Nebraska hasn't been good on the road. That's even an understatement, sad as it might be for NU fans to admit. Four straight losses on the road to be exact. Sure, they came at the hands of a decent team, a couple of good teams and the best team in the country, but Nebraska losing four straight anything in football is like Kansas State winning a first place anything in football. It just doesn't happen.
Nebraska's game on the Cowboys' turf offers them many more opportunities than obstacles however. It's a chance to break the road-losing streak, a chance to keep the momentum going off of two straight wins and it's a chance to see if Nebraska can take it's most recent win, a dominating performance against Missouri, through Stillwater and on to College station. The players and coaches can't look ahead, but just for this brief minute, I figured I would take a stab.
Ok, enough looking ahead.
Let's look at the Cowboys:
Rashaun Woods. Remember that name. Actually, you probably already know that name. You remember Justin Gage, Mizzou's superstar receiver? This guy is better than him. That's not just my opinion, but that of a lot of people, but the bottom line is, the NU secondary is going to have to keep their eye on him. Woods is used to getting the ball and a lot during the course of the game. With a more traditional type passer in Josh Fields starting for Oklahoma State, Woods' forte' is getting open, getting the ball and then, making things happen. Right now, Woods ranks in the top ten in receptions per game (7.67), is 11th in total yards per game (112.67) and as you might expect, those statistics have put him very high on the Fred Biletnikoff Award watch list.
Watch out for him, because he's the Cowboys' main threat for big plays.
Just a quick step back to their starting quarterback, you want to know how "traditional" he really is? Josh has rushed the ball 20 times for negative 70 yards.
If this doesn't make the rush ends for Nebraska drool, nothing will.
Ok. State's rushing attack isn't terribly prolific, but their top three rushers are all averaging at least 5 yards per carry and each of those three have had big play runs for at least 45 yards to the end zone. What NU will have to do to stop any of the above mentioned guys is to get to the ONE guy, the quarterback.
NU prides itself on stopping the run first and making the QB beat you. Well, for the Cowboys, that's fine, because with their WR core and their pocket-passing QB, that's just what they intend to do. The protection for Fields will be key throughout the game, so their offensive line will be under great pressure to make sure there is no pressure on their field general.
Out of the front five for Oklahoma St., 2 are seniors, while the rest go as follows: redshirt freshman, sophomore and sophomore. And though all but one of their linemen weigh over 300 lbs., that one redshirt freshman that doesn't weighs in at 265. Ryon Bingham might just be getting excited just looking at that little stat.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Cowboys will attempt to stop a resurgent Nebraska offense. Led (at least statistically in the last two games) by true freshman, David Horne, Jammal Lord and company will try to duplicate their performance against Missouri that saw them acting a little like NU offenses of old, running the clock down, driving the ball down the opponent's throat and basically grinding the other guy to dust. NU put 359 yards on the ground against Missouri and you can bet they hope to do close to the same down in Stillwater.
There will be a good effort to stop them though.
Last week, Oklahoma State didn't exactly wow anyone with their defensive prowess as Kansas State decimated the Cowboys, 44-9. The Wildcats were able to rush for almost 300 and pass for just over 200 as the Okies never got anything going all day on either side of the ball. This game in stark contrast to the game they just got done playing in Austin, where the Cowboys gave Texas everything they could handle and then some, just getting edged out, 17 -15.
So, the question here might be, which Cowboys team will show up.
You could ask that about the Huskers as well.
With Oklahoma State's 4-2-5 defense, there will certainly appear to be some running opportunities for the Huskers. Though you could expect the Cowboy defense to stack the box like everyone else has, if NU blocks like it did against Missouri, there could still be some good shots and if a running back breaks out into the open, just put it down for six.
What you normally expect NU to do in a case like this is try the gut first, move in a little option left and then, option right and what NU fans hopes follows after that is some nifty and well-timed play action passing.
What Ok. State fans can hope is that their sheepishly thin defensive line (thin as in depth) can withstand four quarters of the Huskers going at them, at them and at them some more. No matter what NU does, the job of the offensive linemen is to smash the hell out of whoever is right across from them. The Cowboys' D is going to need a lot of help from their linebackers and maybe, even their safeties, if they want to give their interior the help they are probably going to need.
I know what you are saying right now, especially if you are a Cowboy fan. I seem to be talking about Nebraska as if they are the old Nebraska and not a team that is struggling it's way back from breaking some milestone streaks that were in their favor. I am talking about Nebraska like they actually have it back together, whatever you deem "it" to be.
Well, that's exactly what I think and this road test will be exactly what NU needs to get them over yet another mental obstacle. It's not friendly in Stillwater, nor should Lord find it terribly easy to audible out of every other play. It will be loud, it will be roudy and like many other teams have looked to do this year, people want some payback.
It's on Ok. State's home field, Nebraska is technically as down as they have been in decades and revenge is ripe for the taking.
This is a different Nebraska team though than the one you saw in Happy Valley and in Ames. This one is out for blood.
I say they get some this weekend against the Cowboys, beating Ok. State handily, 41-10.
Players of the game:
Offense: David Horne
Defense: Fabian Washington