San Jose St. vs Nebraska

Check out our latest game preview as the Huskers take on the spread offense of Head Coach Dick Tomey and his San Jose State Spartans.

Vince Campisi's College Football Game Preview
Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. San Jose State Spartans

09/04/08
--by Vince Campisi




GAME TWO
September 6, 2008
11:30 AM CT
Lincoln, NE
Television Coverage: Fox Sports PPV


SAN JOSE STATE (1 - 0) (0 - 0)
VS
NEBRASKA (1 - 0) (0 - 0)



Gametime Weather
Weather Report for Nebraska vs. San Jose State

Latest Line - Nebraska by 26.5.


Schedules/Results

San Jose State
08/30/08 - vs. California-Davis - W 13-10
09/06/08 - at. Nebraska
09/13/08 - vs. San Diego State
09/20/08 - at. Stanford
09/28/08 - at. Hawaii
10/11/08 - vs. Utah State
10/18/08 - at. New Mexico State
10/24/08 - vs. Boise State
11/01/08 - at. Idaho
11/08/08 - vs. Louisiana Tech
11/15/08 - at. Nevada
11/21/08 - vs. Fresno State

Nebraska

08/30/08 - vs. Western Michigan - W 47-24
09/06/08 - vs. San Jose State
09/13/08 - vs. New Mexico State
09/27/08 - vs. Virginia Tech
10/04/08 - vs. Missouri
10/11/08 - at. Texas Tech
10/18/08 - at. Iowa State
10/25/08 - vs. Baylor
11/01/08 - at. Oklahoma
11/08/08 - vs. Kansas
11/15/08 - at. Kansas State
11/10/08 - vs. Colorado


Player Breakdowns

San Jose State Offense

San Jose State's offense was not great against Cal-Davis last weekend.  The first half was a disaster, but after switching to QB Kyle Reed, they were able to overcome a 10 point deficit in the second half to win 13-10.  After one game, the Spartans place 84th nationally in total offense (273 ypg), 40th in passing (231 ypg), 43rd in passing efficiency (141.22 rating), 96th rushing (42 ypg), 88th scoring offense (13 ppg), and 40th in turnover margin (0 pg).  

QB: Jr. Kyle Reed (14 of 18, 132 yds, 2 TDs) has emerged as the Spartans' top QB after beginning last week as the team's third option.  Up against Cal-Davis, Jr. Myles Eden (10 of 13, 86 yds, 1 INT) and So. Jordan LaSecla (2 of 3, 13 yds, 1 INT) failed to generate a scoring drive, and Reed was put into action in the second drive of the third quarter.  Reed led the Spartans to a touchdown on his first drive, and the game winning touchdown was earned with just eight seconds remaining.  Reed was a highly regarded high school talent, and committed to Cal in 2005.  After suffering a broken foot and looking at two names ahead of his on the depth chart, not many believed that his first collegiate snap would take place Saturday.  He completed over 77.8% of his passes last week, and holds an impressive 176.04 pass efficiency rating.  Reed is quick on his feet, and rushed for 41 yards, but lost 13 of those on a pair of sacks.  That dimension makes him dangerous, and buys time to find some of his talented receivers.  

RB: Sr. Yonus Davis (7 carries, 26 yds) was granted a sixth year of eligibility and is the top back, and is also the smallest at 5'8", 190 lbs.  He wasn't sure if he was going to be eligible this season until very late, so having him back was a pretty good bonus for the Spartans.  Davis doesn't have elite speed, but he makes great cuts and can stop on a dime.  He had a great season in 2006, eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark, but missed most of last season with an ankle injury.  Behind Davis is Jr. Dominique Hunsucker (3 carries, -1 yd), TFr. Brandon Rutley (1 carry, 4 yds), and TFr. Ina Liaina (1 carry, 0 yds).  Playing behind an injury plagued offensive line, rushing yards will be hard to come by for this group.  In addition, with the switch to their no-huddle, spread offense, there weren't a great deal of rushes by the backs last week.  Take away the QB's runs last week and the Spartan backs rushed the ball just 12 times.  Davis is a viable receiving threat, as last week, he caught three passes for 25 yards.  He is one of their top playmakers and getting the ball in his hands is necessary for them to have a bowl season.

WR/TE: The Spartans are solid at wide receiver, with two of the best in the WAC.  Starters at receiver include Sr. Kevin Jurovich (11 catches, 99 yds, 1 TD), Sr. David Richmond (6 catches, 60 yds), and Jr. Jalal Beauchman (4 catches, 40 yds).  All three have good hands and are dangerous deep threats.  Jurovich returns this season after picking up 1,183 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns after switching from safety last year.  Richmond had an also impressive 55 catches for 852 yards and 3 touchdowns a season ago.  They are easily the best playmakers for this offense, and will look to get some big plays this week against a Nebraska defense that had difficulties stopping the pass in their season opener.  Top reserves at receiver include Jr. Terrence Williams (1 catch, 3 yds), RFr. Michael Avila, and RFr. Josh Harrison.  Avila and Harrison are the only receivers under 6' tall, while Williams is the tallest of the bunch at 6'5".  Starting at TE is Sr. Jeff Clark (1 catch, 4 yds).  Clark played in just four games last season, and was able to catch 8 passes for 70 yards and 1 touchdown.  The second option at TE is Sr. Brian Elledge.  Overall, this is a very good group of receivers that was dying for a QB to help them click last week.  If Kyle Reed is indeed that guy, this unit will put up some big numbers, especially when they reach the conference slate.

OL: San Jose State's offensive line is a group that has been hit with some injuries which is really hurting the performance of the offense as a whole.  The line allowed for an anemic average of just 1.8 yards per rush, also giving up 2 sacks and 10 tackles for loss last week to Cal-Davis.  Starting at left tackle is So. John Konye (6'4", 270 lbs), with Jr. Jon Moreno (6'4", 280 lbs) starting on the right.  These aren't the biggest tackles you'll find around the country, with neither over 280 lbs.  That will make for some interesting match-ups against a big Nebraska defensive front four.  So. Fred Koloto (6'3", 290 lbs) is the top back-up at LT, while Sr. Bradis McGriff (6'6", 340 lbs) is the top reserve at RT.  Starters at guard are Jr. Nathaniel Timo (6'0", 335 lbs) on the left and So. Ailao Eliapo (6'3", 320 lbs) on the right.  Eliapo played on the defensive line last season for 9 games before making the switch to offense.  Top reserves at guard are Sr. Bradis McGriff (6'6", 340 lbs) at LG, and Jr. Steve Lightsy (6'4", 370 lbs) at RG.  Lightsy was a JUCO All-American last season, and should be an asset when he has the schemes down.  At center, So. Robbie Reed (6'3", 290 lbs) starts, with So. Ailao Eliapo (6'3", 320 lbs) is listed as his back-up.  Just eight linemen are left in the two-deep, usually reserved for ten players.  This unit cannot afford any additional injuries.


San Jose State Defense


The Spartans' defense looked pretty decent last week against a less than stellar opponent in FCS team, Cal-Davis.  However, they'll be up against a bigger, faster, and more explosive offense this week in Nebraska.  After their first game, they rank 34th nationally in total defense (254 ypg), 54th pass defense (193 ypg), 50th pass efficiency defense (107.42 rating), 25th rush defense (61 ypg), 23rd in scoring defense (10 ppg), 27th in fumbles recovered (1), and 11th in interceptions (2).  

DL: San Jose State's defensive front is full of experience, and will look to build off of a strong performance from last week.  Against Cal-Davis, they allowed just 2 yards per carry, not bad considering the Spartans finished last season ranked 73rd in rush defense.  However, to keep things in perspective, Cal-Davis is a team from the FCS and doesn't possess the talent of many of the teams awaiting SJSU this season.  Starting at defensive end is Sr. Jeff Schweiger (5 tackles, 1 FR, 1 QBH, 1 PBU) on the left and Jr. Carl Ihenacho (9 tackles, 1 sack, 2 FF, 1 QBH) on the right.  Schweiger is a transfer from USC, and looked pretty good in his first game at DE last week.  Ihenacho forced a fumble in the third quarter that was recovered by Schweiger and helped swing momentum in the favor of the Spartans.  Top reserves at defensive end are Jr. Liam Smith (3 tackles) and Jr. Mohamed Marah.  Marah was a fullback last season, before making a switch to defense for this year.  Starters at defensive tackle are Sr. Jarron Gilbert (4 tackles) and Jr. Adonis Davis (7 tackles). Gilbert made the switch to tackle from end after Schweiger beat him out for the starting spot.  Back-up tackles that are likely to see rotation are Jr. Kalvin Cressel (1 tackle, 1 QBH), RFr. Joe Nigos, and Sr. Marcus Keli.
 
LB: The Spartans' linebacking corps is expected to be the weak link for the defense this season.  This isn't the fastest group of linebackers around, but they are a pretty tough crew.  Starting at MLB is Jr. Travis Jones (5 tackles, 2 PBU) with So. Braden Storaasli (2 tackles, 1 blocked kick) and TFr. Wade O'Neill serving as his back-ups.  On the outside, Jr. Justin Cole (2 tackles) starts at SLB, while So. Duke Ihenacho (5 tackles) starts at WLB.  Cole suffered a minor injury in last week’s game, missing the second half, but is expected to return to the starting line-up this week.  So. Pompey Festejo (6 tackles) and TFr. Kyler O'Neal (1 tackles) are the top reserves at SLB, with Sr. Dimitrous Chattman being the top back-up at WLB.  Cole and Jones may each play at MLB at different points in the game.  This unit is likely to struggle this season due to the graduations of Matt Castelo and Demetrius Jones, as the pair combined for 251 tackles (17 for loss).  Replacing that duo will be an incredibly difficult task for this group, and it would be unfair to expect there to be a seamless transition.  

DB: San Jose State's secondary is an experienced group and has two possible All-WAC corners in the line-up.  Starting at cornerback is Sr. Coye Francies (8 tackles, 1 PBU) on the left and Sr. Christopher Owens (4 tackles, 1 INT) on the right.  Despite losing All-WAC corner Dwight Lowery to graduation, this is still one of the best units in the conference.  That is because they return Owens, a second team All-WAC corner last season and Francies, the talented Oregon State transfer that could contend for all conference honors in his only season in San Jose.  Top reserves at cornerback are Jr. Austin Carter and TFr. Ralph Johnson.  At safety, Seniors Kyle Flynn (4 tackles) and Andrew Ryan (6 tackles) share time at SS while So. Devin Newsome (5 tackles, 1 INT) starts at FS.  Top backups at safety include Sr. Dimitrous Chattman, TFr. Tanner Burns, and TFr. Tiuke Tuipolotu.  Cal-Davis completed 61.7% of their passes against the Spartans last week, with the average completion going for over 9 yards.  The secondary will need to continue getting interceptions, as they get ready to square off against one of the nation's best aerial attacks in Nebraska this week.


San Jose State Special Teams

San Jose State's special teams were fair last week in the season opener.  The performances were mostly good, but they weren't playing a fellow FBS team.  The Spartans rank 54th in net punting (35 yd avg), 66th in punt returns (3.50 yd avg), and 35th in kickoff returns (23.75 yd avg).

K: Sr. Jared Strubeck handled kicking duties last week.  His career has been hot and cold, and he started this season off ice cold.  He missed both of his FG attempts last week, from 42 and 43 yards each.  On kickoffs, he is averaged 59.5 yards on his 2 kicks with no touchbacks.  He will be replaced this week by Jr. Will Johnson.  Johnson was an underwhelming 0 for 3 last season, with 2 of those misses coming from inside 40 yards.  

P: Jr. Philip Zavala, a JUCO transfer, looked pretty good in his first game with the Spartans.  He punted 5 times for an average of 37.6 yards.  He had a long of 58, while 3 of his 5 punts were downed inside the Cal-Davis 20.

KR/PR: The San Jose State return game was solid in their season opener.  Sr. Coye Francies (3 kick returns, 30.7 yd avg) and RFr. Josh Harrison make up the top kickoff return team.  Sr. Kevin Jurovich (2 punt returns, 3.5 yd avg) and Sr. Coye Francis are the top options at punt returner.  

Coverage: The Spartans' kick coverage team was pretty solid last week, allowing an average of 15.50 yards on 2 kickoff return attempts.  The punt coverage team had to stop just one return, and that return went for 13 yards.



Nebraska Offense

The Nebraska offense played well against Western Michigan in the season opener last week, especially through the air.  The second half play wasn't as consistent as in the first, and the running game just wasn't there between the tackles.  Through one week, Nebraska ranks 28th nationally in total offense (483 ypg), 11th in passing (345 ypg), 22nd in pass efficiency (161.66 rating), 60th in rushing (138 ypg), 19th in scoring offense (47 ppg), and 40th in turnover margin (0 mrg).  

QB:  Sr. Joe Ganz (20 for 36, 345 yds, 4 TDs, 2 INTs) had an interesting season opener against Western Michigan last Saturday.  Ganz had a great first half, throwing three of his four touchdown passes, but the second half was a different story.  Ganz threw two interceptions in the second half as well as a number of plays that could have resulted in nice gains, but the throw was behind or too far for his receiver.  Ganz's showed his foot-speed, escaping potential tacklers to make some big throws, as well as running a few options.  He rushed for 38 yards on 6 carries last week.  Behind Ganz is a group of inexperienced quarterbacks.  RFr. Patrick Witt and So. Zac Lee, neither of whom has stepped on the field for the Huskers, are listed as the Huskers' top back-up options.

RB: Nebraska has a great group of running backs, with the top three guys listed as co-#1's.  Sr. Marlon Lucky (12 carries, 43 yds, 1 TD), So. Roy Helu (7 carries, 52 yds), and So. Quentin Castille (6 carries, 5 yds) all saw at least 6 carries last week, but weren't able to find much running room between the tackles.  Castille especially struggled with that, being more of a power style back, but not a pure power guy.  Lucky is the main guy, and had a great touchdown run where he showed patience and good decision making.  Helu looked solid in his limited carries, as he ripped off a nice 27 yard rush in the second half.  Lucky (2 catches, 35 yds, 1 TD) is the best receiving running back in college football, and will likely start seeing more passes come his way as the season goes along.  Castille (3 catches, 38 yds) had a great 31 yard reception in which he showcased his speed after the catch.  At FB, Sr. Thomas Lawson starts, and is backed up by So. Justin Makovicka.  The fullback has not touched the ball much in Nebraska's offense over the last 4 seasons, and it is unclear how many touches they will get under this season's slightly altered offense.
 
WR/TE: Nebraska's receiving corps looked very good last Saturday, as a few of the young guys stepped up and impressed.  Sr. Nate Swift (5 catches, 121 yds, 2 TDs) starts at "X", and was outstanding last week, making multiple big plays for the offense with his best being a 61 yard touchdown.  At "Z", Sr. Todd Peterson (3 catches, 34 yds) is the starter and had a few nice catches in the season opener.  Top reserves at "X" are Jr. Menelik Holt (5 catches, 59 yds), So. Will Henry, and Jr. Chris Brooks.  Holt showed good hands and good route running, and his longest catch of the game was for 25 yards.  Other options at "Z" are So. Niles Paul and RFr. Curenski Gilleylen.  Both are speedy guys that can be solid threats for their team.  The wide-outs also showed blocking skills off, as they made some blocks that sprung some big plays last week.  Top TE's are So. Mike McNeill (1 catch, 3 yds, 1 TD) and So. Dreu Young (1 catch, 55 yds), with RFr. Ryan Hill and TFr. Ben Cotton performing as back-ups.  TE play was excellent in the season opener, both blocking and receiving wise.  Young made a spectacular catch over two defenders, resulting in a 55 yard play in the third quarter.

OL: Nebraska’s offensive line was very good in pass protection, not giving up a sack (Ganz's feet escaped from a couple of possibilities), but could not get anything going between the tackles.  Western Michigan was loading the box quite often, however.  But if Nebraska wants to be better than they were a season ago, a potent rushing attack needs to materialize, and soon.  Last week, the line allowed for their backfield to gain 4.5 yards per carry, similar to last year's numbers.  Starting at tackle is So. Mike Smith (6'6", 285 lbs) on the left and Sr. Lydon Murtha (6'7", 315 lbs) on the right.  Murtha sat out last week's game with arm injury, but is expected back this week.  So. Jaivorio Burkes (6'5", 325 lbs) is the top reserve for Smith, while RFr. Marcel Jones (6'7", 310 lbs) will be Murtha's back-up.  Burkes, as he is getting more reps after getting back to normal after being diagnosed with high blood pressure in the off-season, could earn the starting LT spot at some point this season.  Jones started in place of Murtha last week, and did an admirable job considering he had never played a collegiate snap before.  Starting at left guard is Sr. Mike Huff (6'4", 300 lbs), while Sr. Matt Slauson (6'5", 320 lbs) starts at right guard.  Play from the interior line, especially from Huff, was not up to par last week, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see the back-ups get more time.  So. Keith Williams (6'5", 305 lbs.) and So. D.J. Jones (6'5", 305 lbs) are Nebraska's top reserves at guard and are both capable players.  Jr. Jacob Hickman (6'4", 290 lbs) starts at center, with RFr. Mike Caputo (6'1", 275 lbs.) backing him up.  Hickman is a stable center, but won't dominate an opposing tackle.  


Nebraska Defense


Nebraska's defense looked improved against Western Michigan last week versus their performances last season.  The Huskers were able to stifle the run, however, had some major problems in pass defense, especially safety play.  After playing one game, the Huskers rank 63rd nationally in total defense (350 ypg), 101st pass defense (342 ypg), 72nd pass efficiency defense (129.22 rating), 5th rush defense (8 ypg), and 63rd in scoring defense (24 ppg), 27th in fumbles recovered (1), and 34th in interceptions (1).

DL: Nebraska’s defensive line seemingly has made great strides from last season.  They put the hammer down against the Western Michigan running game, and also had a decent pass rush.  Last week, Western Michigan averaged 0.3 yards per rush, an outstanding improvement over last season's 5.2 yard per rush average.  Sr. Barry Turner (3 tackles, 1 sack) starts at open end with Sr. Zach Potter (2 tackles, 1 QBH) starting at base end.  Both can be strong off the edge, with Turner using speed to beat his man, and Potter using his strength.  Still, there is improvement to be made with these two.  Top defensive end reserves are Sr. Clayton Sievers (1 tackle) at base and So. Pierre Allen (1 tackle) at the open spot.  Starting at nose tackle is Jr. Ndamukong Suh (4 tackles, 1 QBH), with Sr. Shukree Barfield (1 tackle, 1 sack) and RFr. Terrence Moore (3 tackles, 2 sacks) performing back-up duties.  Suh was double-teamed often last week, and played well despite that.  He should do nothing but get better as the season moves along.  Sr. Ty Steinkuhler (8 tackles) starts at defensive tackle, and played very well last week.  While Suh was getting double teamed, Steinkuhler was putting that to his favor and making plays.  If he stays healthy, he could have a big year.  RFr. Jared Crick (1 PBU) is the top DT reserve and had a big third down pass deflection in the third quarter of the season opener.

LB: Nebraska's linebackers played better than expected in week one.  An inexperienced group, it was unclear how well they would perform on the field, especially considering most of this season's starters were sitting on the bench behind possibly the worst linebacking corps in Nebraska football history last year.  They appeared pretty fast, aggressive, and tackled well.  Jr. Phillip Dillard (4 tackles, 1 QBH) starts at MLB, has great potential, and had a quiet, but effective game one.  Behind Dillard is TFr. Will Compton and Jr. Colton Koehler (1 tackle).  Sr. Tyler Wortman (2 tackles) starts at Buck, with TFr. Sean Fisher serving as his back-up.  Wortman wasn't spectacular in his first start, but also didn't really hurt the team with a lot of mistakes.  Sr. Cody Glenn (12 tackles, 3 PBU, 1 FF) starts at WLB after converting from LB in the off-season.  Glenn played with fire and was making plays all over the field.  He also got beat in coverage a few times, but a few of those were mismatches that shouldn't have happened.  The fact that he hasn't played defense at the collegiate level before and he performed like this, shows that he has what it takes to be a special player this season.  So. Blake Lawrence serves as his back-up.  The problem with this group is that there is so much inexperience that an injury to one of the starters could really hamper the defense.  Oddly enough, the back-ups did not play a snap on defense last week.

DB: Nebraska’s secondary gave up chunks of yards against Western Michigan last week, but should be expected to get better as the season goes, due to the inexperience.  Sr. Armando Murillo starts at LCB, with So. Eric Hagg (5 tackles, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 PBU) backing him up.  Murillo was injured for the season opener, but is expected to play this week.  Because of his absence, Nebraska had to break in 3 players without starting experience in the secondary last week, adding to their troubles.  However, Hagg did play fairly well considering his inexperience, recovering one fumble while forcing another.  So. Anthony West (3 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBU) starts at RCB, with So. Prince Amukamara (8 tackles, 1 QBH, 1 PBU) serving as his back-up.  Amukamara was a pleasant surprise, and could find his way into the starting lineup if he continues to play well.  At safety, Jr. Larry Asante (78 tackles, 1 FF, 1 QBH, 4 PBU) starts at SS, with Jr. Major Culbert (9 tackles) backing him up.  Asante is a good athlete, but seemed lost at times last week, getting beat on a number of occasions and missed a couple of tackles.  Culbert was injured last week and held out of the game, he should be back this week.  Jr. Rickey Thenarse (28 tackles, 2 FF) and Sr. Matt O'Hanlon (3 tackles) will share time at FS this season.  O'Hanlon got most of the playing time last week, as Thenarse injured his shoulder early in the game and sat out.  He should be ready to go this week, which is good news, because O'Hanlon does not have the athleticism to take the FS position for an entire game like he did last week.


Nebraska Special Teams

Nebraska's special teams were decent in their season opener.  They had a few nice returns, and kicker Alex Henery had a big day, but punting wasn't consistent and the coverage teams had a few problems.  The Huskers rank 78th in net punting (31 yd avg), 27th in punt returns (13.67 yd avg), and 54th in kickoff returns (20.40 yd avg).  

K: So. Alex Henery (4 for 4, 44 yd lng) has never missed a FG in his 12 attempts, and hit 4, 44 yard kicks last week.  Actually, Henery is the first kicker in Nebraska history to hit 4 field goals from over 40 yards in one game.  So. Adi Kunalic (1 for 1, 46 yd lng) handles kickoffs and possibly extra-long field goals due to his big leg.  Kunalic has one of the strongest legs in the country, and pushed 5 of 10 kickoffs for touchback last week, with a monster 67.6 yard average.  

P: Sr. Dan Titchener has solid power in his leg, and has been consistent through his career.  He averaged 37.7 yards on 3 punts with a long of 54 last week.  1 of his 3 punts was downed inside the opponents' 20.  It was certainly not one of the better games in his career.  Long snapper is Sr. T.J. O'Leary, a dependable snapper that does a good job at placing the ball where it needs to be.
 
KR/PR: Nebraska’s kick return game is led by So. Niles Paul (2 returns, 24.5 yard avg) and Jr. Larry Asante (2 returns, 15.5 yard avg).  At punt returner is  So. Niles Paul (2 returns, 19 yard avg) and Sr. Nate Swift (1 return, 3 yard avg).  Paul had a good day his return-man roles, and looks poised to possibly break a couple for scores this season.

Coverage: Nebraska’s coverage teams were fairly solid last season.  The kick coverage unit allowed an average of 27.8 yards on 5 kickoff returns.  This was boosted by a 57 yard return that the coverage team slowed down on, not thinking the ball would be returned after it went into the endzone.  That is a mental error that is an easy fix.  The punt return coverage team was untested last week, as none of the three punts were returned.  


Unit Match-Ups



Nebraska's Offense vs. San Jose State's Defense

Nebraska's passing game was strong last week in the season opener, as QB Joe Ganz threw fir 345 yards and four touchdowns.  He was not quite as sharp in the fourth quarter, however, as he threw a pair of interceptions.  A problem he had last season, he forced a few passes he shouldn't have thrown last week; one of those forced balls ended up getting picked off.  A big positive for Ganz, he escaped the pocket when there was pressure, and made a few big plays for his offense on the run.  WR Nate Swift was Ganz's go-to guy, catching five passes, with two of those going for scores.  WR Menelik Holt stepped up, and with his 6'4" frame, looked very good, snagging five passes as well.  He should emerge as a big time player for this offense as the season rolls along.  Something to look for will be big plays to the TE.  There were multiple plays last week in which a Nebraska TE was streaking downfield wide open and Ganz was unable to spot him.  After watching tape this week, that should change.  San Jose State's secondary is one of the best units in the WAC, and their corners match up very well with Nebraska's receivers.  Swift and Peterson will match up against CB's Coye Francies and Christopher Owens, two of the best players in the WAC.  The safeties aren't as good as the corners for the Spartans, but can hold their own, as Devin Newsome managed to pick off a pass which shut down a potential scoring drive for Cal-Davis in the second quarter of last week's game.  RB Marlon Lucky is the best pass catching running back in the country, and is explosive when he catches the ball in the open field.  He wasn't used much as a receiver last week, but that was likely because they didn't need him to.  This Spartan defensive backfield did not play the against the caliber of athletes Nebraska has at receiver and tight end last week, which could cause a period, especially early in the game, where they are getting used to the game speed.  At that same time, Nebraska's receivers went up against a talented and experienced Western Michigan defensive backfield in their season opener.  This gives the advantage to Nebraska, as they looked quite good against a solid secondary, and there is no reason to believe they won't play well again this week.  San Jose State allowed Cal-Davis to complete 61.7% of their passes last week, while Nebraska QB Joe Ganz, completed an average 55.6% of his attempts.  If San Jose State allows Ganz to complete over 60% of his passes, they won't be in the game very long.

The Nebraska running game wasn't where they wanted to be last week.  They have a great trio of backs in Marlon Lucky, Roy Helu, and Quentin Castille, but there weren't a lot of holes to burst through.  Helu averaged 7.4 yards per carry on his 7 attempts, but picked up the bulk of his yards on two rushes (39 yards) in the fourth quarter.   The only rushing room the group found was on the perimeter, with little room allowed between the tackles.  Nebraska added some option plays into their offensive attack in week one, and a couple of times it was successful, while at other times, it seemed telegraphed as to when it was going to happen.  San Jose State did a good job of shutting down the Cal-Davis rushing attack last week, however, will go up against a bigger and stronger offensive line this week.  The Spartans have a pretty inexperienced group of LB's, and for the most-part, will face their first FBS team as starters this week.  Nebraska  head coach Bo Pelini said that week that he isn't concerned about last week's run game performance, however, that attitude is likely to change if they do not have dramatic improvement in the next couple of games.  There is far too much running back and offensive line talent to be having difficulties getting a solid ground game going.  Part of the problem last week was that Western Michigan was putting 8 in the box, so there was less emphasis on trying to pound the rock into an 8 man wall.  Last week, the Spartan defense allowed Cal-Davis to convert on 40% of their third downs, and allowed them to score on 100% of their red-zone opportunities (1 for 1).  In their season opener, Nebraska converted just 38% of their third downs, but was 100% in red-zone scoring offense (4 TDs, 1 FG).  Due to a lack of a running game, Nebraska often found themselves in 3rd and longs, and even though they converted a few of them, that is not a position that lends to success for an offense.  

Up front, Nebraska's average offensive lineman is 6'5", 302 lbs, while San Jose State's defensive linemen average 6'4", 275 lbs.  Nebraska was unable to shove around a smallish Western Michigan defensive front in the run game last week, however, did a nice job in pass protection.  Guard and center play needs to improve as a whole, as that seemed to be the line's problem last week.  San Jose State's defensive line strength is at end, which will make for interesting match-ups against the Nebraska line strength, their tackles.  Nebraska averaged 4.5 yards per carry last week, while San Jose State gave up just 2 yards per carry.  The Huskers did not give up a sack, but did allow 8 tackles for loss last week, while the Spartans earned just 4 tackles for loss and 1 sack against Cal-Davis.  


San Jose State's Offense vs. Nebraska's Defense

The San Jose State passing game received a big boost from last week's third string QB, Kyle Reed.  He completed an amazing 77.8% of his passes last week, while Nebraska's defense allowed Western Michigan to complete 61.2% of their passes.  Reed led a come from behind effort last week in the second half that has San Jose fans optimistic, believing that they have found "the guy" at QB.  Making it easy on him is a great pair of receivers in Kevin Jurovich and David Richmond.  Both can stretch the field, and are hungry for big yards against a Nebraska secondary that gave up 345 yards through the air in their season opener.  The 345 yards can be deceiving, however, considering that nearly a third of those yards came from two big plays, sparked from busted coverage.  Nebraska was able to shut down Western Michigan's Jamarko Simmons last week, an NFL caliber receiver, which was one positive they could take out of that game.  However, safety play must continue to get better, because more often than not, that is what was giving chunks of yards to Western Michigan last week.  The Huskers will play multiple young corners, each of whom had great moments last week, as well as a few mistakes.  Jurovich and Richmond provide another good challenge for them this week.  Nebraska did struggle against the tight end last week, and there will probably be some opportunities for SJSU's Jeff Clark and Brian Elledge to get some work downfield.  RB Yonus Davis has good hands and had about the same production receiving as he did rushing last week (26 yards rushing, 25 yards receiving).  Reed will take off and run with the ball, and having that dimension should help the Spartan offense have some success against the Huskers this week.  However, he'll also need help from the offensive line and running backs to balance this attack.

San Jose State's running game is led by RB Yonus Davis.  He averaged just 3.7 yards per rush last week against Cal-Davis, not the kind of numbers that he was expecting.  Dominique Hunsucker, Brandon Rutley, and Ina Liaina may also see carries come their way, but none are as accomplished as Davis.  Nebraska, after finishing last season 116th against the rush, opened this season with a new attitude and allowed Western Michigan just 8 yards on the ground.  The front seven look better than expected, and should continue to improve each week this season, especially LB Cody Glenn who converted from RB in the off-season.  Glenn flew to the ball on nearly every snap last week, and picked up a team leading 12 tackles.  The big key to this San Jose State running game will be how well their front five can perform against a suddenly solid looking Nebraska defensive front.  The Spartans couldn't run the ball against a team a division below them, so there shouldn't be a lot of confidence that they will be able to run through the Huskers this week.  San Jose State's third down conversion percentage is a poor 25%, with a 67% red-zone scoring average.  Nebraska's defense allowed Western Michigan to convert on just 35% of their 3rd down attempts, and allowed them to score on 80% of their red-zone opportunities last week.  

Up front, San Jose State's average offensive lineman is 6'3", 299 lbs, with Nebraska's average defensive lineman coming in at 6'4", 282 lbs.  The Spartans' line size is deceiving, however, since only two of their starters are over 290 lbs.  The unit has been banged up this year, and has only eight different names in the two-deep, which will cause big problems if they have anyone else go down this season.  They didn't block well last week in the run game, and gave up 4 sacks in pass protection.  All this against FCS opponent, Cal-Davis.  This week, they are up against a Nebraska defensive line that did a good job at getting penetration in their season opener.  It looks as though the new coaching staff is already getting the Nebraska defense back on track.  After one game Nebraska has been credited for 8 tackles for loss and 4 sacks, while the Spartans allowed 10 tackles for loss and 4 sacks.  By another comparison; San Jose State averaged 1.8 yards per carry last week, while Nebraska's allowed just 0.3 yard per carry in their season opener.  Signs are not pointing to a big day on the ground for the Spartans.


Keys to the Game

For Nebraska to Win:
1.) Less DB breakdowns.  Slowing down SJSU WR's Kevin Jurovich and David Richmond is going to be important.
2.) Make third downs more manageable - yards on first and second downs needs to get better.
3.) Win turnover battle - breaking even is better than in the red, but second half turnovers kept the team from closing last weeks game early.
4.) Get the ground game working - with balance comes greater success.
5.) QB Joe Ganz needs to be more consistent for four quarters.  Had a great first half last week, then a decent third quarter, and then a pretty poor fourth.  

For San Jose State to Win:
1.) QB Kyle Reed needs to be "the man".  If last week was a fluke, it is going to be tough to score points against a BCS conference team.
2.) Where was the run game last week?  Without a rushing threat, this game won't be pretty.
3.) Secondary needs to slow down Nebraska QB Joe Ganz, who has thrown for over 300 yards in each of his 4 starts dating back to last season.
4.) Kicking game needs improvement.  After missing both FG attempts last week, a change has been made, but will the replacement be better?
5.) Play a perfect game.  After the performance against UC-Davis, it's hard to imagine this one being close, especially if the Spartans shoot themselves in the foot.


Position Advantages

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


Injury Report

Nebraska:
CB - Anthony Blue - knee - out indefinitely
S - Rickey Thenarse - shoulder - day-to-day
OT - Lydon Murtha - arm - day-to-day

San Jose State:


Game Breakdown & Outlook

This is just the second meeting between San Jose State and Nebraska.  The last time the two teams met was on September 2nd, 2000, in Lincoln.  The Huskers posted a 49-13 victory over the Spartans that day.  Nebraska has an all-time record of 18-1 versus teams from the WAC, with San Jose State posting a record of 3-10 against Big XII schools.  Nebraska and San Jose State shared two opponents last season, Kansas State and Nevada.  Nebraska defeated the Wildcats 73-31, while the Spartans lost to Kansas State 34-14.  Against Nevada, Nebraska won by a score of 52-10, while San Jose State defeated the Wolfpack 27-24.  

San Jose State and Nebraska both enter this game at 1-0, although, for San Jose State, that win almost didn't occur.  It took second half heroics from a third string QB to complete a pass for a touchdown with just 8 seconds remaining to go ahead on the scoreboard and claim victory over FCS opponent, Cal-Davis.  It was an exciting finish to a fairly sloppy game, in which 6 total turnovers were committed.  The Spartans breathed a big sigh of relief that they didn't become the second FBS team to lose to an FCS team last week, the first being cross state rival San Diego State.  Nebraska, on the other hand, earned their win with less drama, defeating Western Michigan 47-24.  

Both teams have highly regarded head coaches.  San Jose State is led by head coach Dick Tomey (176-129-7 all-time, 18-19 at SJSU).  Tomey is well known throughout the college football world for his great defenses, especially when he was at the University of Arizona.  Tomey has a long history with Nebraska, coaching against them as an assistant coach as far back as 1967 when he was with Kansas.  His most recent game against the Huskers came in the 1998 Holiday Bowl, when he coached the Arizona Wildcats to a 23-20 victory over Nebraska.  Nebraska's head coach is Bo Pelini (2-0 all-time).  Many think of him as one of the best defensive minds in the game today, and although this is his first season as a head coach, most project he will be a success while at Nebraska, including San Jose State coach Dick Tomey.

In this week's match-up, on paper, just about everything seems to be in Nebraska's favor.  To put it simply, on offense, Nebraska is more explosive than San Jose State.  Defensively, there is more speed and size on the Nebraska side of the ball.  And on special teams, Nebraska has the better kickers and punters.  That is not to say that San Jose State doesn't have a player or two that could start for the Huskers, because they do have quite a few solid players, a number of whom will be looking for All-WAC honors at the end of the season.  However, it will take an incredible effort and a good amount of luck for the Spartans to pull off the upset in Lincoln on Saturday.  

Certainly, the first thing the Spartans will see is that Western Michigan QB Tim Hiller able to pass for 345 yards against the Huskers.  That seems to mesh with what the Spartans are best at as their offensive strength is obviously its wide receivers and if QB Kyle Reed is going to do his job well, he will be getting the ball to Kevin Jurovich and David Richmond as often as possible.  345 yards is something to shoot for, but Hiller was an accomplished QB with a year of starting experience under his belt before coming to Lincoln last week.  The one thing no one knows is how Reed will handle the pressure.  He hasn't started a game since high school, and hasn't played against a FBS school at all, let alone in their house.  If he stays calm and plays like he did against Cal-Davis, he has weapons at his disposal to be effective.  But unless a competent run game materializes, Nebraska will try to tee-off on Reed and force him into mistakes.  The Nebraska defense was abysmal last season, but looked very much improved in week one.  As the young secondary gets more seasoned, they should be respectable in all of the defensive categories.  It will be very important for the Spartans to get RB Yonus Davis some opportunities to make big plays from the backfield if they want to keep this game from getting out of hand.  

If Nebraska's QB Joe Ganz plays a complete four quarters like he is capable of on a consistent basis, it would be interesting to see what kind of numbers he would put up.  He has a couple of proven receiving threats in WR's Nate Swift and Todd Peterson, while plenty of young guys are showing they are capable of making big plays as well in WR Menelik Holt and TE's Mike McNeil and Dreu Young.  They faced a secondary that is one of the best in the MAC last week in Western Michigan, and performed at a very high level.  San Jose State has one of the best secondaries in the WAC this season.  The Spartans may have a slightly more athletic secondary than the Broncos had a week ago, but given Nebraska's excellent passing attack, it is unlikely they will be able to slow the Huskers down much.  On the ground, Nebraska is too talented at running back and offensive line for the running game to stagnate much longer.  It may not be this week, but it does seem unlikely that this group will put up lackluster stats for an extended period this season.  If they are able to form a stable ground game, Nebraska's offense will be one of the toughest to stop in the nation.  But given last week's performance by both Nebraska and San Jose State, there is hope for the Spartans to make the Huskers one-dimensional this week.  If that happens, this game could get a lot more interesting.

After looking back at both Nebraska and San Jose State's games from last weekend, it is hard to fathom the Spartans hanging in this game for more than a half.  Nebraska's offense has too many weapons on offense for the Spartans to keep under wraps for four quarters, while there are still a number of question marks on the San Jose State offense.  The Spartans will score some points, but not with the proficiency of Nebraska's offense.  San Jose State would have to play the perfect game to be in it towards the end, and given their troubles last week, it seems nearly impossible.  Nebraska should cover the spread, and win by 4 or 5 touchdowns.


San Jose State
- 17
Nebraska - 49

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