Keys To Success: Iowa State

Nebraska is 3-1 heading into conference play, but a couple of those wins have been close, maybe too close. Nebraska needs to correct some things to have success in conference play, win the North again and ultimately compete for the Big 12 Title. One week at a time, this week, it's Iowa State.

The Huskers squeaked one out against Ball State, 41-40. The offense was able to go toe-to-toe with Ball State while the defense allowed too many yards, too many third down conversions and too many points. Here are the positives and the negatives about the Ball State game.

Glass Half Full

- There is little doubt that Nebraska's offense is potent. They can literally score with the best offenses in the nation.
- Sam Keller continues to improve. While I wasn't a believer in him being a captain, he should have been. He's a leader. - Burning another shirt, I think that Prince Amukamura losing the shirt this weekend promotes competition and indicates the coaches are leaning to changing personnel. - There was some changing of personnel. There was a lot of Roy Helu, Jacob Hickman, Keith Williams and Phillip Dillard this week. Very exciting to watch. - Sean Hill has been a heck of a surprise this year. I thought, before the season that a tight end would have to emerge and Hill is it. - There are still strong contributors on the defensive side of the ball. Zach Potter has played amazingly well and Steve Octavien is the defensive MVP.

Glass Half Empty

- Defense hasn't improved and that is discouraging. Players are out of position and seem to trying to make plays and leaving their responsibilities.
- Nebraska is only averaging .75 sacks/game. Nebraska is going to need to make significant improvement in this area.
- Another week and still not an improvement in leadership on the defensive side of the ball.
- To win the North, Nebraska will need to improve their running game. Simply put, Nebraska will need to be able to control the clock.
- Nebraska can't just show up on first and second downs on defense and then let opposing offenses convert on third down.
- There are some concerns at some positions, based on performance, that the only way to improve is to change personnel.

Nebraska was able to escape the weekend with a victory, but instead of embracing the win there was a lot of concern about the state of the team and fear about what lies ahead for the rest of the season. Conference play starts this Saturday when Iowa State comes calling. Here are the keys to success for the upcoming game:

1. Get To The QB! - Want to know how not to get thrown on? Don't give the quarterback more than a couple of seconds to throw.
2. Find Blythe - Blythe isn't having season like some projected he would, but he is still a great WR who has given Nebraska big fits in the past.
3. Run The Ball - Yes, I am going to keep beating on that drum. You must be able to control the ball and the clock to win in conference play.
4. Make A Stop - Nebraska was great at getting Ball State to 3rd and Long situations, but then allowed them to convert.
5. Defensive Statement - The Defense needs to come out and make a statement. Cut down on the yards and points. Shut down Blythe. Stop J.J. Bass. Nebraska must not just win the war, they must win a majority of the battles.

Five Obvious Players To Watch:

1. Zach Bowman - Todd Blythe is a tall order for a healthy cornerback. Is Zac still banged up? How will he respond after not wearing a black shirt the past two weeks in practice?
2. Marlon Lucky - Simply put, Lucky needs to run harder and tougher. He has been deadly on the middle screen passes, but he needs to be a down-to-down running back.
3. Matt Slauson - Slauson was noticeably absent from the game last week against Ball State and didn't have a great first half. How will he respond this week?
4. Corey McKeon - After 22 minutes at the microphone doing the Tuesday PC, Corey had a lot to get off his chest. How will it translate to the field?
5. Safeties - OK, Tierre Green is dinged up and Larry Asante is struggling a little bit, well Bret Meyer can throw the ball and will challenge them.

Five Not So Obvious Players to Watch:

1. Prince Amukamara - Pulled out of a red shirt a week ago against Ball State, Prince could provide some spark in the secondary and in the return game.
2. Barry Turner - I am waiting for this guy to just cut loose. Nebraska needs a pass rusher and he should be leading that charge.
3. Sean Hill - Sam Keller is doing a good job distributing the ball and the tight end position has re-emerged this year with the help of Hill.
4. Major Culbert - Overall, the rotations among the linebackers will be interesting with Phillip Dillard stealing some reps at MIKE from McKeon, McKeon getting some at WILL and Culbert getting in some at WILL. Where will we see Steve Octavien when McKeon or Culbert are at WILL? 5. Maurice Purify - From Wake Forest to Ball State, Purify has knocked the rust off of his game and is Keller's number one playmaker on the outside.

No one would have guessed that last week would have ended up the way it did. The Huskers were favored by 20+ and Ball State could have easily, maybe should have, won. The team, coaches and programs have faced fierce scrutiny this week about the way the team has looked.

Look for the team to get back on the right foot this week with some rejuvenation on the defensive side of the ball and the offense will continue to click. Nebraska is another 21 point favorite against Iowa State and this week they cover. Nebraska wins 42-17.

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