November 10th, 2007
11:30 AM CT
KANSAS STATE (5 - 4) (3 - 3)
NEBRASKA (4 – 6) (1 - 5)
Weather Report for Nebraska vs. Kansas State
Latest Line - Kansas State by 7.5.
9/1/07 - at Auburn - L 13-23
9/8/07 - vs. San Jose State - W 34-14
9/15/07 - vs. Missouri State - W 61-10
9/29/07 - at Texas - W 41-21
10/6/07 - vs. Kansas - L 24-30
10/13/07 - vs. Colorado - W 47-20
10/20/07 - at Oklahoma State - L 39-41
10/27/07 - vs. Baylor - W 51-13
11/3/07 - at Iowa State - L 20-31
9/1/07 - vs. Nevada- W 52-10
9/8/07 - at Wake Forest - W 20-17
9/15/07 - vs. USC - L 31-49
9/22/07 - vs. Ball State - W 41-40
9/29/07 - vs. Iowa State - W 35-17
10/6/07 - at Missouri - L 6-41
10/13/07 - vs. Oklahoma State - L 14-45
10/20/07 - vs. Texas A&M - L 14-36
10/27/07 - at Texas - L 25-28
11/3/07 - at Kansas - L 39-76
Kansas State Offense
The Wildcats' offense is pretty decent, but hasn't been terribly consistent. Entering their tenth game, Kansas State ranks 36th nationally in total offense (422.44 ypg), 16th in passing (288.11 ypg), 52nd in passing efficiency (127.97 rating), 83rd rushing (134.33 ypg), 20th scoring offense (36.67 ppg), and 25th in turnover margin (+0.67 pg).
QB: So. Josh Freeman (237 of 373, 2521 yds, 12 TDs, 10 INTs) is a giant quarterback at 6'6", 250 lbs. He doesn't have the quickest feet, but has enough speed to get out of trouble when he has to. His size also makes him difficult to bring down, allowing him to break arm tackles easily. He has rushed for 12 yards on 37 carries with 3 touchdowns. Freeman is completing 63.5% of his passes, a major improvement over his 51.9% from a year ago. Despite the good completion percentage, he has thrown his share of poor passes, with a 12 touchdown to 10 interception ratio. He has a strong arm, but seems to be more comfortable throwing short to intermediate routes. He's throwing the ball more than any Kansas State QB in history. RFr. Carson Coffman (3 of 5, 22 yds) is Freeman's top back-up, and has only played in 4 games this season.
RB: Kansas State has a pair of excellent running backs in Sr. James Johnson (127 carries, 734 yds, 9 TDs) and So. Leon Patton (73 carries, 315 yds, 3 TDs). Both Johnson and Patton have each had games of over 100 yards this season. Johnson is a complete back, while Patton is more of a pure speed back. Johnson's best day this season was against Colorado, as he rushed for 183 yards and 2 touchdowns. Johnson is rushing for a very good 5.8 yards per carry this year, while Patton is rushing for a solid 4.3 yards per carry. Top running back reserves are Sr. Terry Petrie (12 carries, 66 yds, 1 TD) and TFr. Jeremy Reed (5 carries, 25 yds). Jr. WR Deon Murphy has rushed the ball 12 times for 79 yards and 2 touchdowns. James Johnson (27 catches, 163 yds) and Leon Patton (13 catches, 56 yds, 1 TD) have been solid contributors in the passing game as well this season.
WR/TE: Kansas State has a decent group of receivers, but lacks quality depth. Starters at receiver include Sr. Jordy Nelson (90 catches, 1222 yds, 8 TDs), Jr. Deon Murphy (41 catches, 416 yds, 5 TDs), and Sr. Daniel Gonzalez (24 catches, 282 yds, 1 TD). Nelson is the best playmaker on the team with his excellent hands and great speed. Nelson is arguably one of the best receivers in the nation, ranking second nationally in both receptions and receiving yards. Murphy has had a solid year, but more receivers need to step up into a playmaker role. Top back-ups include Jr. Cedric Wilson (4 catches, 41 yds), TFr. Lamark Brown (3 catches, 33 yds), Jr. Ernie Pierce (2 catches, 19 yds). Starting at tight end is So. Jeron Mastrud (21 catches, 239 yds), with Mike Pooschke (17 catches, 118 yds) and Jr. Brett Alstatt perform reserve duties.
OL: The Kansas State offensive line has done a solid job after nine games. The line has allowed for an average of 4.4 yards per rush, an improvement from 4.0 yards per carry in 2006. The line has given up just 8 sacks and 34 tackles for loss. This has been quality work from a unit that was not expected to be very good this year. Last week, however, Iowa State's DE Kurtis Taylor earned 2 sacks against the Wildcats, the most the line has given up since the season opener against Auburn. Starting at left tackle is Jr. Alesana Alesana (6'3", 299 lbs), while Jr. Penisini Liu (6'5", 308 lbs) starts at right tackle. Top tackle reserves include So. Nick Stringer (6'6", 270 lbs) and TFr. Kaleb Drinkgern (6'6", 260 lbs). Starting at guard is Sr. Logan Robinson (6'8", 318 lbs) on the left and Jr. Gerard Spexarth (6'6", 280 lbs) on the right. So. Brock Unruh (6'5", 301 lbs.) is the Wildcats' top reserve at guard. At center, So. Trevor Viers (6'5", 270 lbs) starts, with Jr. Jordan Bedore (6'3", 308 lbs) performing back-up duties. Bedore is questionable for this week's game with a hand injury. Alesana and Liu are both JUCO transfers and have done a good job in their transition.
Kansas State Defense
After changing to the 3-4 defense this season, the Kansas State defense may not be the best the Wildcats have had, but it certainly isn't poor either. The Wildcats rank 42nd nationally in total defense (347.67 ypg), 57th pass defense (221.33 ypg), 32nd pass efficiency defense (115.14 rating), 36th rush defense (126.33 ypg), and 44th in scoring defense (22.56 ppg). All of these numbers are also ranked in the top half of the Big XII.
DL: The Kansas State defensive line is the front of one of the best pass rushing defenses in the nation. On the season, they have allowed 3.3 yards per carry to opponents and earned 12 sacks as a unit. Starting at defensive end is Jr. Moses Manu (24 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 FF, 2 QBH, 2 PBU) on the left and Sr. Rob Jackson (17 tackles, 2 sacks, 2QBH) on the right. Top back-ups on the end include Jr. Chidubamu Abana (3 tackles) and Sr. Clayton Cox (15 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 QBH). Starting at nose tackle now will be Jr. Brandon Balkcom (14 tackles, 1 QBH) after Sr. Steven Cline (24 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 QBH, 2 PBU) tore his ACL last week against Iowa State. RFr. Gabe Crews, who has not recorded a tackle, will now be performing back-up duties for Balkcom. Jr. SLB Ian Campbell will also play defensive end for this defense, as he has started on the left side the past two weeks. If he does start at DE Saturday, Manu and Jackson will both see time on the right end spot.
LB: Kansas State's defenses over the past decade or so have been built largely around a great linebacking corps. This year's crew is pretty good, but not very deep. The superstar of the defense is Jr. SLB Ian Campbell (31 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT, 4 FR, 3 QBH, 2 PBU). He has great athletic ability, with a mix of speed and power that isn't possessed by many around the Big XII. He has been starting at DE the past two games, and will occasionally play end during certain situations in the game. Starting at WLB is So. Eric Childs (30 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FF), another converted DE that has moved to OLB. Top back-ups on the outside include Jr. Chris Patterson (16 tackles) and So. Ross Diehl (9 tackles, 2.5 sacks). Starters at MLB are Sr. Justin Roland (55 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FR, 2 QBH, 2 PBU) and Jr. Reggie Walker (48 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 2 FF, 4 QBH, 1 PBU). Top reserves at MLB include Sr. Marcus Perry (12 tackles) and So. John Houlik (48 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 QBH). In many defenses, the backers in the middle are larger than those on the outside, however, the Wildcats' defense utilizes their larger guys on the outside, with the bigger men on the outside.
DB: Kansas State's defensive backfield has been a pretty good crew, with a few solid veteran ball-hawkers. Kansas State is 5th in the nation in interceptions with 17, and 13 of those were produced by the secondary. Opponents are completing a decent 55.3% of their passes against this group through nine games. Starting at cornerback Sr. Justin McKinney (58 tackles, 3 INTs, 1 FF, 8 PBU, 1 BK) on the left and Sr. Byron Garvin (34 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 INTs, 1 FF, 4 PBU) on the right. Top reserves at cornerback include Sr. Bryan Baldwin (11 tackles, 2 INTs, 2 PBU) and Jr. Ray Cheatham (12 tackles, 1 QBH, 2 PBU). Baldwin started last week in place of Garvin against Iowa State after returning from injury and could start again this week. At safety, Sr. Marcus Watts (46 tackles, 1 INT, 3 PBU) starts at free safety while Jr. Gary Chandler (33 tackles, 1 QBH, 2 PBU) starts at strong safety. Top backups include So. Courtney Herndon (20 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 FF) and So. Chris Carney (32 tackles, 4 INT, 2 PBU). Carney served as the starter at SS the past four games for the Wildcats in place of Chandler and has done an excellent job.
Kansas State Special Teams
The Kansas State special teams units are among the best in the nation. The Wildcats rank 7th in net punting (38.88 yd avg), 1st in punt returns (22.06 yd avg), and 83rd in kickoff returns (20.37 yd avg).
K: Jr. Brooks Rossman is having a quality season, hitting 19 of 25 field goal attempts, with a 52 yard long. Jr. Jared Parker has taken over kickoff duties and is averaging 61.1 yards, with just 5 of his 38 kickoffs going for a touchback.
P: Sr. Tim Reyer is having an excellent season, with some of the better stats in the nation. He has punted 43 times for an average of 44.1 yards this season. 16 of his 43 punts have been downed inside the opponents' 20. He has had 11 punts go for more than 50 yards.
KR/PR: The return game has been very solid for the Wildcats. So. Leon Patton (16 kick returns, 21.9 yd avg) and Sr. James Johnson (11 kick returns, 25.4 yd avg, 1 TD) make up the top kick return unit. Jr. Deon Murphy (24 punt returns, 16.8 yd avg, 1 TD) and Sr. Jordy Nelson (5 punt returns, 52.8 yd avg, 2 TDs) are the top options at punt returner. Both are explosive and are major threats to take it to the house.
Coverage: The Wildcats' kick coverage team has been fair this season, allowing an average of 20.1 yards, while also giving up one touchdown on 59 kickoff return attempts. Punt coverage has been solid, with opponents averaging only 5.7 yards on 22 punt returns.
Nebraska's has been very inconsistent this season, rarely clicking with both the run and the pass. Entering their eleventh game of the season, Nebraska ranks 28th nationally in total offense (430.70 ypg), 15th in passing (288.30 ypg), 29th in pass efficiency (135.33 rating), 72nd in rushing (142.40 ypg), 56th in scoring offense (27.70 ppg), and 115th in turnover margin (-1.40 pg).
QB: Jr. Joe Ganz (28 for 54, 441 yds, 5 TDs, 4 INTs) took his first start last week against Kansas in place of the injured Sr. Sam Keller (205 for 325, 2422 yds, 14 TDs, 10 INTs). Ganz played well for a first time start, tossing four touchdown passes, but also threw four picks. He had a tendency to hang some of his passes in the air, which mostly ended up either intercepted or nearly picked off. Ganz was able to make plays with his feet that Keller could not, and ended up rushing for the game's first score. He won't beat anyone in a long distance race, but he's got quick enough feet to elude some pass rushers. Jr. Beau Davis and TFr. Patrick Witt are battling it out for the top back-up spot. Davis hasn't played since 2004 and Witt is still holding onto his red-shirt as of right now. The Huskers will hope Ganz's play will provide a spark for the final three games of the season.
RB: Nebraska has a nice group of running backs, with each bringing a little something different to the table. Jr. Marlon Lucky (178 carries, 847 yds, 6 TDs) starts for the Huskers, is a quick back that won't overpower anyone, but is tough to catch once beyond the line of scrimmage. TFr. Quentin Castille (65 carries, 293 yds, 4 TDs) is a bruising runner, but has major issues with fumbling the football. TFr. Roy Helu (43 carries, 203 yds) is a speed back with excellent field vision and cut back ability. Jr. Cody Glenn (27 carries, 78 yds, 2 TDs) is a power rusher, has had some injury troubles through his career, and hasn't seen many carries this year. With a better group of blockers, this group would be much more productive. Marlon Lucky (61 catches, 512 yds, 2 TDs) broke 1972 Heisman trophy winner Johnny Rodgers' single season receptions record last week, on a 62 yard touchdown out of the backfield. Cody Glenn (6 catches, 52 yds), Roy Helu (5 catch, 40 yds), and Quentin Castille (1 catch, 15 yds) have also been used in the passing game. At FB, Jr. Thomas Lawson (3 catches, 11 yds, 3 TDs) and Sr. Andy Sand (3 catches, 31 yds) share time. Neither will see the ball very often.
WR/TE: The Nebraska receivers are talented, but aren't consistent game to game. Starting at Z is Sr. Terrence Nunn (26 catches, 308 yds), who is really struggling to make things happen. Behind Nunn is Sr. Frantz Hardy (11 catches, 211 yds), who is arguably the fastest receiver for Nebraska, making him an excellent deep threat. Starting at X is Jr. Nate Swift (32 catches, 450 yds, 3 TDs), who has good hands and does a nice job in traffic. Sr. Maurice Purify (40 catches, 570 yds, 6 TDs) is Nebraska's top receiver, a sure NFL player, but doesn't get on the field nearly enough. Other reserves include Jr. Todd Peterson (12 catches, 228 yds, 2 TDs), Sr. Dan Erickson (5 catches, 52 yds), So. Menelik Holt (1 catch, 13 yds), and TFr. Niles Paul (1 catch, 6 yds). Starting at TE, or H-Back, will be Sr. Sean Hill (18 catches, 288 yds, 3 TDs). Hill has been a nice surprise for the Huskers this year. Sr. J.B. Phillips (2 catches, 19 yds, 1 TD), Jr. Hunter Teafatiller (4 catches, 34 yds), RFr Dreu Young (1 catch, 14 yds), and Mike McNeill (1 catch, 25 yds) are reserves at TE, and haven't seen many throws their way.
OL: Nebraska's offensive line has been poor this season. This unit has not lived up to pre-season expectations. There is no consistency in their rush or pass blocking schemes. On the season, they are allowing the backs 4.5 yards per carry. Starting at tackle will be Sr. Carl Nicks (6'5", 330 lbs) on the left and TFr. Jaivorio Burkes (6'5", 315 lbs) on the right. Nicks is the best of this group, but has struggled recently. Burkes is making his third start, and has played well. RFr. Mike Smith (6'6", 290 lbs) is the top tackle reserve for both Nicks and Burkes. So. Jacob Hickman (6'4", 285 lbs) starts at LG, while Jr. Matt Slauson (6'5", 335 lbs) will start at RG. RFr. Keith Williams (6'5", 310 lbs.), RFr. D.J. Jones (6'5", 310 lbs), and Jr. Mike Huff (6'4", 300 lbs) are Nebraska's top reserves at guard. Sr. Brett Byford (6'3", 300 lbs) starts at center, while Sr. Jordan Picou (6'3", 300 lbs.) is the top back-up.
This season's defense for Nebraska is the worst in worst in their school history. Many of the players appear disinterested in playing football. The Huskers rank 112th nationally in total defense (477.60 ypg), 74th pass defense (237.50 ypg), 71st pass efficiency defense (127.73 rating), 118th rush defense (240.10 ypg), and 106th in scoring defense (35.90 ppg).
DL: Nebraska's defensive line has been ineffective this season. There has been minimal pressure off the edge, and opponents are running all over this unit, picking up 5.3 yards per rush, an unbelievable number for any defense. Jr. Barry Turner (21 tackles, 2 sacks, 7 QBH, 2 PBU) starts at open end. Turner looks like he lost a step from his Freshman All-American season. Starting at base end is Jr. Zach Potter (43 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 FR, 4 QBH, 1 PBU), who has played the best on the line with 11 tackles for loss. Top reserves are Jr. Clayton Sievers (6 tackles, 1 QBH) and Sr. Andy Poulosky (7 tackles, 1 sack) at open, in addition to RFr. Pierre Allen (14 tackles, 2 QBH, 1 PBU) at base. Starting at nose tackle is Jr. Ndamukong Suh (27 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FR, 3 QBH, 1 BK), with Jr. Shukree Barfield (13 tackles) performing back-up duties. Suh has great size and strength, but hasn't played up to his lofty expectations. So. Ty Steinkuhler (9 tackles, 1 FF, 1 QBH), starter at defensive tackle has struggled with some injuries this season, keeping his numbers down. Jr. Kevin Dixon (17 tackles, 1 INT, 1 QBH) is his primary back-up and has done a nice job in his reserve role.
LB: Nebraska's linebacking crew has been a tremendous disappointment this season. Sr. Corey McKeon (58 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 FR, 3 QBH, 7 PBU) continues to start, despite not being the best MLB on the team. So. Phillip Dillard (34 tackles, 1 QBH, 2 PBU) is Nebraska's best MLB, yet continues to serve as a back-up, even though he is healthy. Sr. Bo Ruud (42 tackles, 2 INT, 2 FF, 1 PBU) is expected to be back as SLB starter this week after missing time due to a knee injury. Back-up TFr. Blake Lawrence (1 tackle) should also return to the line-up Saturday after missing last week with injury. Jr. Tyler Wortman (5 tackles) will return to his reserve role at SLB unless Ruud and Lawrence aren't cleared to play, then he will get the start again this week. Sr. Steve Octavien (71 tackles, 0.5 sack, 8 QBH, 2 PBU) starts at WLB and is a solid player and excellent athlete. Like the rest of the linebackers, he has not been at the top of his game lately. TFr. LaTravis Washington, So. Nick Covey (4 tackles) and So. Major Culbert (7 tackles) are young reserves that could see time behind Octavien.
DB: Nebraska's secondary has been very poor this year, and was shredded last week against Kansas for 354 yards and 6 touchdowns. Sr. Cortney Grixby (22 tackles, 2 INTs, 1 QBH, 7 PBU) is in his fourth year as a starter at WCB. He stands at just 5'9", but is arguably playing better than anyone else in the secondary. Grixby's back-up, Sr. Zack Bowman (27 tackles, 1 INT, 1 QBH, 6 PBU), has been inconsistent this year, with his knee injuries hampering his career. Jr. Armando Murillo (57 tackles, 7 PBU) starts at LCB, with Sr. Andre Jones (14 tackles, 2 PBU) and TFr. Anthony Blue (8 tackles) backing him up. Murillo has shown promise while Jones is having a disaster of a year. At the safety positions, Sr. Tierre Green (45 tackles, 3 PBU) starts at FS and So. Larry Asante (65 tackles, 1 FF, 1 QBH, 3 PBU) is the starter at SS. Green is having a disappointing season, not making many plays or getting big hits. Top reserves include So. Rickey Thenarse (25 tackles, 2 FF) and Sr. Ben Eisenhart (31 tackles) at FS, with Sr. Bryan Wilson (15 tackles, 1 QBH) at SS. Thenarse is a promising young talent that hits like a freight train.
Nebraska Special Teams
Nebraska's special teams have been pretty solid, except for the punt return game. The Huskers are ranked 23rd in net punting (37.60 yd avg), 101st in punt returns (5.92 yd avg), and 52nd in kickoff returns (22.17 yd avg).
K: TFr. Adi Kunalic (1 for 1, 46 yd lng) handles kickoffs and long field goals. Kunalic has booted 23 of 48 kickoffs for touchback, with a 66.7 yard average. RFr. Alex Hennery handles short field goals (7 for 7, 39 yd lng) and extra points.
P: Jr. Dan Titchener is one of the nation's top punters. He is averaging 41.2 yards on 44 punts with a long of 52. 14 of his 44 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, while the punt return game is below average. Seniors Cortney Grixby (36 kick returns, 24.4 yd avg) and Andre Jones (13 kick returns, 21.4 yd avg) are the top kickoff return men. Cortney Grixby (7 punt returns, 5.1 yd avg), Jr. Nate Swift (2 punt returns, 3 yd avg) and Andre Jones (3 returns, 11.7 yd avg) are the team's top punt returners.
Coverage: Nebraska's coverage teams had been good this season, but were miserable last week in kick coverage. The kick coverage unit is allowing an average of 22.5 yards on 28 kickoff returns, while the punt return coverage team allows a 5.1 yard average on 18 punt returns. So. Rickey Thenarse is the bullet for the unit, and has delivered some crushing blows.
Nebraska's Offense vs. Kansas State's Defense
Nebraska's offense looked pretty solid with QB Joe Ganz under center last week. Due to the Huskers' horrendous defense, the offense went into shoot-out mode and the inexperienced Ganz threw a lot of bad balls, with 4 of them getting picked off. He still threw 4 touchdowns, no small feat against a Kansas defense ranked 5th nationally coming into the game last week. Ganz has escapability with his feet, and used that to his advantage many times last week. The receiving corps is good, but is inconsistent. They finally put the ball in WR Maurice Purify's hands last week and all he did was score 3 touchdowns. He is their most dangerous threat, and should see more field time again this week. RB Marlon Lucky leads the team in receptions with 61, the most in single season history at Nebraska. Kansas State has been outstanding at getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and against a mediocre Nebraska offensive line, they will put Ganz's feet to the test. The Wildcats' secondary is full of upperclassmen and is fairly deep. SS Chris Carney leads the team with 4 picks, and is starting to look like the top defensive back, despite being listed as a back-up. Kansas State is allowing their opponents to complete 55.3% of their passes, while Nebraska QB Joe Ganz is connecting on 51.9% of his throws.
The Nebraska running game has seemed to be stuck in neutral since the season opener. Blocking has been the biggest problem, as the offensive line has failed to get a solid push up-front for four quarters of football. RB Marlon Lucky is most dangerous when coming out of the back field and fielding a pass, but is also good off the edge, when blockers are present. Freshman Roy Helu had a nice showing in limited carries last week, but talented Quentin Castille struggled, fumbling on his only carry of the day. Kansas State is giving up 3.3 yards per carry this season, while Nebraska's running backs are averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Nebraska needs to commit to running the ball, and have success in doing so to shorten the game and keep themselves in games. Getting into a panicking shoot-out mode is not going to work. It will be tough this week, as Kansas State likes to frequent opponents' backfields with 63 tackles for loss. Kansas State's defense is allowing opponents to convert on just 34% of their third downs, but has allowed an average 82% red zone scores. Nebraska converts a mediocre 44% of their third downs, and a decent 87% red-zone scoring offense rate. 3rd down conversions, or lack thereof, has been a major thorn in the side for Nebraska this season.
On the lines, Nebraska's average offensive lineman is 6'4", 314 lbs, while Kansas State's average defensive lineman comes in at 6'2", 262 lbs. Nebraska's offensive line has struggled with small defensive fronts this season, and Kansas State's quickness could get the better of the Husker line. Kansas State has gotten pretty good penetration from their front 7 this season, and Nebraska's often porous offensive line will have their hands full. Nebraska has solid talent on the line, they just have not been able to throw 4 quarters of solid play together. The Huskers have given up 14 sacks and 51 tackles for loss this season, while Kansas State has earned 63 tackles for loss and 25 sacks this season.
Kansas State's Offense vs. Nebraska's Defense
The Kansas State offense has had a lot of inconsistencies this season. QB Josh Freeman has a strong arm, but still makes a number of bad throws. He has had some games this season, however, where he looked like an All American candidate. He doesn't have great speed or elusiveness, but is a mountain of a quarterback and a load to bring down. He is completing 63.5% of his passes, while Nebraska's defense is allowing opponents to hit 57.4% of their passes. Kansas State's receivers are led by the explosive WR Jordy Nelson. Nelson is a threat to score nearly every time he touches the ball. Nelson has had quite a rise from a walk-on athlete to star of the team. Given Nebraska's struggles to make tackles, especially in the open field, he could be in store for a big day. The passing offense was pretty decent last week against Iowa State, as Freeman connected on 63% of his passes and threw for 347 yards. The problem was that he only threw one touchdown pass, was picked off twice, and sacked twice. Nebraska blitzed heavily against Texas two weeks ago with success against the pass. They blitzed only a few times last week against Kansas and got burned each time. Since Freeman isn't a great threat with his feet, don't be surprised to see the Huskers come at him from all angles.
The Kansas State run game has had some really good games this season against Colorado and Baylor. In those games, the Wildcats were able to put up over 200 yards on the ground and won both of those games handily. Other than those two games, Kansas State has had struggles to get a solid, consistent rushing attack going. Nebraska is 118th in the nation against the run and last week, Kansas' power back Brandon McAnderson put up 4 touchdowns against the Huskers. Nebraska has issues defensive fundamentals, mostly with textbook tackling, which has led to big plays for opposing offenses. Wildcat RB's James Johnson and Leon Patton are solid backs and should be able to put up some good numbers, especially if Nebraska is as careless as they have been much of this year. Three of Nebraska's last four opponents have rushed for over 300 yards. Kansas snapped the 3 game streak because they were able to fire away through the air against Nebraska. Kansas State's third down conversion percentage is a poor 38%, and holds a solid 89% red-zone scoring average. Nebraska's defense has been awful on 3rd downs, allowing opponents to convert on 50% of their attempts. They have also allowed opponents to score on 90% of their red-zone opportunities. Those are unacceptable numbers for Nebraska's standards.
In the trenches, Kansas' average offensive lineman is 6'5", 295 lbs, while Nebraska's average defensive lineman comes in at 6'4", 284 lbs. The Wildcats' offensive line has done a nice job this year, but did have troubles with Iowa State's aggressive defense last week. When teams have been able to consistently put pressure on QB Josh Freeman, he has made some less than stellar decisions with the football. Nebraska will have to be aggressive, bringing heat to try and get some turnovers. Unfortunately for the Huskers, for much of the year their defensive line has just been pushed around. After 10 games, Nebraska has put up 60 tackles for loss, but just 9 sacks. Kansas State has allowed 34 tackles for loss and just 8 sacks through 9 games. 2 of those 8 sacks were earned last week by Iowa State. Nebraska's defense is allowing an unbelievable 5.3 yards per carry this season, while Kansas State is averaging 4.4 yards per carry and should have a good day on the ground.
Keys to the Game
For Nebraska to Win:
1.) Get takeaways. Just one takeaway in past five games is not getting it done.
2.) Have to get a solid ground attack going for four quarters - cannot get into another 50 pass attempt game.
3.) Third down conversions must get better.
4.) Get after KSU QB Josh Freeman. Get him rattled on the road and hope to force mistakes.
5.) Kick and punt coverage need to be better than they were last week.
For Kansas State to Win:
1.) Keep Josh Freeman on his feet and help him to get comfortable in the pocket.
2.) Cut down on penalties. The 76.2 yards per game in penalties is too far too much and has hurt this team.
3.) Get in the face of Nebraska QB Joe Ganz and hope he continues to throw some bad balls.
4.) Improve on third down offense.
5.) Cut down on turnovers. 3 turnovers last week against Iowa State hurt.
QB: Kansas State
OL: Kansas State
DL: Kansas State
LB: Kansas State
DB: Kansas State
Special Teams: Kansas State
Coaching: Kansas State
LB - Bo Ruud - knee - questionable
LB - Blake Lawrence - questionable
QB - Sam Keller - collar bone - out for season
LB - Lance Brandenburgh - shoulder - out for season
OT - Lydon Murtha - toe - out for season
OG - Andy Christensen - knee - out for season
RB - Kenny Wilson - leg - out for season
DE - Clayton Cox - undisclosed - questionable
DT -Steven Cline - knee - questionable
LB - Ross Diehl - undisclosed - questionable
DB - Byron Garvin - undisclosed - questionable
DB - Joshua Moore - academics - questionable
C - Jordan Bedore - hand - questionable
DB - Antwon Moore - knee - out for season
TE - Rashaad Norwood - suspension - out indefinitely
Game Breakdown & Outlook
This is the 92nd meeting between Nebraska and Kansas State. The Cornhuskers hold a dominant 74-15-2 all-time record against the Wildcats. Since Nebraska's 29 game series win streak was snapped in 1998, Kansas State has actually won 5 of the last 9. Nebraska is on a two game series winning streak, however. Last season, Nebraska defeated the Wildcats in Manhattan 21-3 in a game that Kansas State outgained the Huskers 272-166. The last meeting in Lincoln was in 2005, and saw Nebraska beating Kansas State in an exciting back and forth game 27-25. Nebraska won that meeting on a 40 yard field goal with just over one minute remaining. This season's meeting will be nationally televised on the Versus network. This is the first time this game has been televised on a large scale since 2003.
Kansas State is entering this game with a 5-4 record, 3-3 in Big XII play. The season started with a hard fought loss to Auburn, 13-23 in a game they were in position to win up until the very end. They followed that game up with a pair of easy victories over San Jose State and Missouri State before entering Big XII action. In their first conference game, they defeated Texas in Austin 41-21 in a game that was won by their defense and special teams. The next game on their slate was against in-state rival Kansas. The Wildcats were ranked, but were taken down by the Jayhawks 30-24 in a very good game where turnovers were the difference. Kansas State got back on track the next week against Colorado, disposing of them easily, 47-20. The following game, Oklahoma State would defeat the Wildcats 41-39 with a last second field goal. After defeating Baylor 51-13 in game 8, they met up with Iowa State last week in a game they were expected to be victorious. Iowa State was dead last in the Big XII without a conference win, but managed to upset the Wildcats 31-20. A win Saturday keeps the Wildcats in bowl contention with a sixth win in a season that they may need seven. This is probably their most likely win left on their schedule, with games against Missouri and at Fresno State remaining.
Nebraska enters Saturday's game in Lawrence with a 4-6 record, and just 1-5 in Big XII play. Nebraska started off hot against Nevada, before fizzling out. The defense started to show signs of being in trouble in game 2 against Wake Forest, having issues with tackling and has since been throttled offensively by just about everyone on the schedule. The offense was exposed against Iowa State six weeks ago, and hasn't been consistent since. The following game against Texas A&M showed Nebraska to be competitive for 2 quarters before falling apart in the second half. Game nine against Texas saw Nebraska jump out to a 17-3 lead before allowing Texas to score 25 unanswered second half points, ultimately losing the game 28-25. Last week against the Jayhawks, Nebraska was embarrassed again on national television, giving up a school record 76 points in a 76-39 loss. Nebraska has been out-gained in their last 9 games, with a defense that has done nothing but get worse over the course of the season. A win over Kansas State would give Nebraska just their second conference win, and fifth overall, however, could still keep them alive in bowl possibilities. This is Nebraska's best shot at a win left on the schedule, with only a meeting at Colorado remaining. A loss would be their 6th straight, eliminate any hopes of a bowl game, and make it a long two weeks before the game against the Buffaloes.
Nebraska has got to perform for 60 minutes offensively. Nebraska scored 39 points last week against a Jayhawk defense that was giving up just 10.25 points per game. QB Joe Ganz will make his second start this week, and will have to be better than 50% throwing the football. He also cannot afford to throw 4 interceptions in any game. Ganz will likely look to Nebraska's best playmaker and his favorite target from a week ago, WR Maurice Purify. Purify is a difference maker on the Huskers' offense and for whatever reason hasn't been on the field much this year. It will be his last game in Lincoln, and he will surely like to leave a lasting impression. Kansas State has a good secondary, but it has given up plenty of yards. Their strength relies in their ability to create turnovers, which they will look to do against a Nebraska offense that has been prone to turnovers this season. To win the game, Nebraska will need to concentrate on having success rushing the football. To do so, the offensive line must put forth their best effort of the season, and open up consistent holes for the talented Nebraska running backs to run through. Kansas State's rush defense is very good, and the task will not be easy for the Huskers.
Kansas State will look to get the ball into the hands of their best playmaker, Jordy Nelson. He has been outstanding as a receiver and a return specialist this year. QB Josh Freeman needs to be consistent and efficient. He's definitely improved since last season, but has still made a number of mistakes and has thrown 10 interceptions. WR Deon Murphy has really been Kansas State's only other big touchdown threat, catching 5, and rushing for 2 more. With a defense like Nebraska's, the Wildcats should be able to toss the ball around with success. Running backs James Johnson and Leon Patton are averaging 5.25 yards per carry between them, and shouldn't have too much trouble getting things moving against Nebraska's defense. If Kansas State does a good job of ball control and doesn't turn it over, they are going to have opportunities to put up big numbers Saturday. This is the worst defense in Nebraska's school history and gave up touchdowns in 11 of the last 12 possessions Kansas had last week.
Nebraska will have to take chances to get a win Saturday. The "read and react" defense from the 4-3 base for Nebraska has just not worked against proficient offenses this season. Nebraska can find success if they are able to blitz heavily out of cover one situations. Bring a corner, bring a safety, bring linebackers, the only way they will be able to force errors is to get in the face of KSU QB Josh Freeman. Nebraska will also have a chance if they can get a run game established early and keep their QB Joe Ganz from turning the ball over. Kansas State has not played well on the road under head coach Ron Prince, sporting a 2-7 record away from Manhattan in two seasons. The question is how hard Nebraska head coach Bill Callahan's team will play for him in what is likely his final game coaching in Lincoln. The Huskers have not lost to both Kansas and Kansas State since 1968, and it will take a spirited effort for four quarters from Nebraska to stop it from being completed Saturday. It's Senior Day in Lincoln, and there is no reason for the team to not lay it all out on the field. Still, it seems impossible to pick a team to win a game that just gave up 76 points last week, even with Kansas State losing to Iowa State. Nebraska will play well, and keep it fairly close, but should come up just short on the scoreboard.
Kansas State - 35
Nebraska - 31