Keys to Success: Missouri

While the yards against doesn't show it, Nebraska put together a better game defensively than what they have so far this year; and what a time to come together. While Iowa State was a conference and divisional opponent Nebraska travels to Columbia, MO for, what some people view as the top two teams in the Big 12 North, to square-off.

The game this past Saturday probably didn't start the way that the Nebraska players and coaches had envisioned. Nebraska turned the ball over three times in the first quarter and it led to Iowa State running 102 plays offensively against Nebraska's defense and Iowa State held an advantage of time of possession of almost 2:1.

Glass Half Full

- While Nebraska had three turnovers in the first quarter, the team remained calm and didn't panic. This game was really never in doubt despite being down 10-0 at one point.
- Iowa State ran 102 plays against Nebraska's 59, but Iowa State only out gained Nebraska by 46 total yards (415 to 369).
- So, Nebraska allowed Iowa State to average 4.1 yards per play. Kansas State held Texas to an average 4.1 yards - The Nebraska defense seemed, judging by the radio broadcast, to come alive against Iowa State and in the face of adversity didn't break.
- One thing not addressed in the "Keys to Success: Iowa State" was containing a mobile quarterback. Well, Nebraska held Bret Meyer to only 28 yards and a little over two yards per carry.
- The pass rush, which was only averaging .75 sacks per game, had three against Iowa State.
- While Lucky did lose a fumble into the endzone, and ripped off a 41 yarder to help himself out, he did have a solid day averaging about four yards per carry without the 41 yarder and almost seven yards with the long run.
- Other than the interception, Sam Keller was very effective again going 18 for 28 and for 219 yards.
- Pass protection seemed to be very good again as Keller didn't get sacked and very few pressures were announced over the radio broadcast.

Glass Half Empty

- The Nebraska offense didn't help the Nebraska defense this weekend. The Nebraska offense, annually, is at the top of total plays-offensively, but the Huskers have never eclipsed 100. They came close against Nevada this year, but never have.
- The 102 plays is more than just a game. The total of 102 is probably closer to six or seven quarters and took it's toll on the defense and the defense can't be on the field like that, week in and week out, otherwise making it all season will be extremely difficult.
- The three turnovers in the first quarter are in-ex-cuse-a-ble. You can't have all bad things in the duration of a game happen at one time and hope to recover.
- The penalties to extend drives in the first quarter, along with the turnovers, basically spotted Iowa State 10 points and gave them a chance to really try and wear down the Nebraska defense.
- It's clear what happens when Cody Glenn decides to sit during the week and then plays on the weekend. He doesn't get that contact and isn't prepared for it and bad things happen. I would hold out ANY player that misses more than one to two practices in any given week based on this concern.
- The Nebraska receivers seem to do well one week catching the ball and then regress the next. Simply put, Nebraska can't have drives die because of incompletions on passes that should have been caught.

Nebraska will have it's hands full on Saturday night as they head into Columbia to take on Missouri. A place that has been very un-friendly to Nebraska in the recent visits doesn't get better with time given to the Missouri faithful to "brew and stew" for a late kick-off. There are some obvious things that Nebraska will need to do to win the ball game.

1. Win the battle of Turnovers - Nebraska ended up being +1 against Iowa State in turnovers, despite turning the ball over three times in the first quarter, but Nebraska will need to need to limit the mistakes early and will need to create turnovers against Missouri to win.
2. Keep Missouri Offense Off The Field! - Nebraska must either sustain drives that equal time coming off the clock or be a quick-strike offense with the defense getting a majority of three and outs. I seriously doubt the latter is possible. Huskers will need a running game Saturday night that doesn't need to necessarily need to score, just not hurt the offense with turnovers.
3. An Inspired Defense - I don't know how much more inspiration a team would need considering the foe, the national television coverage, the continual criticism and the fact that the North is at stake to come out and play hard. Nebraska has all the reasons to want to try and play their best.
4. Do Not Allow The Big Play - Nebraska will go against the fifth best passing offense nationally with great players at the skill position. One thing to not overlook, Jeremy Maclin has been great on punt returns for Missouri. Nebraska will need to find a way to contain him.
5. Challenge the Field - Missouri, statistically, isn't a great pass defense. They will run a lot of cover two and three and they don't disguise it very much. Nebraska must take some measured risks to try and swing momentum in their favor.

Five Obvious Players To Watch:

1. Bo Ruud - Bo operates as well in space as any linebacker I have ever seen. This Saturday he will have to keep track of two of the best tight ends in the nation and not be persuaded by the pump-fake that Chase Daniel does.
2. Zach Potter - Potter has been a life-saver on the defensive line and has been there week in and week out. He will need to come up big against Missouri to try and generate a pass rush. Watch that end around!
3. Marlon Lucky - Relatively speaking, Lucky doesn't cost you a lot of turnovers, but the one against Iowa State was a critical mistake. He will need to play error-free football on Saturday to win.
4. Steve Octavien - His play-making ability and speed all over the field will be needed against this offense. Tony Temple is averaging close to 100 yards per game and Missouri as a team is averaging close to 150 with other yards coming from the quarterback and the wide receiver on the end around.
5. Terrence Nunn - Nunn is usually a great weapon in big games. He has been a little inconsistent this season, but could be a big part of Nebraska having the ability to pass the ball effectively.

Five Not So Obvious Players To Watch:

1. Tierre Green and Larry Asante - With the coverages simplified, they will need to focus on staying as deep as the deepest man here and not letting Missouri get the long play against the Nebraska defense. Bend, don't break.
2. Ndamukong Suh and Kevin Dixon - The Missouri offensive line is big and experienced, for the most part, all except sophomore Kurtis Gregory. Nebraska must exploit this match-up.
3. Carl Nicks and Lydon Murtha - The Missouri defensive ends, Stryker Sulak and Ziggy Hood, account for 5.5 sacks of the 8 total sacks the Missouri defense has had this season. Nebraska must keep them off of Sam Keller. The match up of Brett Byford and Lorenzo Williams will be one to watch too.
4. Sam Keller - Keller must bring his accuracy and patience with him on Saturday night. Sam has been good for at least one turnover a game and he must nip that in the bud on Saturday. It will also be important for Keller to find Brock Christopher, Missouri MIKE, at all times.
5. Maurice Purify - It's been a rough year for already before the fatal accident of his girlfriend earlier this week in California. There is still a question if he will be at the game at all.

All that being said, Nebraska was fortunate to go up against Iowa State this past week to get ready to play against Missouri. Nebraska got their work out on the slant routes, Iowa State probably ran the slants two-dozen times, and Nebraska must now add to that the pump-fake that Chase Daniel does then going back to his tight ends. It's tough, the Missouri offense is multi-faceted with a good offensive line. I think that Nebraska can keep up with them in scoring, but Nebraska will need to get a stop or two and produce some turnovers.

The key to Saturday night, for Nebraska, is to get out early and not let Missouri keep the crowd in the ball game. The defense has to play inspired football, like they can, and keep the Missouri offense off of the field. All that and they must win the battle of turnovers as well. I think that Nebraska can and will win the ball game on Saturday night, in a shoot out, 42-35.


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