Oklahoma State vs. Nebraska Game Preview

Check out our latest game preview as Nebraska gets ready to host the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

GAME SEVEN
October 13th, 2007
11:30 AM CT
PPV
Lincoln, NE

OKLAHOMA STATE (3 - 3) (1 - 1)
VS
NEBRASKA (4 - 2) (1 - 1)

Gametime Weather
Weather Report for Nebraska vs. Oklahoma State

Latest Line - Nebraska by 4.


Player Breakdowns


Oklahoma State Offense

The Oklahoma State Cowboys' offense can be among the most potent forces in the country when they are clicking on all cylinders.  After six games, the Cowboys rank 14th nationally in total offense (472.17 ypg), 51st in passing (238.67 ypg), 37th in passing efficiency (137.12 rating), 10th rushing (234.50 ypg), 39th scoring offense (31.67 ppg), and 101st in turnover margin (-1.00).  

QB: So. Zac Robinson (78 of 135, 1094 yds, 9 TDs, 6 INTs) has been a very good dual-threat QB since taking over the starting role earlier this year.  Robinson's ability to make plays with his feet is a tremendous asset for the explosive Oklahoma State offense.  Robinson has rushed for 273 yards and 2 touchdowns on 43 carries.  He's got a good arm, completing 57.8% of his passes, but isn't among the Big XII's best yet.  Robinson suffered a concussion last week against Texas A&M, but should still play this week.  Behind Robinson is Jr. Bobby Reid (25 of 46, 276 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT), another very good dual-threat QB.  Last season, as the starter, he torched Nebraska for 229 yards passing, 61 rushing yards, and 2 touchdowns through the air.

RB: Oklahoma State's running backs are among the Big XII's best.  The Cowboys' running backs are led by starter Sr. Dantrell Savage (71 carries, 410 yds, 2 TDs).  Savage is an outstanding small back that can do it all on the field.  Behind Savage is TFr. Kendall Hunter (57 carries, 441 yds, 3 TDs), who is also a small rusher that can really move downfield.  So. Keith Toston (33 carries, 163 yds, 1 TD), Jr. Chris Offor (17 carries, 103 yds), and Sr. Julius Crosslin (11 carries, 28 yds, 3 TDs) have also seen carries this year.  Overall, this is a very good group of backs.  Coming out of the backfield, Dantrell Savage (9 catches, 70 yds, 1 TD), Kendall Hunter (6 catches, 68 yds, 1 TD), and Keith Toston (5 catches, 46 yds) have all caught passes, but throwing to the backs isn't a big part of the Oklahoma State offensive gameplan (19% of receptions come from RB's).  You won't see the fullbacks touch the ball very often, but at starter is Jr. John Johnson, and the top reserve is Jr. Jeremiah Burton.  Fumbling has been a problem with this group, which can turn winnable games for the Cowboys into losses quickly.  

WR/TE:
Oklahoma State has a good quality group of receivers, led by top wideout, Sr. Adarius Bowman (38 catches, 621 yds, 6 TDs).  Bowman is one of the nation's best receivers, and at 6'4", 220 lbs. presents a match-up nightmare for most schools.  Also starting at wide receiver is So. Jeremy Broadway (11 catches, 118 yds, 1 TD) and Sr. Tommy Devereaux (4 catches, 42 yds).  Broadway is having a good year as the second option, while Devereaux is having a disappointing season with just 4 caught balls.  TFr. Dez Bryant (12 catches, 153 yds, 1 TD) has been impressive in his back-up, ranking third on the team in catches and receiving yards.  Other top reserves include Sr. Scott Broughton, So. DeMarcus Conner, and Jr. Seth Newton (2 catches, 24 yds).  At tight end are Jr. Brandon Pettigrew (29 catches, 330 yds, 1 TD) and Jr. Justin Waller.  Pettigrew is a big target at 6'6", 260 lbs and has great hands.  Saturday will be Pettigrew's 27th straight start.

OL: The Oklahoma State offensive line has done a very good job this season.  After six games, the line has cleared way for 5.4 yards per rush, while giving up only 7 sacks.  When you have the second best rushing team in the Big XII, you know the offensive line is doing something right.  Not a single starter weighs more than 295 lbs., but this allows them to have better quickness which suits the offense well. Starting at tackle is So. Russell Okung (6'5", 290 lbs) on the left and So. Brady Bond (6'6", 290 lbs) on the right.  Top tackle reserves include Jr. Jerry Palmoore (6'6", 305 lbs) and RFr. Trent Perkins (6'5", 300 lbs).  Starting at guard is Sr. David Koenig (6'5", 295 lbs) on the left side and Jr. Steve Denning (6'5", 295 lbs) on the right.  Top back-ups at guard include So. Noah Franklin (6'5", 310 lbs.) and So. Andrew Lawrence (6'4", 305 lbs.).  Starting at center is So. Andrew Lewis (6'5", 295 lbs), with TFr. Grant Garner (6'3", 280 lbs) serving as his top back-up.  


Oklahoma State Defense

The Cowboys' defense has been around the bottom of the nation this season, having real troubles against the pass.  Oklahoma State's defense ranks 92nd nationally in total defense (430.33 ypg), 116th pass defense (321.83 ypg), 94th pass efficiency defense (139.14 rating), 26th rush defense (108.50 ypg), and 61st in scoring defense (25.67 ppg).  

DL: The Oklahoma State defensive line is a pretty decent crew, giving up 2.9 yards per carry to opponents, but has earned just 4 sacks as a unit.  Starting at left defensive end is Sr. Marque Fountain (24 tackles, 2 QBH, 1 PBU), with So. Derek Burton (8 tackles, 1.5 sacks) backing him up.  On the right side, Sr. Nathan Peterson (23 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 FR, 1 QBH) starts while Sr. Rodrick Johnson (12 tackles) is his back-up.  Fountain and Peterson are very solid bookends for this defensive front.  At nose tackle is Jr. Jeray Chatham (13 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1 FR), with Jr. Tonga Tea (6 tackles) also getting a good share of snaps.  Starting at defensive tackle is Sr. Maurice Cummings (21 tackles, 1 FF), with RFr. Quencey Patrick (5 tackles, 1 QBH) serving as his back-up.  This unit stood tough against Texas A&M last week, allowing the typically proficient Aggie rushing attack just 150 yards on 43 carries.
 
LB: Oklahoma State's linebacking crew is, when healthy, the best unit of the defense with talented youth and quality veterans.  So. Chris Collins (26 tackles, 1 FF, 1 QBH, 2 PBU) is the starter at MLB, with Jr. Marcus Brown (2 tackles, 1 QBH) listed as his top reserve.  Starters at OLB are Sr. Donovan Woods (28 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 QBH, 2 PBU) and So. Patrick Lavine (39 tackles, 1 FR, 1 QBH, 6 PBU).  Top reserves on the outside are So. Orie Lemon (3 tackles) and Sr. Jeremy Nethon (31 tackles, 1 sack).  Collins is the best of this bunch, but has missed 9 games of his short career with injury.  Collins has been battling a toe injury recently and is questionable for this week's game.  If he is absent, expect Lavine to again start at MLB for Collins, and Nethon to start on the outside.  This group is good at rush support, but could be better in coverage, defending the pass.

DB: The Oklahoma State defensive backfield has done a poor job this season, ranking last in the Big XII as well as 116th in the nation against the pass.  Starting at cornerback will be Sr. Jacob Lacey (34 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, 4 PBU) and Sr. Martel Van Zant (17 tackles).  Top reserves are So. Perrish Cox (17 tackles, 1 INT, 7 PBU) and Jr. Calvin Mickens (7 tackles, 1 PBU).  Van Zant has an injured toe, has missed the last two games and is questionable for this week's game.  If he is again absent, Cox will take over for him again.  At safety, Jr. Ricky Price (31 tackles, 1 sack, 2 PBU) is the starter at free safety and Jr. Quinton Moore (11 tackles, 1 PBU, 1 BK) is his top reserve.  So. Andre Sexton (31 tackles, 1 PBU) starts at strong safety, with Sr. Clint Coe (2 tackles) serving as his back-up.  The Cowboys' opponents are completing 62% of their passes, which is not an impressive number.


Oklahoma State Special Teams


Oklahoma State's special teams units have been fair this season.  The Cowboys rank 81st in net punting (33.65 yd avg), 32nd in punt returns (12.57 yd avg), and 80th in kickoff returns (20.24 yd avg).  

K:
Jr. Jason Ricks is Oklahoma State's top place-kicker.  He is not having a great season, making just 5 of 8 field goal attempts, with a 32 yard long.  He is just 1 for 4 on kicks of 30 or more yards.  On kickoffs, Jr. Matt Fodge is averaging 63.5 yards on 35 kickoffs with 7 going for a touchback.    

P:
Jr. Matt Fodge starts at punter for the Tigers and doing very well.  He has punted 26 times for an average of 43.1 yards this season.  5 of his 26 punts have been downed inside the opponents' 20.

KR/PR:
Oklahoma State's return game has been good six games into this season.  So. Perrish Cox (16 kick returns, 22 yd avg) and Sr. Tommy Devereaux (7 kick returns, 17 yd avg) make up the first-team kick return unit.  So. Perrish Cox (13 punt returns, 13.5 yd avg) and Sr. Tommy Devereaux also make up the first-team punt return unit.  

Coverage:
  The Oklahoma State kick coverage team has been pretty good this season, allowing an average of just 21 yards on 28 kickoff return attempts.  Punt coverage hasn't been great though, with opponents averaging 20.5 yards and on 11 returns, while also giving up a touchdown.



Nebraska Offense

Nebraska's offense is beginning to decline, both in rushing and passing.  Consistency is a problem, and last week they failed to ever really get started.  Six games into the season, Nebraska ranks 29th nationally in total offense (439.33), 20th in passing (293.17 ypg), 41st in pass efficiency (135.93 rating), 66th in rushing (146.17 ypg), 45th in scoring offense (30.83 ppg), and 80 the in turnover margin (-.50).  

QB: Sr. Sam Keller (146 for 228, 1720 yds, 9 TDs, 8 INTs) has looked pretty good this season, when he has ample time in the pocket to make his decisions.  However, he is not a great QB on the run, and if a defense can get pressure on him, he tends to force plays that aren't there, resulting in turnovers.  He's a fiery competitor that needs his teammates to get behind him.  After a poor game against Missouri, he will look to rebound this week.  Jr. Joe Ganz (1 for 1, 19 yds) is Nebraska's top back-up and hasn't seen action since the season opener against Nevada.

RB: Jr. Marlon Lucky (125 carries, 632 yds, 6 TDs) is Nebraska's starting running back.  Lucky is a quick back that needs a good hole to run through, but once through, he is tough to catch.  TFr. Quentin Castille (30 carries, 122 yds, 3 TDs) is a bruising runner, has seen his carries lessened over the past few games.  Jr. Cody Glenn (26 carries, 86 yds, 2 TDs) is a power rusher that is a quality ball carrier when he is healthy.  TFr. Roy Helu (10 carries, 39 yds) is a speed back that hasn't seen many carries this season.  This is a good group of backs, but needs help from the offensive line, as production has dropped since the season opener.  Marlon Lucky (35 catches, 261 yds, 1 TD), in addition to being the leading rusher, also leads the team in receptions.  Cody Glenn (6 catches, 52 yds), Quentin Castille, (1 catch, 15 yds) and Roy Helu (1 catch, 5 yds) have also been used into the passing game.  At FB, Jr. Thomas Lawson (2 catches, 10 yds, 2 TDs) has been given the starting nod this week.  Sr. Andy Sand (1 catch, 15 yds) has been moved to the reserve role at FB.  
 
WR/TE: Nebraska's receiving crew has been very inconsistent this season.  Dropping passes has been a big problem for this unit.  Starting Z receiver is Sr. Terrence Nunn (17 catches, 219 yds), who has really been struggling this year.  Behind Nunn is Sr. Frantz Hardy (9 catches, 142 yds), a fast wideout that has issues with dropped balls.  Starting at X is Jr. Nate Swift (20 catches, 256 yds, 1 TD), who has good hands and does a good job in traffic  Sr. Maurice Purify (24 catches, 308 yds, 1 TD) is Nebraska's best threat, but doesn't seem to see the field as often as he should.  His measureables, as well as his yards after catch are unmatched by anyone else in this group.  Jr. Todd Peterson (9 catches, 125 yds, 2 TDs), Sr. Dan Erickson (4 catches, 46 yds), So. Menelik Holt, and TFr. Niles Paul (1 catch, 6 yds) are also receivers that may see action.  Starting at TE, or H-Back as Nebraska refers to it as, will be Sr. Sean Hill (11 catches, 229 yds, 3 TD).  Hill has been a nice surprise for the Huskers, after four years without so much as one reception.  Sr. J.B. Phillips (1 catch, 6 yds), RFr Dreu Young (1 catch, 14 yds), Jr. Hunter Teafatiller (3 catches, 21 yds), and Mike McNeill (1 catch, 25 yds) are reserves at TE, but haven't seen many throws their way.

OL: Nebraska's offensive line has been struggling greatly this season.  The rush blocking has been poor, with limited running room opened since the season opener.  Pass protection had been fair until last week, as QB Sam Keller had very small windows to make his throws.  On the season, they are allowing the backs 4.62 yards per carry; however, average per rushing play is 3.9 yards per carry.  This is hardly top-notch performance from a unit that was touted as being Nebraska's best in years.  Starting at tackle is Sr. Carl Nicks (6'5", 330 lbs) on the left and Jr. Lydon Murtha (6'7", 310 lbs) on the right.  Both are pro-prospects, but have struggled with consistency this season.  RFr. Mike Smith (6'6", 290 lbs) and Jr. Matt Slauson (6'5", 335 lbs) are the top tackle reserves.  Jr. Mike Huff (6'4", 300 lbs) will now start at RG after taking the spot away from former starter Matt Slauson this week.  So. Jacob Hickman (6'4", 285 lbs) starts at LG, and has played fairly well after replacing the injured Andy Christensen.  RFr. Keith Williams (6'5", 310 lbs.) and RFr. D.J. Jones (6'5", 310 lbs) are Nebraska's top reserves at guard.  Sr. Brett Byford (6'3", 300 lbs) starts at center, and has also been struggling, while Sr. Jordan Picou (6'3", 300 lbs.) will now act as Byford's top back-up.


Nebraska Defense

Nebraska's defense is an absolute train wreck.  They can't stop the run, can't stop the pass, and can't get pressure on their opposing QB.  Nebraska is ranked 96th nationally in total defense (441.50 ypg), 87th pass defense (251 ypg), 52nd pass efficiency defense (118.31 rating), 97th rush defense (190.50 ypg), and 75th in scoring defense (29 ppg).

DL: Nebraska's defensive line has been pushed around all season long, failing to put together any kind of formidable pass rush.  Plugging up running lanes has also been a challenge, as the unit is allowing opponents 4.8 yards per carry.  Jr. Barry Turner (17 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 QBH, 1 PBU) starts at open end.  Turner has struggled with his quickness since putting on weight in the off-season.  Starting at base end is Jr. Zach Potter (27 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR, 3 QBH), a big, 285 pound end that has had a pretty good season.  Top reserves are Jr. Clayton Sievers (3 tackles, 1 QBH) behind Turner, and RFr. Pierre Allen (1 tackle) behind Potter.  Starting at nose tackle is Jr. Ndamukong Suh (19 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FR), with Jr. Shukree Barfield (5 tackles) and Sr. Brandon Johnson performing back-up duties.  Suh has the tools to be a great one, but hasn't put it all together yet.  So. Ty Steinkuhler (4 tackles, 1 FF), starter at defensive tackle, should be 100 % and ready to go this week, after struggling with a knee injury much of this season.  Jr. Kevin Dixon (13 tackles, 1 INT) is his primary back-up and has done a nice job when he has stepped in.  

LB: Nebraska's linebacking corps will see some shifting this week in the starting line-up after disappointing results through six games.  So. Phillip Dillard (26 tackles, 1 QBH, 2 PBU) has been named as the official starter at MLB this week.  Dillard is a talented young linebacker that will take over for Sr. Corey McKeon (27 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FR, 2 QBH, 3 PBU), who was mid-way through his third season as the starter, but has really struggled this season.  Sr. Bo Ruud (41 tackles, 2 INT, 2 FF, 1 PBU) will still start at SLB, but Sr. Lance Brandenburgh (25 tackles), has been named as the new starter at WLB.  Sr. Steve Octavien (37 tackles, 0.5 sack, 5 QBH, 2 PBU) has been dropped to second string behind Brandenburgh.  Octavien is the most athletic of the crew and should still see plenty of plays, despite the demotion.  TFr. Blake Lawrence and Jr. Tyler Wortman (1 tackle) are the top reserves at SLB, and could see action if Ruud continues to struggle.

DB: Nebraska's secondary had a lot of trouble against the big, talented receivers from Missouri last week.  This is another inconsistent unit for the Nebraska defense that has trouble in both man and zone coverages.  Sr. Cortney Grixby (13 tackles, 2 INTs, 5 PBU) is a four year starter at WCB, and despite being just 5'9", has been playing the best of this unit.  Grixby's back-up, Sr. Zack Bowman (22 tackles, 1 INT, 1 QBH, 3 PBU), hasn't been consistent since his return from a pair of knee injuries over the past year and a half, but has great talent.  Jr. Armando Murillo (29 tackles, 4 PBU) starts at LCB, with Sr. Andre Jones (10 tackles, 2 PBU) backing him up.  Both Murillo and Jones are also struggling this season.  At the safety positions, Sr. Tierre Green (17 tackles, 3 PBU) starts at FS and So. Larry Asante (35 tackles, 1 FF, 1 QBH, 1 PBU) is the starter at SS.  Top reserves include So. Rickey Thenarse (11 tackles, 1 FF) and Sr. Ben Eisenhart (7 tackles) at FS, with Sr. Bryan Wilson (11 tackles, 1 QBH) at SS.  Thenarse is a great young talent, but doesn't get seem to get on the field often.  


Nebraska Special Teams

Nebraska's special teams are the only positive Nebraska has going for them.  The Huskers are ranked 23rd in net punting (37.58 yd avg), 94th in punt returns (6.10 yd avg), and 52nd in kickoff returns (22.46 yd avg).  

K:
TFr. Adi Kunalic (1 for 1, 46 yd lng) handles kickoffs and long field goals.  Kunalic's powerful leg pushed through 17 of 33 kickoffs for touchback, with a 67.4 yard average.  RFr. Alex Henery handles short field goals (5 for 5, 39 yd lng) and extra points.

P: Jr. Dan Titchener is one of the nation's top punters and a Ray Guy Award candidate.  He is averaging 41.9 yards on 25 punts with a long of 51.  8 of his 25 punts have been downed inside the opponents' 20.  He has above average leg power, with solid consistency.
 
KR/PR: Nebraska's kick return game has been good, however, the punt return game still needs work.  Seniors Andre Jones (8 kick returns, 21.9 yd avg) and Cortney Grixby (22 kick returns, 25.4 yd avg) are the top kickoff return team.  Cortney Grixby (7 punt returns, 5.1 yd avg) and Andre Jones (2 returns, 12.5 yd avg) are also the team's top punt returners.

Coverage: Nebraska's coverage teams have been average this season.  The kick coverage unit is allowing an average of 20.7 yards on 17 kickoff returns, while the punt return coverage team allows a 6.2 yard average on 10 punt returns.  


Unit Match-Ups

Nebraska's Offense vs. Oklahoma State's Defense

Nebraska's offense has struggled since opening Big XII play.  What had been the rock of the offense, the passing game, was anemic at best last week against Missouri.  QB Sam Keller has a terrific arm, but cannot make plays when constantly on the run.  Missouri was able to form a good pass rush and forced Keller into a bad night.  Oklahoma State will look to a similar game plan if they want to neutralize the Nebraska passing attack.  The Huskers' receivers are pretty solid, but outside of Maurice Purify, there isn't a tremendous playmaker.  Even Purify, this season, hasn't been able to make all that many plays.  Nebraska is loaded with youth at receiver and one has to wonder if the veterans continue to make mistakes, if those young guys could see the field soon.  Oklahoma State's defensive backfield certainly isn't going to frighten anyone, ranking dead last in the Big XII against the pass.  Numbers were improved last week against Texas A&M, although the Aggies own the 106th ranked passing offense, so don't read too much into that performance.  The Cowboys are allowing opponents to complete 62% of their passes, while Nebraska QB Sam Keller is completing 64% of his throws.  If he gets time to throw, Keller should have a big day.

The Nebraska running game has been stagnant for 5 straight games, after blowing up Nevada for 413 yards on the ground.  Marlon Lucky still leads the Big XII in rushing with 632 yards, but hasn't had a chance to explode recently for big gains.  Lucky, and the rest of the backs need an initial block to get going and they haven't been getting it from the line.  Because of this, the backs are fighting just to get out of the backfield.  Oklahoma State is giving up just 2.9 yards per carry this season, while Nebraska's running backs are averaging 4.6 yards per carry.  The Cowboys are playing tough up front, and had an excellent showing against Texas A&M last week, allowing just 150 yards against an Aggie team that is 7th nationally in rushing.  Oklahoma State's defense is allowing opponents to convert 36% of their third down conversions, while holding opponents to a quality 73% success rate in red-zone scoring.  Meanwhile, the Huskers are converting a less than outstanding 44% of their third downs, but maintain a solid 88% red-zone scoring offense rate.  

Up front, Nebraska's offensive line will be much bigger than the Oklahoma State defensive front.  Nebraska's average offensive lineman is 6'5", 305 lbs, while Oklahoma State's average defensive lineman stands at just 6'3", 264 lbs.  This size differential isn't necessarily an advantage; however, as Nebraska's line has been pushed around by smaller guys all season long.  Nebraska's offensive line has not been blocking well in the run game, and started to break down in pass protection last week against Missouri.  The Huskers have given up 7 sacks and 33 tackles for loss this season, while Oklahoma State has earned 36 tackles for loss and 8 sacks this season.  Oklahoma State can gain control of this game with a steady pass rush.  That is where this game will likely be won or lost.  


Oklahoma State's Offense vs. Nebraska's Defense

The Oklahoma State offense is led by dual-threat QB Zac Robinson, who has done a solid job since taking over for Bobby Reid earlier in the year.  He has good mobility, which has allowed him to rush for 273 yards and a pair of scores.  He is completing nearly 58% of his passes, but doesn't have a great touchdown to interception ratio, throwing 6 picks and 9 touchdowns.  Nebraska's defensive front can't seem to muster any sort of pass rush this season, with just 6 sacks on the season.  Nebraska played with a 3 man front against similarly mobile QB Chase Daniel of Missouri last week and was only able to get to him once, but the ball was already thrown.  The Cowboys have a good group of receivers, but none match the talent and competitiveness as top WR Adarius Bowman.  Bowman is averaging 103.5 yards per game receiving this season and should continue that trend against Nebraska this week.  Nebraska struggled against Missouri's big TE targets, so OSU TE Brandon Pettigrew might also be in line for a good afternoon.  The Huskers' secondary was passed on all night long against Missouri last week to the tune of 411 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air.  

Oklahoma State's running game has been among the nation's best this season, ranking 10th overall in the country with 234.50 yards per game.  Top running back, Dantrell Savage has great ability and would certainly like to have a game similar to the one he had last year against Nebraska in which he rushed for 117 yards and 2 touchdowns.  One major thing in his favor is the play of the porous Nebraska rush defense this season.  The Huskers are struggling to get into opponents' offensive backfields, while also missing numerous tackles.  Add other very good backs in Kendall Hunter and Keith Toston, and Nebraska will definitely have all they can handle on Saturday.  Oklahoma State's third down conversion percentage is at 44%, but has an above average 86% red-zone scoring average.  The Nebraska defense has been abysmal on 3rd downs, allowing opponents to convert on 45% of their attempts.  In the red-zone, the Husker defense has also not been impressive, allowing opponents an 88% red-zone scoring rate.

Oklahoma State's average offensive lineman is 6'5", 293 lbs, while Nebraska's average defensive lineman comes in at 6'4", 284 lbs.  The Cowboys' offensive line won't be helping the Huskers' defensive front out this week, as the Pokes' line has been playing excellent football.  QB Zac Robinson shouldn't see too many red jerseys in his face on Saturday afternoon, as the Huskers have failed to put together a decent pass rush all season.  After 6 games, Nebraska has earned 38 tackles for loss and just 6 sacks.  Meanwhile, Oklahoma State has allowed 31 tackles for loss and 7 sacks through 6 games.  Nebraska's defense is allowing a huge 4.8 yards per carry, due to missed tackles, missed assignments, and a lack of gang tackling.  Oklahoma State is averaging 5.4 yards per carry this season and has to think they'll be in for a big day on the ground.  


Keys to the Game

For Nebraska to Win:
1.) Offensive line needs to play outstanding football in both rush and pass blocking.
2.) Win turnover battle.  Couldn't force a single turnover against Missouri last week.
3.) Eliminate penalties.  Penalties killed drives last week and also gave new life to drives for Missouri.
4.) Tackle well, don't allow Savage, Robinson, and Co. run wild.
5.) Try to prevent Adarius Bowman from making "the big play" for the Cowboy offense.

For Oklahoma State to Win:
1.) Get pressure on Nebraska QB Sam Keller.  The offense folded last week after Missouri got into the backfield.
2.) QB Zac Robinson needs to play mistake free football.
3.) Will need to keep the outstanding rushing attack going.
4.) Cut down on the penalties.  76.2 yards per game in penalties is unacceptable.
5.) Don't allow past road woes creep into the mind if the game gets tough.


Position Advantages:

Position/Advantage
QBs: Nebraska
RBs: Even
WR/TE's: Oklahoma State
OL: Oklahoma State
DL: Oklahoma State
LB: Even
DB: Nebraska
Special Teams: Nebraska
Coaching: Even


Injury Report

Nebraska:
DE - Clayton Sievers - leg - out indefinitely
DT - Ty Steinkuhler - knee - questionable
OG - Andy Christensen - knee - out for season
RB - Kenny Wilson - leg - out for season

Oklahoma State:
QB - Zac Robinson - concussion - probable
LB - Chris Collins - toe - questionable
CB - Martel Van Zant - toe - questionable
WR - Artrell Woods - back - out for season


Game Breakdown & Outlook

This is the 42nd meeting between Nebraska and Oklahoma State.  The Huskers hold a dominant 36-4-1 all-time record over the Cowboys.  Oklahoma State, however, has won 2 of the last three meetings in the series.  Last year in Stillwater, Nebraska led Oklahoma State 17-0 before the Cowboys powered past the Huskers to win 41-29.  The last time these teams met in Lincoln was in 2003, and Nebraska beat Oklahoma State 17-7 in a hard fought defensive game.  The only time Oklahoma State was able to beat Nebraska in Lincoln was in 1960, which was the first ever meeting between these two teams, and 2 years before former Nebraska coach Bob Devaney took over and began building the program.

Oklahoma State has had an interesting route to their 3-3 record.  Their season began with disheartening loss at Georgia, losing 35-14 in a game that they were supposed to be more competitive in.  Inability to convert on third downs (3 of 13) hurt them against the Bulldogs.  After disposing of Florida Atlantic, 42-6, the Cowboys headed to Troy, Alabama for what was expected to be a tune-up for the Texas Tech game.  Troy gave Oklahoma State all they could handle and more, as the Trojans upset the Cowboys 41-23.  Again, third down conversions played a big role (2 of 11) hurt this team, as did their 3 turnovers.  The next game was back home to play Texas Tech in what ended up being a track meet.  Oklahoma State and Texas Tech amounted for 1,328 yards of offense, as the Cowboys defeated the Red Raiders 49-45.  The Pokes were able to escape with a win following QB Zac Robinson's pass to TE Brandon Pettigrew with just 1:37 left to play.  Oklahoma then defeated Sam Houston State 39-3, despite giving up nearly 300 yards through the air.  Last week against Texas A&M, the Cowboys held a 17-0 halftime lead before losing the game 24-23 to the Aggies.  Oklahoma State is 0-3 on the road this year and could really use a win in Lincoln to give the team some confidence that they have lacked away from home.  A loss would put them at 3-4, a place coach Mike Gundy does not want to be.

Nebraska is likely the shakiest of 4-2 teams in the nation.  After a dominant showing in the season opener against Nevada, winning 52-10 and racking up 625 yards of offense, Nebraska has struggled to get things clicking.  Against Wake Forest they were unable to mount much of an offensive attack, but still claimed victory 23-20.  USC then came to town and crushed Nebraska 49-31, in a game that was supposed to show Nebraska was back among the top teams in the country.  The following week against Ball State was ugly, as the Huskers won 41-40, despite giving up 610 yards of offense to the Cardinals.  The Huskers were home again the next week to play Iowa State, and were victorious 35-17, even though the offense was stagnant and turned the ball over 3 times.  Last week against Missouri, in what was expected to be a shoot-out for Big XII North supremacy, ended up being a behind the woodshed beating, as the Tigers destroyed Nebraska 41-6 in embarrassing fashion.  Nebraska is teetering on the brink of a disastrous season and desperate for a win.  The Huskers are 3-1 at home this year, and would like to see that win column increase this week.

Nebraska's offense's strength should play right into the Oklahoma State defense's weakness, the passing game.  However, for the Huskers to take advantage of a suspect Cowboy secondary, the offensive line better be ready to protect QB Sam Keller.  Last week against a poor Missouri pass defense, the Nebraska offensive line was unable to keep away the Tiger pass rush, and Keller didn't have time to pick apart their secondary.  Oklahoma State will look to do the same this week, and might have the guys that can do it.  One thing is for sure, Nebraska's anemic rushing attack will have tough sledding against Oklahoma State stingy rush defense.  RB Marlon Lucky has been frustrated lately about the way the Huskers are rushing the ball, and unless the offensive line wakes up and starts doing a good job of blocking, he won't have a whole lot of room this week either.  Nebraska's best bet is to get their passing game working first to try to open up some lanes for Lucky and company to run through later in the drives, because the reverse certainly hasn't worked this year.  Nebraska WR Maurice Purify must be a bigger part of the offensive game plan.

Oklahoma State's rushing offense is pretty dynamic, with three capable backs and a QB with good wheels.  There could be ample running room against a Nebraska rush defense that has been struggling mightily this season.  Nebraska's defense has struggled against mobile, dual-threat QB's, and the Cowboys possess one in Zac Robinson.  RB Dantrell Savage and company had a good day against Nebraska last year and will hope to have an even better day against the Huskers this year, as their defense has been much worse than they were a year ago.  The Cowboys may take a few pages out of the Missouri playbook this week after watching their near flawless performance a week ago against the Huskers.  Running QB draws for huge gains and throwing it downfield to a big Pettigrew or Bowman will likely be in order.  Robinson will need to show that he can throw the ball on the road though this week.  In the three games that the Cowboys have lost, they have passed for less than 200 yards.  Bowman and Pettigrew are the two best options for the offense in the passing game, and if Nebraska's secondary plays like they did a week ago, they will both have big days.

This match-up features two poor defenses that have been lit up multiple times this season.  Oklahoma State's offense has been excellent this season, however, did not play well at all in the second half against Texas A&M last week.  Nebraska's offense has shown signs that it can be a very good unit, but is having issues with their offensive line.  Nebraska typically has played better football at home, while Oklahoma State has not been playing good football outside of Stillwater.  Both teams could really use this win, but even more so for Nebraska.  Expectations were high this season, and they have been flat so far.  The Huskers have made some personnel adjustments for this week's game, and after an emotional team meeting earlier in the week, could get them back on track.  This game has the makings of a shoot-out, and will likely be a back-and-forth game.  This one is almost too close to call, but because this game is in Lincoln, give a very slight edge to Nebraska.


Oklahoma State - 31
Nebraska - 34

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