Keys to Success: Oklahoma State

Husker fans who were set to tune in Saturday night, adopted a game half-way through the first quarter and down 14-0 to Missouri on the road. The game ended with the Huskers on the losing end, 41-6. There has been story after story this week about where the team must go from here, but the eyes must refocus with Oklahoma State calling on Saturday morning.

It wasn't what Nebraska fans hoped to watch on Saturday. The Missouri Tigers won, going away, by 35 points. The questions rained down from all over the Husker Nation as to what is wrong with this team. Here is what I saw on Saturday night:

GLASS HALF-FULL

- To be honest, I think that the only thing that I can put here is special teams. Alex Henery was perfect on the night. Adi Kunalic did a good job kicking off, kick off and punt coverage was also very good.

GLASS HALF-EMPTY

- Wow, where to start. I think that I will just keep this short and sweet and say that Nebraska's game plan and execution both deserve to be questioned on Saturday night.
- By not saying that anyone didn't particularly play well means that everyone could have done better. I think that would be admitted by everyone that was on the field Saturday night.
- More than not just playing well, there was no heart, no fire and no desire. Nebraska had a lot to play for like staking it's claim at being the class of the Big 12 North and controlling it's own destiny.

So Nebraska has left Columbia and heads back to Lincoln to take on Oklahoma State. Here is the good news: it's at home. Here is the bad news: Oklahoma State is talented, runs the spread and shouldn't be afraid of Nebraska. While Nebraska comes looking for a whole lot more about a season, the focus will be the weekend's opponent and the obvious things that it can do to win a game.

1. Do It Right! - Beyond everything else, responsibilities this season by players on offense and defense have been missed. Some you can obviously tell and others pass you by because of either the success of the play as a whole or another missed responsibility somewhere else that masks another wrong. Nebraska needs to focus on doing things the right way.
2. Have Some Fun - There is nothing more painful to watch, not even some boring A&E Daytime Movie, than a team that has no emotion. If there isn't any fun being had by some people then they need to quit the sport. Not just the team, but the game. If you can't have fun playing that game at that level then something is obviously wrong with everything other than what your coaches, your team and your teammates can correct.
3. Win the Battle of Turnovers - Nebraska as -1 against Missouri, not that it really mattered, but for Nebraska to start winning games and turning the page on the previous part of the season they can help themselves out by getting some turnovers to go their way. They obviously can't afford to be going against them time and time again like against Iowa State.
4. New Blood - I am not sure about the rest of you, but I am excited to see what the shake-ups on the depth chart might do to get new blood on the field and also to light a fire under the guys that were on the field up to this point. If there is one thing that a coach can do to get your attention it's put you on the sideline after being on the field.
5. Fan Support - If there is one thing that has to remain a constant it's the support for the team. If that goes, then all hope might be lost. You remove any chances of getting home town support and the teams that you might have had a chance to win at home against now become bigger challenges.

FIVE OBVIOUS PLAYERS TO WATCH:

1. Phillip Dillard - The new depth chart, issued Tuesday following the press conference, reflects Dillard starting in front of Corey McKeon. It will not only be interesting to see how Dillard plays, but also how McKeon reacts.
2. Mike Huff - Huff was promoted to starting right guard with Matt Slauson moving over to the number two right tackle behind Lydon Murtha. Nebraska is in need of opening some inside lanes to run through.
3. Ndamukong Suh - For some reason, I think that Suh is just ready for a big game. I am not sure why, but there is a feeling that I have going into this weekend that he could wreck some things inside.
4. Brett Byford - The offensive captain for Nebraska has had some very difficult matchups and this weekend doesn't get a lot better. Oklahoma State is tough inside and will try to bully Byford again.
5. Larry Asante and Tierre Green - Last year, Adarius Bowman lined up mostly to the outside of the field. This year, he is lined up at the slot getting safety and sometimes even, gulp, linebacker coverage. Asante and Green will need to play big Saturday.

FIVE NOT SO OBVIOUS PLAYERS TO WATCH:

1. D. J. Jones - D.J. has moved inside, according to the depth chart, and is the number two right guard behind Huff. It's a big move for Jones, but Jones has been a name that people have continued to hear and has some promise.
2. Sam Keller - Last weekend was a disaster for Nebraska. It's almost certain that many reads were missed as the middle of the field was rarely challenged. Keller will need to be patient, but make the right decisions to win on Saturday.
3. Marlon Lucky - Is it just me, or is everyone else just waiting for the Nebraska running game to come to life? What a difference a year makes in the running game.
4. Sean Hill - Little-known, tight end from Wyoming has made an impact this year and has passed J.B. Phillips on the depth chart. He is one of Keller's "go-to" guys. He could have a big game on Saturday.
5. Lance Brandenburgh - Maybe the most sound linebacker on the team is now the #1 WILL over Steve Octavien. It's going to be interesting to see Brandenburgh on the field a lot to see what he can do and to see what Octavien does when he sees the field.

It's been almost five days since the last game and I still get calls about the game. Know what? I didn't want to talk about it five minutes after the game ended and I don't want to talk about it five days afterward. No, I am not that upset about it. I am disappointed in the effort, who isn't, but I am a little de-sensitized to the whole thing after writing about it so much and I think it's best to use my short-term memory here.

This team needs to respond this weekend to adversity and who it says that it really wants to be. It's kind of like the dream of being naked in high school because the team seems a little scared, a little embarrassed and not really sure what to do. I am not sure why that is, but I know that some leadership on the team would help overcome those types of feelings.

Bottom line, Nebraska can't go toe to toe with Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State just went toe to toe with Texas Tech and beat them. They are potent, but I think that Nebraska can respond. Call me crazy, but I think that Nebraska can win this game mostly because it's at home and also because I think there is a bit of a fire that will come out on Saturday. Give me Nebraska at 35-28.


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