deacons, and are both typically solid backs. Andrews is coming off some injuries and is more of a scat back, while Harris is a guy that will run through an opposing tackler. The tandem is expected to do well together this season, however, struggled mightily in the opener last week. The running backs had their hands tested against Boston College as Harris caught 3 passes for 25 yards and a touchdown, while Andrews grabbed 5 passes for 24 yards. More production from the backs is necessary for Wake Forest to be competitive this season. At Fullback, Jr. Rich Belton (6 carries, 7 yds) starts. Belton is a solid blocker with fair ball carrying skills. His top back-up is Sr. DeAngelo Bryant (1 catch, 2 yards), a speedy 239 lb. fullback.
WR/TE: Wake Forest's receivers are their best offensive resource, with a lot of talent and experience. The crew is led by Seniors Kevin Marion (5 catches, 46 yds) and Kenneth Moore (15 catches, 126 yds, 1 TD). Moore changed positions from running back to wide receiver in the off-season, and saw more passes headed his way last week than anyone else. Marion is an absolute burner, but is quite small at 5'10", 168 lbs. Top reserves include Jr. Demir Boldin (1 catch, 14 yds) and Jr. Chip Brinkman (5 catches, 30 yds). Boldin should put a solid season together after missing all of last year to concentrate on school work, while Brinkman looked like a quality target against Boston College. At tight end, Sr. Zac Selmon (3 catches, 18 yds) and Sr. John Tereshinski (6 catches, 75 yds) will each see a lot of action. Both are big bodies with good hands.
OL: The Demon Deacon offensive line starts four upperclassmen and plenty of experience. Starting on the line at tackle is Sr. Louis Frazier (6'4", 315 lbs) at left, and So. Joe Birdsong (6'4", 290 lbs) on the right. So. Jeff Griffin (6'3", 298 lbs) will likely share a lot of snaps with Birdsong at RT. Birdsong and Griffin are replacing last season's All ACC tackle Steve Vallos. At guard is Sr. Matthew Brim (6'4", 294 lbs) on the left side, with massive and talented Jr. Chris DeGeare (6'4", 362 lbs) starting on the right. Starting at center will be Sr. Steve Justice (6'3", 285 lbs), one of the country's best. There is little proven depth behind the starters, which will likely hurt in games against teams like Nebraska this week. Last week, the line opened up room for just 0.1 yards per rush for the offense, while giving up 2 sacks. These are not satisfactory numbers for a unit that is supposed to be among the best in the ACC.
Wake Forest Defense
Wake Forest's defense held Boston College to a similar output offensively as their own offense amounted last week. The Demon Deacons were tough against the run, but had no answer in stopping the passing game. The Wake Forest defense ranks 93rd nationally in total defense (462 ypg), 112th pass defense (408 ypg), 95th pass efficiency defense (151.45 rating), 28th rush defense (54 ypg), and 94th in scoring defense (38 ppg). The defense accounted for 14 of Wake's 28 points last Saturday.
DL: Wake's defensive line was stout against Boston College's run game last week. The Demon Deacons allowed the Eagles a 2 yard per carry average. Starting on the line at end will be So. Michael Lockett on the left, and Sr. Jeremy Thompson (6 tackles, 2 sacks) on the right. Lockett, in addition to Jr. Anthony Davis (1 tackle) will be replacing the injured Matt Robinson. Backing up Thompson is Jr. Antonio Wilson. Starting at nose tackle is So. Boo Robinson (2 tackles). His back-up is RFr. Michael Carter. At defensive tackle is Sr. Zach Stukes (1 tackle), with So. John Russell (2 tackles) serving as his back-up. This is a pretty good line with quick ends and a stout nose tackle in Boo Robinson at 326 lbs. The depth will be an issue, however, against a very good Nebraska offensive line.
LB: Wake Forest has a pretty solid group of linebackers, however, the group is better against the run than the pass and could use more speed. Starting at MLB and replacing 2006 tackling machine Jon Abbate (120 tackles in `06) is Jr. Stanley Arnoux (4 tackles), who played well last week. At SLB will be Jr. Aaron Curry (11 tackles) while Jr. Chantz McClinic (8 tackles) starts at WLB and is the quickest of the group. Curry is probably the best of the group and is looking for All-ACC distinction this season. Top reserves in the linebacking corps include So. Dominique Midgett (2 tackles) at SAM, RFr. Matt Woodlief (2 tackles) at MLB, and RFr. Hunter Haynes (2 tackles) at WLB.
DB: Wake Forest's defensive backfield was not so stellar in the opener, allowing for over 400 yards through the air. Starters at cornerback are Jr. Alphonso Smith (3 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 PBU) at LCB and Jr. Kerry Major (8 tackles, 1 PBU) at RCB. Smith is aiming for big things this season after a good close to 2006 and a quick start to 2007, getting a pick last week. So. Brandon Ghee (1 tackle) backs up Smith, while So. Channing Schofield (1 tackle) is Major's back-up. At safety, Jr. Kevin Patterson (4 tackles) starts at SS and Jr. Aaron Mason is the top reserve. Jr. Chip Vaughn (4 tackles,1 FR) starts at FS, with RFr. Alex Frye as his back-up. This is a fast group of defensive backs, but has had trouble against the deep ball dating back to last season.
Wake Forest Special Teams
The Wake Forest special teams units were very good in 2006, but didn't look up to par last week against Boston College. The Demon Deacons rank 79th in net punting (31 yd avg), 56th in punt returns (8.5 yd avg), and 84th in kickoff returns (16.5 yd avg).
K: Jr. Sam Swank earned All-American honors in 2006 as place kicker. Last week, he averaged 63.8 yards on 5 kickoffs with none going for touchback. Swank did not attempt a field goal last week, however, was 23 of 31 in 2006, with a long of 53.
P: Jr. Sam Swank also handles punting duties. He has punted 6 times for an average of 31.3 yards through one game. One of his 6 punts were downed inside of Boston College's 20.
KR/PR: Wake Forest's return game was very average in the season opener last week. Jr. Kevin Marion (4 returns, 16.8 yd avg) and Sr. Kenneth Moore will handle kickoff return duties this week. On punt returns, Sr. Kenneth Moore. (2 returns, 8.5 yd avg) is the top return man.
Coverage: Wake's kick coverage team was pretty good last week, allowing 20.2 yards per return on 5 kickoff return attempts. Punt coverage was very good, with Boston College getting just 2 yards on their only return.
Nebraska's offense was phenomenal in week one against Nevada. The passing game wasn't completely there, but the run game was unstoppable. Nebraska ran up 625 yards last week, putting them 3rd nationally in total offense. The Cornhuskers rank 56th in passing (212 ypg), 46th in pass efficiency (131.19 rating), 1st in rushing (413 ypg), 10th in scoring offense (52 ppg), and 5th in turnover margin (0.00).
QB: Sr. Sam Keller (14 for 25, 193 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT) had a fair debut last week as starter, his first outing since October of 2005 when he was playing for Arizona State. The rust was evident, as his passes were not consistent, and had a tipped ball returned for a touchdown early on, but did get stronger as the game went on. Besides rust, his other problem he encountered last week was receivers with a case of bad hands. Even passes on the money were dropped, causing Sam some frustration. He will now get his first road test as the Huskers' starter. Jr. Joe Ganz (1 for 1, 19 yds) is Nebraska's top back-up and saw action in mop-up duty last week, even running an option for a 9 yard gain.
RB: Jr. Marlon Lucky (30 carries, 233 yds, 3 TDs) is Nebraska's top running back and currently leads the nation in rushing. Lucky was hitting the holes well and looking shifty against Nevada. TFr. Quentin Castille (18 carries, 78 yds, 2 TDs), a strong running power back also looked impressive against Nevada. Jr. Cody Glenn (8 carries, 36 yds), another big back, is still on his way to getting back to 100% from a foot injury. He's looking better, but his foot movement is not quite back yet. TFr. Roy Helu (6 carries, 26 yds) and So. Major Culbert (5 carries, 35 yds, 1 TD) are other backs that saw carries last week, and should continue to see the ball through the season. This is a deep talent pool of running backs that will be a handful for any defense to tangle with. The backs catch a lot of passes in this offense, with Marlon Lucky having the best hands of the crew, catching 3 passes for 33 yards and a touchdown last week. Sr. Andy Sand is the starter at FB, a position that has rarely touches the ball in Callahan's offense, but is of huge importance as a blocker. Sand had one reception for 15 yards last week.
WR/TE: Nebraska's receivers did not look too spectacular in the season opener. Dropped balls were the main problem, as the Senior leaders of this group had trouble hanging onto balls that hit them in their hands. Sr. Maurice Purify (34 catches, 630 yards, 7 TDs in 2006) is back after missing the season opener due to a suspension. His return should be felt immediately, as Nebraska will have its best receiver back in the mix. He will, however, be second string to begin at X, behind Jr. Nate Swift (2 catches, 28 yds), who had a decent game last week. Jr. Todd Peterson (1 catch, 8 yds), has good hands and should also see plenty of snaps behind Swift and Purify. Starting Z receiver, Sr. Terrence Nunn (2 catches, 36 yds) will need to become more consistent with his ball catching abilities if Nebraska hopes to have a lot of success through the air. His route running is among the best on the team. Behind Nunn at Z is Sr. Frantz Hardy (1 catch, 24 yds), a speedy deep threat that also has problems catching the ball. Sr. Dan Erickson (1 catch, 19 yds), So. Menelik Holt, and TFr. Niles Paul (1 catch, 6 yds) will also be in the mix. Tight end has been a weakness for Nebraska for a few years, and very likely will be again this season. Starting TE is Sr. J.B. Phillips who has decent hands and speed. Jr. Josh Mueller is listed as the top reserve, but freshmen Dreu Young (1 catch, 14 yds) and Mike McNeil (1 catch, 25 yds) looked the best of the bunch.
OL: The Huskers' offensive line play was terrific against Nevada, paving way for the running backs to average 5.9 yards per carry. The line was also stout in pass protection, not allowing a sack all day. Starting at tackle is 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) will see their share of snaps as the top tackle reserves. Jr. Andy Christensen (6'3", 300 lbs) will start at LG with Jr. Matt Slauson (6'5", 335 lbs) starting at RG. Sr. Jordan Picou (6'3", 300 lbs.) backs up Christensen, while Jr. Mike Huff (6'4", 300 lbs) is Nebraska's top RG reserve. Sr. Brett Byford (6'3", 300 lbs) starts at center, and does a nice job. These linemen move around a lot as Huff played RG and LG, Murtha played LT and LG, and Slauson played RT and RG. This group will be up against better opposition this week, so the first real test for them begins Saturday morning.
Nebraska's Blackshirt defense were stingy against Nevada last week against both the rush and the pass. The Wolf Pack had trouble going anywhere. Nebraska is currently 14th nationally in total defense (180 ypg), 18th pass defense (108 ypg), 5th pass efficiency defense (59.49 rating), 41st rush defense (77 ypg), and 28th in scoring defense (10 ppg). The Huskers' defense hasn't given up a touchdown, as Nevada's lone touchdown came from an 80 yard interception return.
DL: Nebraska's defensive line played well in the season opener, considering 4 new starters were being worked in. Jr. Barry Turner (2 tackles, 0.5 sack, 2 QBH) starts at open end. He is the quickest of the group, a good pass rusher that put on some weight to play the run more effectively. Starting at base end is Jr. Zach Potter (2 tackles, 1 QBH), who did a nice job in his first start. Top reserves are Jr. Clayton Sievers (1 tackle, 1 QBH) behind Turner, and RFr. Pierre Allen (1 tackle) behind Potter. So. Ndamukong Suh (2 tackles) is a beast at nose tackle, with Jr. Shukree Barfield (1 tackle) and Se. Brandon Johnson sharing back-up duties. So. Ty Steinkuhler, the starter at defensive tackle, injured his knee last week and was replaced by Jr. Kevin Dixon (1 tackle, 1 INT), who did a more than adequate job in his absence. Nebraska held Nevada to 3.2 yards per carry, a solid start. This line will do nothing but get better as they get used to playing as a unit. Getting more pressure though will be important as the weeks go by.
LB: Nebraska's linebacking corps looked very good last week against Nevada. Jr. Corey McKeon (4 tackles, 1 QBH, 1 PBU) is in his third season as starter at MLB for the Huskers. Back-up So. Phillip Dillard (2 tackles, 1 QBH) gets a number of snaps as well, mostly when Nebraska lines up in 3-4 schemes. Sr. Bo Ruud (1 tackle) starts at SLB, with TFr. Blake Lawrence listed as the top reserve. Jr. Steve Octavien (5 tackles, 0.5 sack, 2 QBH) starts at WLB, and was dynamic in the season opener, flying to the ball. Octavien has an injury riddled history at Nebraska, but is an elite athlete when he's 100%. Jr. Lance Brandenburgh (2 tackles), is the top back-up for Octavien, and plays a lot.
DB: Nebraska's secondary also played tough in the season opener. Still room for improvement, but a solid game for a much-maligned group in 2006. Sr. Cortney Grixby (3 tackles), is in year four as a starter at WCB. He is just 5'9" but typically doesn't miss tackles and has a great vertical leap. Jr. Armando Murillo starts at LCB, however, back-up Sr. Andre Jones (1 PBU) also sees a good share of the plays. Sr. Zack Bowman (1 tackle, 1 QBH), who missed all of 2006 with a knee injury and suffered a knee injury in spring ball this year, played in the season opener and should only be a matter of time before he enters the starting line-up. Sr. Tierre Green (1 tackle, 1 PBU) starts at FS and So. Larry Asante (4 tackles, 1 PBU) is the starter at SS. So. Rickey Thenarse is the top FS reserve, while Sr. Bryan Wilson (2 tackles) is the top reserve at SS.
Nebraska Special Teams
Nebraska's special teams looked improved last week over 2006. Kickoffs and kickoff returns were very good, while the punt return game can use some work. The Huskers are ranked 41st in net punting (37 yd avg), 77th in punt returns (5.6 yd avg), and 28th in kickoff returns (24.33 yd avg).
K: TFr. Adi Kunalic, made his only field goal attempt of the game against Nevada, a 46 yarder. Kunalic's monster leg pushed through an impressive 6 of 9 kickoffs for touchback, with a 68.6 yard average. RFr. Alex Henery handles extra point attempts.
P: Jr. Dan Titchener had a nice day punting, following up on his solid 2006 season. He is averaging 44.5 yards on 2 punts with a long of 45. He has above average leg power, with solid consistency.
KR/PR: Nebraska's return game was fair in the season opener, some mental errors that occurred will need to be addressed. Seniors Andre Jones and Cortney Grixby (2 kick returns, 33 yd avg) are the top kickoff return team. Seniors Cortney Grixby (3 punt returns, 1.3 yd avg) and Terrence Nunn (1 return, 0 yd avg) are the top punt returners, however, Andre Jones (1 return, 24 yd avg) was the most impressive of the three.
Coverage: Nebraska's coverage teams were decent against Nevada. The kick coverage unit allowed an average of 23 yards on 3 kickoff returns, while the punt return coverage team allowed a 7.5 yard average on 2 punt returns.
Nebraska's Offense vs. Wake Forest's Defense
Nebraska's offense gets WR Maurice Purify back this week, and that could prove to be a big difference in this game, considering the horrendous job Wake Forest did against Boston College's receiving crew. QB Sam Keller will need to show that last week's lack of "wow" was due to knocking some of the rust off and have a good game Saturday. Nebraska's receivers simply cannot afford to keep dropping passes, especially when it is the Seniors doing the dropping. If it continues, don't be surprised if the deep pool of youth at receiver gets more looks. The Demon Deacon defensive backfield must respond after their showing last week and play huge this week.
Last week, the Huskers converted 47% of their third downs and 88% in red zone scoring. Nebraska's devastating ground attack in week one will be up against a stiffer challenge this week. The Demon Deacons held Boston College to 2 yards per carry while Nebraska gained 5.9 yards per carry, so something has to give. One thing that might have a big effect on the battle in the trenches is that Wake's top DE Matt Robinson is not likely to play Saturday. Nebraska's offensive line looked as fluid as they've looked in years last week and will be counted upon this week to be the difference makers. Boston College was able to convert 42% of their 3rd downs last week on Wake. Wake Forest had just 3 tackles for loss last week, including 2 sacks.
The Huskers will again a large size advantage up front. Nebraska's average offensive lineman is 6'4", 309 lbs, while Nevada's average defensive lineman stands at 6'3", 279 lbs. Boo Williams' 326 lb frame boosts that number, however. Nebraska's Marlon Lucky will hope that this means the holes that were there for him last week will be there again this week. That will likely be a deciding factor in how long this game remains competitive. If Wake's DBs do not show rapid improvement this week, and Nebraska is able to get over 4 yards per carry, there won't be many happy people in the black and gold.
Wake Forest's Offense vs. Nebraska's Defense
Wake Forest's offense is hoping that QB Brett Hodges can be counted on to deliver a big game in his first start. He was accurate coming in for the injured Riley Skinner last week, passing for a touchdown, but also threw a key interception in the final quarter. The Demon Deacons have good talent at wide receiver, and will be up against what appeared to be a much improved group of Nebraska defensive backs. Wake's third down conversion percentage last week was 32%, and had a pedestrian 50% red zone scoring average.
Wake Forest's running backs did not impress last week, earning just 0.1 yards per carry. Of course, much of that can be pointed towards the lackluster offensive line rush blocking and a solid game from Boston College's defense. That number should be improved this week, as Nebraska's defensive front is still a little green, as far as starting time goes and a knee injury to DT starter Ty Steinkuhler. Nebraska had 6 tackles for loss and 1 sack last week. The Nebraska defense was a force on 3rd downs, allowing Nevada to convert on just 8% of their attempts. Wake's average offensive lineman is 6'4", 309 lbs, while Nebraska's average defensive lineman stands at 6'4", 284 lbs. While that may sound like Wake is much bigger than Nebraska, it isn't as large of a discrepancy as it seems. Only two linemen for the Demon Deacons in the 300 range, with the largest being talented Chris DeGeare at 362 lbs.
If a team isn't capable of having a threat of a good run game, it makes it very difficult to win a game. It makes it even more difficult when you are playing a highly rated team such as Nebraska. Wake Forest must find a way to run to pull an upset over the Huskers. The passing game should find success as long as Hodges can deliver with the same type of accuracy he showed against Boston College last week.
Keys to the Game
For Nebraska to Win:
1.) QB Sam Keller needs to have a solid day
2.) Pass protection to be as consistent as it was against Nevada
3.) Minimize mental errors that caused penalties last week.
4.) Offensive line needs to continue off of their dominant performance a week ago.
5.) Turnovers are big. Nebraska had a number of plays last week that could have gone as takeaways, but also had their share of near giveaways. Wake scored two defensive touchdowns last week.
For Wake Forest to Win:
1.) There needs to be some sort of competent rushing attack.
2.) Interceptions need to stop. Two ill timed picks in last week's game really cost the Deacons.
3.) Get into the Nebraska backfield. Nebraska's line did not allow much penetration last week, and that allowed them to pick and choose what they wanted offensively.
4.) QB Brett Hodges will ideally be in the 65%+ completion percentage.
5.) Defensive backfield must find a quick fix, Nebraska has plenty of deep threats.
Weather Report for Nebraska vs. Wake Forest
Latest Line - Nebraska by 8.
Special Teams: Even
RB - Kenny Wilson - leg - out for season
TE - Hunter Teafatiller - suspension - out indefinitely
DT - Ty Steinkuhler - knee - questionable
OT - Jeff Griffin - knee - day-to-day
QB - Riley Skinner - shoulder - out indefinitely
DE - Matt Robinson - ankle - day-to-day
LB - Mike Simmons - illness - out for season
Game Breakdown & Outlook
This is the third meeting between Nebraska and Wake Forest. Nebraska has won both previous games, 36-12 in 1970, and 31-3 in 2005. This will be the first meeting at Groves Stadium in Winston-Salem, however. Groves Stadium, with its capacity at approximately 31,500, is decidedly smaller than most venues than the Huskers are used to. Nebraska enters this game following a 52-10 thrashing of Nevada, while Wake Forest comes home after losing to Boston College 38-28.
Nebraska's offense was better than anyone could have expected on the ground last week, tallying 413 yards rushing. The passing game did struggle, but not to a worrisome degree. As the game went on, Keller got more comfortable in the pocket, but because the ground game was so effective, he wasn't counted on to throw a lot of unnecessary passes. With Maurice Purify back it should be great news for Nebraska. Purify was one of the top, if not the top target for Keller in practices up until Maurice's suspension. Working against a defense that gave up multiple receptions of over 10 yards last week, Purify could have a big day. Wake struggled most with Boston College's smaller receivers though, so Frantz Hardy might have a few big catches as well Saturday. Nebraska's mix of excellent running backs will be of tremendous advantage in games that come down to the fourth quarter. The Huskers have 5 backs that they can count on to step in and step up to the challenge. This is a better group of backs than Boston College has and should be able to exceed their 2 yard per carry average against Wake.
Wake Forest's passing production shouldn't change much with Brett Hodges at the helm instead of Riley Skinner. Both have a similarly accurate arm, the real difference is that Hodges will make a few more plays with his feet than Skinner can. Wake's receivers are above average playmakers and will look to do a better job than Nevada's crew did last week in Lincoln. A player to watch for Wake Forest will be WR Kevin Marion, who caught an impressive 15 passes last week against Boston College. Marion is a small receiver that has great hands and quick feet that leave opposing defensives looking silly. Nebraska's defensive backfield is full of speed and it will be interesting to see them and the Demon Deacon receivers against each other. Wake Forest has a pretty good group of running backs, but they lack a true game breaker. There will probably be more than 24 rushes in this game from Wake, as it is unlikely for them to only get 0.1 yards per rush again this week.
With Wake Forests' loss last week, this game seems to have lost some its luster it was gaining in the off-season. Make no mistake, the Demon Deacons won the ACC last year and are still a quality football team. A loss for Wake Forest will drop them to 0-2 for the second time in three years, while a win will give them a big boost for finishing out the non-conference schedule. For Nebraska, a win will make next week's game against USC one of the biggest in school history, while a loss would definitely crush some spirits. Nebraska should be able to throw the ball with a good level of productivity in this game. If Keller is able to get time to throw like he did a week ago, he'll be poised for a very nice day. Wake Forest, too, should pile up some yards with the passing game, but like last week, it will be a question of turning those yards into offensive points.
Looking solely at statistics from week one, it would appear that Nebraska should win this one handily. The biggest question though, will be how well Nebraska runs the ball against Wake Forest. If the Demon Deacons can keep Marlon Lucky and company in check through most of the game, this will be a good contest. The more effective Nebraska is on the ground, the further this game gets out of reach for Wake Forest. With that said, it's hard to argue with picking Nebraska to win this game. They simply have a deeper, more talented team. Nebraska should cover the spread and chew down the clock in the second half after a very competitive first half.
Nebraska - 34
Wake Forest - 17
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