Keys to Success: Ball State

Last week didn't go the way that the Nebraska staff and football team hoped it would. The Huskers came out a little flat and, while they did hold a lead in the second half, the ball bounced the way of the Trojans all night and Nebraska couldn't catch a break. This week, Nebraska looks to right the ship against Ball State.

The Huskers re-take the field this weekend in Lincoln against Ball State. Before talking to the keys to success for Ball State here are some things that stood out to me about the USC game.

Glass Half-Full

- Sam Keller played a heck of a game against USC. He was accurate, for the most part, and took what was given to him. The second interception to the zone blitz, defensive lineman was his fault. That is textbook as to when you are playing quarterback to throw into pressure.
- The receivers stepped up and I really can't remember a whole lot of drops. There was the one by Nunn, but that wasn't a drop. I re-watched that and even though the official said it was a drop, it wasn't. He had to put something on the ground as he was about to fall down.
- The game plan, running game aside, was very good. I wondered why in the start of the second half why we kind of got away from it. I would put Sam in the shotgun the whole game and let him just pick apart the opposing teams.
- I feared the big plays against our cornerbacks, but overall on defense the cornerbacks played the best of any position on the defensive side of the ball. They all played very good games and need to be commended.
- Nebraska had momentum multiple times. Had some things gone Nebraska's way; the muffed punt, the fumble/forward lateral and the time to scoop up the wounded USC player where the team and the crowd lost momentum; had some of those things gone Nebraska's direction we make the game closer.
- Good to see Cody Glenn getting back into the groove. He is more than likely Nebraska's best runner and I was encouraged by his play against USC.
- Nebraska is not going to play a team as talented as USC again this season and every game from here on out is winnable.

Glass Half-Empty

- The defense, really gap responsibility by the defensive lineman and the linebackers, was atrocious. That lent to the defensive players not being able to make tackles. There was arm tackles from behind that didn't work and the lowering of heads, coming in like SCUDS that didn't work either.
- Safety help just isn't there. Whether it was tentativeness or over-aggressiveness, the safety play is at best inconsistent this year and that is a major disappointment considering the issues at this position last year.
- The inability of the defensive line to deal with the cut-blocks. The USC line literally mowed down the Nebraska defensive line by using the cut-block. It was like Nebraska hadn't seen it before.
- I am not a fan of the linebackers getting up on the line of scrimmage. Nebraska doesn't have big linebackers that can shed blocks. They are smaller and more athletic. Let them run downhill and make plays and don't let them get reached by the offensive line.
- Overall lack of aggressiveness on defense, there were few situations on Saturday night that made me say "swarming" or "gang tackle". There were just not enough of those situations with 11 hats on the ball.

After the setback against USC, Nebraska gets ready to take on Ball State on Fox Sports Net (pay per view) on Saturday morning. The game by opponent name doesn't seem like a formidable opponent. However, Ball State has some big things going for them on the offensive and the defensive side of the ball. Here are your five keys to Nebraska's success against Ball State:

1. Stop the Run! - Nebraska gave up too many yards and didn't give the offense a chance to get up against USC. It's going to be a challenge to Nebraska to stop the run and get back to the very basics of the game.
2. Pound the Rock - Nebraska and Sam Keller were able to move the ball through the air against USC and Wake Forest, however Nebraska hasn't had a lot of success in the running game except for against Nevada.
3. Pressure on the Ball State Quarterback - Ball State might be sporting the next great quarterback from that MAC in Nate Davis. He has all the throws and mobility. He will be a good test for Nebraska and it's key to get pressure on him and rattle him.
4. Recognizing the defense - As the season goes, so does Keller. He has really gotten sharper as the season goes. Ball State will do a lot of things on defense, like what Nevada did last year, however you might see a rope-a-dope like Nevada did to Nebraska this year and run primarily Cover 5. Sam will need to be ready.
5. Improvement - The real basis for out of conference games is to get a barometer of where your team is at. It's also to improve in areas from week to week. Nebraska needs to shore up the running game on offense and defense and is looking for some leaders to emerge on the defensive side of the football.

Five obvious players to keep an eye on Saturday

1. Mike HuffAndrew Christensen is lost for the season and Huff is an experienced player who will need to step into this line and continue great pass pro and try to improve at establishing the run.
2. Marlon Lucky – After, what I thought was a good game against Wake Forest, Lucky failed to make plays and run hard against USC. He needs to get back into the groove.
3A and 3B. Ty Steinkuhler and Kevin Dixon – The play from the 3-technique has been pretty much non-existent this season so far (there has been an interception). It's one position that doesn't get double-teamed that often and needs to make plays.
4A and 4B. Larry Asante and Tierre Green - Asante is a little too excited about playing safety, coming in head down and leading with it for tackles, and Tierre Green doesn't seem to want to tackle.
5. Corey McKeon and Bo Ruud - It's their senior year and they are receiving a lot of public criticism. It's time to step up and help Steve Octavien out.

Five not-so-obvious players to keep an eye on Saturday

1. Cody Glenn - Glenn looked good in the USC game and he could be an added spark to a real stagnant running attack that Nebraska has.
2. Maurice Purify - Quietly, he had a GREAT game against USC after a disappointing effort against Wake Forest. When will he get into the endzone though?
3. The two Zach's - Zach Bowman and Zach Potter are both listed as day to day and might as well be game time decisions. It would still be nice to get Potter some more reps before tougher opponents.
4. Steve Octavien - People are going to be focused on the players/positions that "played poorly" from the week before, but Steve Octavien has been a beast all year long.
5. Barry Turner - Will he turn it on? Nebraska is looking for a spark along the defensive line and he could really help out.

My predictions before last week were pretty close. Last week was higher scoring than I expected from both sides and USC won by a larger margin, my bad. This week, Nebraska will score a lot and win by a lot. I think that this is, not necessarily a statement game, but a game where Nebraska wants to get some people off of their back.

The critics are out in full effect and I am willing to believe given some of the fall out from last week that some people just won't ever be happy about Nebraska football and that, my friends, is a shame. This team will come out and roll this week and I am predicting a final score of 42-17.

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