Big Red Breakdown: Nebraska vs Arizona

Check out our Big Red Breakdown as the Huskers play host to Arizona in the 2009 Holiday Bowl. It's the last game for one of the most decorated Huskers ever; senior defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh.

Vince Campisi's Holiday Bowl Preview
Arizona Wildcats vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers

12/30/09
--by Vince Campisi




December 30th, 2009
5:00 PM PST
Qualcomm Stadium
San Diego, CA
Television Coverage: ESPN



#20 ARIZONA (8 - 4) (6 - 3)
VS
#22 NEBRASKA (9 - 4) (6 - 2)



Latest Line
Opening: 0.
Current: Nebraska by 3.


Schedules/Results

Arizona
09/05/09 - vs. Central Michigan - W 19-6
09/12/09 - vs. Northern Arizona - W 34-17
09/19/09 - at. Iowa - L 17-27
09/26/09 - at. Oregon State - W 37-32
10/10/09 - at. Washington - L 33-36
10/17/09 - vs. Stanford - W 43-38
10/24/09 - vs. UCLA - W 27-13
11/07/09 - vs. Washington State - W 48-7
11/14/09 - at. California - L 16-24
11/21/09 - vs. Oregon - L 41-44
11/28/09 - at. Arizona State - W 20-17
12/05/09 - at. USC - W 21-17

Nebraska
09/05/09 - vs. Florida Atlantic - W 49-3
09/12/09 - vs. Arkansas State - W 38-9
09/19/09 - at. Virginia Tech - L 15-16
09/26/09 - vs. Louisiana-Lafayette - W 55-0
10/08/09 - at. Missouri - W 27-12
10/17/09 - vs. Texas Tech - L 10-31
10/24/09 - vs. Iowa State - L 7-9
10/31/09 - at. Baylor - W 20-10
11/07/09 - vs. Oklahoma W 10-3
11/14/09 - at. Kansas - W 31-17
11/21/09 - vs. Kansas State  - W 17-3
11/27/09 - at. Colorado - W 28-20
12/05/09 - vs. Texas* - L 12-13
*Big XII Championship Game


Historically Speaking

Wednesday the 30th will mark the 3rd all-time match-up between Arizona and Nebraska, since first meeting in 1961.  Arizona currently holds the series lead (1-0-1).  The last time these two teams met was also in the Holiday Bowl, following the 1998 regular season.  In the first half, the Wildcats would take a 9-0 lead off of 3 Mark McDonald field goals, 2 of which came from Nebraska turnovers.  The Huskers would battle back, as Shevin Wiggins took a 45 yard pass from Eric Crouch for a touchdown between 2 field goals from Kris Brown, giving them a 13-9 halftime lead.  Early in the fourth quarter, Keith Smith would hook up with Brad Brennan from 16 yards out to put the Wildcats back on top 16-13.  Just minutes later, Nebraska answered with a 4 yard Eric Crouch to Tracey Wistrom touchdown pass to regain the lead 20-16.  However, Arizona was not done yet.  They marched down the field on a nine play, 68 yard drive that was finished off by a Kelvin Eafon 1 yard TD rush that gave them a 23-20 lead with just over 6 minutes remaining.  Nebraska was unable to respond this time, as QB Eric Crouch was intercepted by Arizona CB Chris McAlister with 3:10 left in the game.  Arizona punted to the Huskers one last time with :34 left to play, but Nebraska was unable to move the ball into field goal range, as the Wildcats hung on to the victory.



Player Breakdowns

ARIZONA

Arizona Offense

Arizona is decent offensively, but needs to work on their consistency.  In their last game, the Wildcats had a pretty impressive first half against USC, mounting a pair of scoring drives, and typically were moving the ball even on non-scoring possessions.  In the second half, however, they were stuck in neutral until their next-to-last possession, in which they scored the go-ahead touchdown, which was good enough to win the game 21-17.  The Wildcats are currently ranked 40th nationally in total offense (407.50 ypg), 39th in passing (240.08 ypg), 67th in passing efficiency (127.34 rating), 47th in rushing (167.42 ypg), 41st in scoring offense (29.67 ppg), 52nd in interceptions thrown (11), 30th in fumbles lost (8), and 35th in giveaways (19).  

QB: So. Nick Foles (249 of 377, 2420 yds, 19 TDs, 8 INTs) starts at QB for the Wildcats.  He took the starting job four weeks into the season and hasn't looked back.  Foles has a nice arm and puts a good zip on the ball.  He has good pocket presence, steps up, sets his feet, and makes nice throws all over the field.  He can really thread the needle when he's on top of his game.  He throws the underneath routes well and does a good job of checking down his receivers.  He's been inconsistent, however, and will look very average for long stretches of time.  If he's allowed to get comfortable in the pocket, he'll pick an opponent apart, but when he does get pressure, he'll start lofting balls around that are just asking to get intercepted.  Even when he isn't getting pressured, he'll throw an occasional lame duck out there.  He is currently battling an injured non-throwing hand, which has changed the way he takes snaps.  Foles is not a mobile threat and does not typically rush with the football.  Behind Foles is So. Matt Scott (40 of 71, 443 yds, 1 TD, 3 INTs).  Scott began the season as the starting QB, but was moved to back-up duty because of his lacking arm.  He is quite a runner, though, and much more of a rushing threat than Foles.  He has rushed for 305 yards on 40 carries (lost 14) on the season.  The offense will change a bit if Scott has to come into the game in relief of Foles.

RB: The Wildcats' running game has been by committee this season, with four backs contributing often to the offense, largely due to minor injuries suffered by all throughout the year.  Jr. Nic Grigsby (75 carries, 559 yds, 5 TDs), So. Keola Antolin (103 carries, 568 yds, 4 TDs), and RFr. Greg Nwoko (76 carries, 273 yds, 3 TDs) have all had time as the top back, with Sr. Nick Booth (36 carries, 150 yds, 3 TDs) getting a number of carries behind them.  Grigsby has been injured, missing 3 games overall this season, but should be ready to go for the bowl game.  He has averaged an impressive 7.5 yards per carry, and is very slick and speedy.  He'll make you pay for a missed tackle or two, and had an outstanding 94 yard touchdown run earlier this season.  Antolin is the smallest of the group at 5'8", 186 lbs., and has tremendous acceleration through the hole as well as sideline-to-sideline speed.  Nwoko is the power back of the crew, working well on short yardage situations.  The backs are used pretty often in the passing game, accounting for over 15% of total receptions on the team.  Grigsby (10 catches, 51 yds), Antolin (15 catches, 71 yds), Nwoko (18 catches, 186 yds), and Booth (2 catches, 16 yds) have all caught passes this season.  At fullback/halfback is Sr. Chris Gronkowski (2 carries, 1 yd), with TFr. Taimi Tutogi (11 carries, 50 yds, 1 TD) backing him up.  

WR/TE
: The Wildcats' receiving corps is full of quality wideouts that have produced nicely this season.  Starting at the receiver positions are Sr. Terrell Turner (47 catches, 450 yds, 4 TDs) at "X" and Jr. Delashaun Dean (39 catches, 372 yds, 2 TDs) at "Z".  Turner is a steady, dependable receiver that runs clean routes and has very good hands.  He was held without a catch against USC, a rarity for this season.  Dean has great size (6'4") and has good hands.  He works hard to get yards after catch and does very well one-on-one with smaller corners.  So. Bug Wright (23 catches, 234 yds, 1 TD) occasionally enters as a starter at SHB, while So. David Roberts (42 catches, 398 yds, 1 TD) is also an occasional starter at STE.  Wright is just 5'9", but has a very good vertical leap and will let it all hang out to try and make a catch.  He does a good job of getting open, breaks tackles often, and moves up-field quickly.  Roberts is a tough receiver and has held onto the ball, even when getting crushed this season.  Reserves in the rotation at receiver include So. Juron Criner (43 catches, 580 yds, 9 TDs), Jr. Travis Cobb (1 catch, 15 yds), and So. David Douglas (31 catches, 320 yds, 2 TDs).  Criner has the most potential of the entire group, and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.  He does a good job of seeing the sticks and getting first downs, runs clean routes, and is tough to beat one-on-one.  He's 6'4" and has excellent speed to go along with that, making him a dangerous target.  At tight end is Jr. A.J. Simmons (10 catches, 132 yds, 1 TD), with Sr. Chris Gronkowski (4 catches, 20 yds) backing him up.  This group really misses Jr. Rob Gronkowski, whom injured his back in September and missed most of the season.  He is an NFL caliber tight end and will likely be back for his senior season next year.

OL: Arizona's offensive line has been one of the better groups this year nationally in keeping their QB upright.  They are ranked in the top 10 in both sacks given up (10th) and tackles for loss allowed (8th).  Run blocking has also been pretty solid, leading the way for their speedy backs.  Starting at tackle is Sr. Mike Diaz (6'5", 320 lbs) on the left and Sr. Adam Grant (6'6", 325 lbs) on the right.  Diaz has good pass blocking technique and footwork, keeping his man at arm's reach at all times.  The former JUCO prospect should definitely have a shot at the next level.  Grant is a big, strong tackle that also has good feet.  He hasn't been quite as consistent as Diaz, but is a quality performer at tackle when he is healthy.  The top reserves at tackle are Jr. Phillip Garcia (6'7", 325 lbs) and Jr. Jack Julsing (6'8", 295 lbs).  Starting at guard is Sr. Herman Hall (6'3", 303 lbs) on the left and So. Vaughn Dotsy (6'5", 335 lbs) on the right.  Hall is a versatile lineman that can also see time at center if need be, however, he does have issues with quick, strong defensive tackles.  Dotsy has shown good footwork and quickness for his size, but needs to be a bit more consistent when opening rushing lanes.  Jr. Conan Amituanai (6'4", 335 lbs) serves as the top back-up at guard.  Starting at center is Jr. Colin Baxter (6'4", 295 lbs), with Sr. Blake Kerley (6'2", 285 lbs) backing him up.  Baxter is a solid all-around blocker that has good size, strength, and quickness.  


Arizona Defense

Arizona's defense is a very solid group that does well in nearly every area.  In their last game, against USC, they did a good job of keeping the Trojans from mounting much of an attack, limiting them to just 282 yards and 17 points.  They were helped out by USC's numerous dropped passes, however.  The Wildcats currently rank 21st nationally in total defense (315.83 ypg), 43rd in pass defense (203.92 ypg), 38th in pass efficiency defense (117.95 rating), 22nd in rush defense (111.92 ypg), 46th in scoring defense (23.17 ppg), 44th in interceptions forced (12), 94th in fumbles recovered (7), and 75th in total takeaways (19).  

DL: The Wildcats' defensive line has been pretty good this season, but needs to be more consistent in their pass rush.  Starting at defensive end is Jr. Ricky Elmore (43 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 PBU) on the left and Jr. Brooks Reed (20 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 FF, 1 PBU) on the right.  Elmore leads the Pac-10 conference with his 10.5 sacks (14th nationally).  He has a good first step and does a nice job of getting around the opposing tackle.  He has also been dependable in stuffing the run this season.  Reed's production has dropped from last year, however, he has missed 3 games this season with injury.   He can be very good when he's at his best, but he hasn't gotten there very often this season.  Jr. D'Aundre Reed (14 tackles, 2.5 sacks) serves as the top back-up at defensive end.  He started the three games that B. Reed missed, and filled in nicely.  In the game against USC, he made a nice move to the inside, blowing by the offensive lineman for a sack.  Starting at defensive tackle is Sr. Earl Mitchell (44 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 1 FF, 1 QBH, 1 PBU), with Jr. Lolomana Mikaele (11 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1 FR) and So. Dominique Austin (4 tackles) backing him up.  Mitchell is a leader for the group and has had a very nice season.  He's got a good motor and doesn't give up on plays, really working hard to get after the ball carrier.  Sr. Donald Horton (22 tackles, 3 sacks) starts at nose tackle, with Mikaele and So. Jowyn Ward (1 tackle) serving as his back-ups.  Horton is undersized for the nose, at just 6' and 275 lbs., and isn't strong enough to get off of double teams.  

LB: Arizona's linebacking corps, overall, is an athletic, well rounded group that plays both the run and pass effectively.  Starting at middle linebacker is Sr. Vuna Tuihalamaka (68 tackles, 1 INT, 3 PBU), with Jr. C.J. Parish (3 tackles, 1 FF) backing him up.  Tuihalamaka is the star of the group, delivering crushing hits and doing a good job in coverage.  At times, he seems to come out of nowhere to put the ball carrier down.  His tackling skills make him a valuable asset to the defense, as he seems to always make the play at the point of impact, never getting pushed away or dragged with the ball carrier.  At weakside linebacker is Sr. Xavier Kelley (69 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 PBU), while RFr. R.J. Young (6 tackles) and TFr. Jake Fischer (7 tackles) back him up.  Kelley is very quick, and is finishing up another good season.  He is second on the team in tackles, and does well in coverage and also when blitzing.  Sr. Sterling Lewis (36 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FR, 1 PBU) starts at strongside linebacker, when they are in their base defense.  Lewis is a speedy backer that is well suited for LB blitzes.  He may only have 2 sacks, but when he does blitz, he has done a good job hurrying decisions by the opposing QB.   

DB: The Wildcats' defensive backfield has played well this season, however, they have given up a pretty high 18 touchdowns through the air (7th in the Pac-10).  Starting at cornerback is So. Trevin Wade (66 tackles, 5 INTs, 1 FF, 9 PBU) at left corner and Sr. Devin Ross (74 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FR, 11 PBU) at right corner.  Corner is probably the strongest position on the entire defense, and Wade's emergence has been big for the Wildcats this season.  He is an excellent athlete that has made opposing quarterbacks pay when they have tried to pick on the sophomore.  He needs to work on his rush support skills, however, as he has missed a number of tackles against opposing running backs.  Ross is the best of the secondary, possessing lock-down coverage skills and next level athleticism.  He's also a sure-tackler, wrapping up and hitting hard.  He's physical with receivers, and got away with a pass interference late in the USC game that could have made a difference in the game.  Players in the reserve rotation include Jr. Marcus Benjamin (7 tackles, 1 PBU) and Jr. Mike Turner (11 tackles, 1 FR).  Benjamin has looked good in his limited playing time and will probably push hard for a starting job next season.  He does a good job in rush support and reads the quarterback well in coverage.  Starting at strong safety is So. Robert Golden (37 tackles, 2 INTs, 1 PBU), with Jr. Joe Perkins (21 tackles, 1 INT) backing him up.  Typical for a strong safety, Golden is a big hitter and doesn't miss tackles.  He's just a sophomore and has two years to get even better.  Perkins struggles with rush support and has been dragged many yards after making contact by opposing running backs.  Against USC, this happened twice, with the second one going for a touchdown.  Sr. Cam Nelson (64 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 3 FF, 3 PBU) starts at free safety, with TFr. Adam Hall (9 tackles) serving as the top back-up.  Nelson is wrapping up his third year as a starter and continues to be a well rounded safety, and is good at both coverage and run support.  In nickel situations, Sr. Corey Hall (35 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 PBU) serves as the nickel back.  Hall is a big hitter, can also play outside linebacker, and does a very nice job in run support.


Arizona Special Teams

Arizona's special teams units are a mixed bag.  Their return game is one of the best in the nation, but there have been issues with the coverage teams as well as the kicking game.  The Wildcats currently rank 77th in net punting (34.79 yd avg), 11th in kickoff returns (25.48 yd avg), 4th in punt returns (16.40 yd avg), 38th in kickoff coverage (20.53 yd avg), and 106th in punt coverage (12.79 yd avg).  

K: So. Alex Zendejas has made 17 of his 22 field goal attempts with a long of 47 this season.  He has had 1 blocked, and has missed 2 of his last 5.  So. John Bonano works as the kickoff specialist, pushing 7 of his 39 kickoffs for a touchback this season, with a 65.6 yard average, kicking between the 4 and 5 yard line.  

P: Jr. Keenyn Crier is averaging 41.4 yards on his 48 punts with a long of 68 this season.  10 of his 48 punts have been downed inside the opponents' 20.  

KR/PR: The top kickoff return unit for the Wildcats consists of Jr. Travis Cobb (28 kick returns, 26 yd avg, 1 TD, 95 yd long) and Sr. Nick Booth (3 kick returns, 13 yd avg, 20 yd long).  Cobb is a homerun threat, but is more slippery than he is fast.  The top punt returner is So. Bug Wright (11 punt returns, 19.2 yd avg, 1 TD, 86 yd long).

Coverage: The Wildcats' kick and punt coverage units have been decent this year, but have had some issues with missed tackles.  On the season, the kick coverage unit is allowing an average of 20.9 yards on 54 kickoff return attempts with a long of 57.  The punt coverage unit is allowing an average of 12.8 yards on 14 punt return attempts with a long of 53.    



NEBRASKA

Nebraska Offense

Nebraska's offense is one of the worst in the nation, statistically.  They lack playmakers at quarterback as well as wide receiver, and have difficulties on the offensive line.  The Huskers were terrible in their last outing, against Texas in the Big XII Championship Game, totaling just 106 yards.  The offense has scored just 2 touchdowns in the past 9 quarters of play.  Nebraska currently ranks 102nd nationally in total offense (317.15 ypg), 101st in passing (175.92 ypg), 81st in pass efficiency (122.29 rating), 68th in rushing (141.23 ypg), 80th in scoring offense (24.54 ppg), 60th in interceptions thrown (12), 68th in fumbles lost (11), and 69th in giveaways (23).  

QB: Nebraska is likely to finish the season off with Jr. Zac Lee (164 for 279, 1970 yds, 13 TDs, 10 INTs) at QB, despite not looking starter caliber.  Lee looked great against Nebraska's Sun Belt opposition early in the year, but has not had a solid game against a member of a BCS conference.  He was just 6 of 19 for 39 yards and 3 interceptions in

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the Big XII Championship Game.  He's been playing not to make mistakes, which doesn't do much good unless the team is getting scores from the defense and special teams.  In most games this season, he has been hesitant to throw downfield, instead choosing to check down to much shorter routes.  When he does go downfield, it usually doesn't end well.  He doesn't have great pocket presence, and when pressured chooses to run to the perimeter instead of stepping up into the pocket.  This has been an issue because he just isn't great throwing on the run.  When Lee has been "on", he's shown great arm strength and accuracy, but he hasn't been "on" against any defense of note.  He has decent speed and has rushed for 106 yards on 85 attempts (has lost just over 100 yards on sacks).  TFr. Cody Green (33 for 60, 313 yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) started at QB against Baylor and Oklahoma, but after getting pulled in the 2nd quarter of the Oklahoma game, hasn't seen much action.  He didn't provide the spark many had hoped, but has potential to be a big-time dual-threat QB at some point down the road.  He can run pretty well and has shown a very strong arm, but he just hasn't put it all together mentally yet.  He has carried the ball 26 times for 140 yards and 2 touchdowns (lost 11 yards on sacks).    

RB: Nebraska's running backs are led by Jr. Roy Helu Jr. (217 carries, 1139 yds, 10 TDs).  Helu Jr. has a great combination of hard running, leaping, and cutting ability.  He can beat defenders by running around them, by them, and over them.  He has really turned into a complete back over the past year.  He was bothered by an injured shoulder for much of the year, but has looked more like his old self over the past month or so.  The top back-up to Helu Jr. is TFr. Rex Burkhead (64 carries, 257 yds, 2 TDs), an impressive young back that does a very nice job running between the tackles.  He hits the hole quickly and breaks tackles well.  One weakness, though, is that he tends to run into his blockers and slowing his momentum.  He missed much of the season with a broken foot, but has played well since returning to action.  TFr. Dontrayevous Robinson (38 carries, 159 yds, 2 TDs) is now the number three option with Burkhead back from his injury.  He has shown a lot of potential in his limited carries, running with good power and decent speed.  So. Marcus Mendoza (4 carries, 10 yds), So. Austin Jones (6 carries, 15 yds), RFr. Lester Ward (8 carries, 24 yds), and RFr. Collins Okafor (1 rush, 9 yds) are battling behind Robinson.  Nebraska typically likes to throw the ball to their backs, with Helu Jr. (19 catches, 149 yds), Burkhead (11 catches, 76 yds, 1 TD), Mendoza (7 catches, 45 yds), Robinson (4 catches, 26 yds), and Jones (1 catch, 2 yds) each catching passes this season.  Strangely, Nebraska has thrown to their backs just three times over the past four games.  At fullback, RFr. Tyler Legate (3 catches, 27 yds, 1 TD) is the top guy and but hasn't really seen much time on the field.  When Nebraska has lined up in 2 back sets with Legate in as a lead blocker, the offense has moved the ball pretty well against marginal defensive fronts.  

WR/TE: Nebraska's receivers need to be more consistent if the offense is going to show something in the bowl game.  There have been too many instances of dropped passes and lackadaisical play throughout the season.  Starting at "Z" is Jr. Niles Paul (36 catches, 673 yds, 3 TDs).  He has a great combination of size, quickness, and route running skills.  He is very inconsistent, however, as it seems for every great catch he makes, he'll drop just as many easy ones.  Unfortunately for Nebraska, he's been about the only guy making plays in the group.  Starting at "X" is RFr. Khiry Cooper (13 catches, 80 yds, 1 TD).  He's probably got the most up-side of Nebraska's receivers, but needs to be more physical and work to get open.  Reserves include Sr. Menelik Holt (15 catches, 175 yds, 1 TD), So. Curenski Gilleylen (16 catches, 299 yds, 1 TD), Sr. Chris Brooks (13 catches, 177 yds, 1 TD), Jr. Brandon Kinnie (13 catches, 129 yds), TFr. Antonio Bell (1 catch, 3 yds), Jr. Will Henry (1 catch, 1 yd), and Sr. Wes Cammack (1 catch, 2 yds).  Holt started at "X" for about half of the season, however, dropped passes and poor blocking led to his demotion.  Gilleylen is a speedster that developed into a very dangerous deep threat, but he dropped a couple of passes early in the year and hasn't been targeted since.  Brooks turned into a solid possession receiver this year and probably has the best hands of the entire group, but needs to be a better blocker.  Kinnie has great measurables and is starting to show that he can catch the ball.  Henry is a big body (6'5") but is yet to make an impact.  Nebraska's top TE is Jr. Mike McNeill (25 catches, 240 yds, 4 TDs), with So. Dreu Young (5 catches, 78 yds), So. Ryan Hill (2 catches, 8 yds, 1 TD), RFr. Ben Cotton (5 catches, 43 yds, 1 TD), and RFr. Kyler Reed (6 catches, 54 yds) competing behind McNeill.  McNeill does a nice job of picking up yards after catch, as well as getting open in the endzone.  This is a deep and talented group of tight ends, which are a big strength for the Huskers' offense.  

OL: Nebraska's offensive line continues to be far too inconsistent as the season draws to a close.  At times they do a nice job, but they are also committing costly penalties and getting beat by opposing linemen.  Starting at tackle is Jr. Mike Smith (6'6", 295 lbs) on the left and So. Marcel Jones (6'7", 310 lbs) on the right.  Smith is typically among the best linemen for the Huskers, but has had his share of issues as well this year.  Jones has potential to be a rock on the right side, however, he's young and makes a number of mistakes.  Jr. D.J. Jones (6'5", 315 lbs) is listed as a co-starter with Marcel Jones, even though Marcel sees more snaps.  D.J. doesn't have great torque in the hips and gets beat often by athletic linemen.  TFr. Jeremiah Sirles (6'6", 310 lbs) is another possibility to see in a reserve role at tackle.  Starting at left guard is Jr. Keith Williams (6'5", 315 lbs), while Jr. Ricky Henry (6'4", 300 lbs) starts at right guard.  Williams is a pretty solid blocker, but still has a lot of room for improvement.  He does very well as the pulling guard, plowing through his man and opening holes.  Henry is a player known for his strength and his nasty streak, which has caused a few personal foul flags this year.  Sr. Andy Christensen (6'3", 305 lbs) and Sr. Derek Meyer (6'5", 315 lbs) are Nebraska's top reserves at guard.  Sr. Jacob Hickman (6'4", 290 lbs) starts at center, with So. Mike Caputo (6'1", 275 lbs) backing him up.  Hickman is the leader of the group and a typically solid center.  Caputo isn't a prototypically sized center, but he has very good technique and leverage.


Nebraska Defense

Nebraska's defense is one of the best in the nation this season, and the best that the Blackshirts have performed in about a decade.  In the Big XII Championship Game, they shut down the Colt McCoy led Texas offense, holding them to just 202 yards and 13 points.  The Huskers are currently ranked 9th nationally in total defense (284.54 ypg), 25th in pass defense (189.08 ypg), 3rd in pass efficiency defense (90.54 rating), 11th in rush defense (95.46 ypg), 2nd in scoring defense (11.23 ppg), 9th in interceptions (19), 75th in fumbles recovered (8), and 17th in total takeaways (27).

DL: Nebraska's defensive line is one of the best in the nation.  The group is big, strong, athletic, and makes plays all over the field.  Starting at defensive end is Jr. Pierre Allen (47 tackles, 3 sacks, 8 QBH, 5 PBU) on the right, with Sr. Barry Turner (49 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR, 13 QBH, 4 PBU) on the left.  Both are very good athletes and are playing well, but not quite as well as expected going into the season.  Turner has stepped up his game lately, however, and had an impressive game last time out against Texas with 7 tackles and 2.5 sacks.  Their play has been helped by the excellent play by the d-tackles this season.  RFr. Cameron Meredith (21 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 FR, 2 QBH, 1 PBU) and RFr. Josh Williams (3 tackles) are the top reserves at defensive end.  Meredith has been impressive in his back-up role, and is pushing for more playing time.  Starting at nose tackle is Sr. Ndamukong Suh (82 tackles, 12 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF, 24 QBH, 10 PBU, 3 BK), with So. Terrence Moore (2 tackles) backing him up.  Suh is an elite defensive player that has a motor that doesn't quit, flies to the ball and forces turnovers.  He very rarely comes off the field, yet still has the energy to bring it in the fourth quarter.  He was named the National Defensive Player of the Year, also winning the Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski, and Bednarik Trophies.  So. Jared Crick (70 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 2 FR, 16 QBH, 4 PBU, 1 BK) starts at defensive tackle, with RFr. Baker Steinkuhler (17 tackles, 2 PBU) providing back-up.  Crick has really turned into a big time d-tackle this season, making opponents have to think twice about always doubling up on Suh.

LB: Nebraska's linebacking corps is led by starting weakside linebacker Sr. Phillip Dillard (76 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF, 4 QBH, 2 PBU).  Dillard is a former starter at MIKE that that has done an excellent job at WILL this year.  He brings athleticism and experience to the field that has been invaluable.  Behind Dillard is So. Matthew May (10 tackles).  May has not seen much action this season.  Starting at middle linebacker is RFr. Will Compton (38 tackles, 0.5 sack, 2 QBH, 2 PBU), while Sr. Colton Koehler (5 tackles) is the top reserve.  Compton works hard to get after the ball carrier, but is still learning the defense and makes mistakes.  Starting at buck linebacker is RFr. Sean Fisher (35 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FR, 3 QBH), with TFr. Eric Martin (12 tackles, 2 BK) and RFr. Micah Kreikemeier providing back-up.  Fisher stands at 6'6", and like Compton, should get better each week as they learn how to quickly read and react to the opposing offense.  Unfortunately, with Nebraska playing so much Nickel and Dime, Compton and Fisher haven't really had a large amount of playing time, which has slowed their progression.  Martin is a special teams dynamo and has the ability to be a force for the Huskers at LB when he gets the mental aspect of the game down to match his physicality.  

DB: Nebraska's defensive backfield has played very well this season, and kept up a high level of play no matter the competition.  Other than a few of big plays given up, they have done a very nice job in coverage and making solid tackles.  Jr. Prince Amukamara (61 tackles, 2 sacks, 5 INTs, 1 FF, 1 FR, 11 PBU) starts at LCB, with Jr. Dejon Gomes (45 tackles, 4 INTs, 3 FF, 3 QBH, 5 PBU) and TFr. Andrew Green listed as the top reserves.  Amukamara is a great athlete and has been solid in coverage this season.  Gomes has also been solid in coverage this year, but has missed some tackles in run support against physical ball carriers.  So. Alfonzo Dennard (31 tackles, 7 PBU) took over the role as starting RCB a few games into the season and has performed very well.  He's a physical corner that makes plays on the football and is a solid tackler.  Jr. Anthony West (11 tackles, 3 PBU) backs up Dennard, but has only been average, and needs to play more with his head on a swivel.  So. Lance Thorell (6 tackles, 1 PBU) is another reserve at corner that occasionally sees time.  At strong safety is Sr. Larry Asante (76 tackles, 2 INTs, 2 FF, 7 PBU) starts, with Jr. Eric Hagg (39 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF, 3 QBH, 4 PBU) and RFr. P.J. Smith (14 tackles) backing him up.  Asante has great athleticism and is a big hitter.  He's probably the best of the defensive backfield, and earned 1st team all-Big XII this season.  Hagg does a good job as a blitzing safety and making tackles in the open field.  He's been fairly weak in coverage this season, however.  Sr. Matt O'Hanlon (64 tackles, 2 sacks, 5 INTs, 1 FF, 2 FR, 4 PBU) starts at free safety.  O'Hanlon is often picked on and has been burned in the past, however, has been making some big plays this season both in coverage and in run support.  Behind O'Hanlon is Hagg, So. Austin Cassidy (9 tackles, 1 PBU), and RFr. Courtney Osborne (1 tackle).  


Nebraska Special Teams

Nebraska's special teams units have been excellent this season.  They have some of the best kickers in the nation, however, the return and coverage units can be hot and cold.  The Huskers rank 75th in net punting (34.88 yd avg), 34th in kickoff returns (23.31 yd avg), 34th in punt returns (11.34 yd avg), 13th in kickoff coverage (19.12 yd avg), and 101st in punt coverage (12.23 yd avg).

K: Jr. Alex Henery has one of the strongest and most accurate legs in the nation.  He has made 20 of his 24 attempts this season, with a long of 52.  He's made 32 of his last 33 kicks from under 50 yards.  Jr. Adi Kunalic has a booming leg and is arguably the best kickoff specialist in the nation.  Kunalic has pushed 28 of 70 kickoffs for touchback this season, with an excellent 68.6 yard average, kicking between the 1 and 2 yard line.  He made a huge mistake late in the 4th quarter of the Big XII Championship, however, kicking the ball out of bounds, giving Texas great field position to get into field goal range and eventually kick the game winning FG.  It was the first time Kunalic had kicked off out of bounds all season long.

P: Jr. Alex Henery has averaged 41.7 yards on his 73 punts with a long of 76 this season.  28 of his 73 punts have been downed inside the opponents' 20 so far this year.  He added punting duties to his repertoire this season, and has been a key weapon for the Huskers.  When directional punting or attempting to get the ball downed inside the 10, he's been phenomenal.

KR/PR: Nebraska's top kickoff return unit is made up of Jr. Niles Paul (15 kick returns, 26.5 yd avg, 44 yd long), and RFr. Tim Marlowe (12 kick returns, 23.7 yd avg, 40 yd long).  At punt returner is Jr. Niles Paul (35 punt returns, 10.3 yd avg, 1 TD, 59 yd long).  These units have been very good at times, but are not very consistent.  Paul has been very good the past two games, however.

Coverage: Nebraska's coverage teams have been pretty good this season, but are not immune from occasional tackling problems.  This has allowed an occasional big return.  The kick coverage unit is allowing an average of 19.1 yards on 42 kickoff returns (76 yd long), while the punt coverage unit is allowing an average of 12.2 yards on 30 punt returns (62 yd long).  They have done a really nice job the past three games, keeping returners from doing any real damage.



Position Advantages
Position/Advantage
QBs: Arizona ++
RBs: Nebraska +
WR/TE's: Arizona +
OL: Arizona +
DL: Nebraska +
LB: Arizona +
DB: Nebraska +
Special Teams: Nebraska +
Coaching: Nebraska +
+ = Slight
++ = Moderate
+++ = Large


Injury Report

Arizona:
QB - Nick Foles - Hand - Probable
WR - David Douglas - Shoulder - Probable
RB - Nicholas Grigsby - Shoulder - Probable
TE - Rob Gronkowski - Back - Out for Season

Nebraska:
FS - Rickey Thenarse - Knee - Out for Season
CB - Jase Dean - Knee - Out for Season
QB - Kody Spano - Knee - Out for Season
LB - Blake Lawrence - Concussions - Ended Career


Final Outlook

Nebraska's defense hasn't allowed their opponents many points this season, and Arizona's defense has also been quite good.  Look for most of the scoring to come by way of field goals, with neither offense able to find consistent success moving the football.  Nebraska's offense has been sputtering all season, and it's hard to imagine the light bulb suddenly coming on, however, Arizona's defense is not quite as stifling as the Texas defense Nebraska saw in the Big XII Championship game, so the Huskers might be able to put the ball in the endzone a time or two.  The Wildcats gave up 17 points to USC in their last game, and the Trojans could have easily put up a couple more touchdowns if not for a large number of dropped passes downfield.  Arizona's offense has been inconsistent this season, and will need QB Nick Foles and the offensive line to be on top of their game to find a way to make something happen and keep plays away from Nebraska NT Ndamukong Suh.  Foles will be helped greatly if the running backs can find some seams to run through, which has been very difficult to do against Nebraska's defense this season.  

This should be a very hard fought, close game that will be on the line late in the fourth quarter.  Nebraska's defense and special teams will be the difference, however, helping their offense out with takeaways and putting the Arizona offense in tough positions by pinning them deep.  Nebraska by 3-7 points.


Arizona - 12
Nebraska - 17

Nebraska Football Tickets

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: 0.
: Nebraska by 3.





09/05/09 - vs. Central Michigan - W 19-6
09/12/09 - vs. Northern Arizona - W 34-17
09/19/09 - at. Iowa - L 17-27
09/26/09 - at. Oregon State - W 37-32
10/10/09 - at. Washington - L 33-36
10/17/09 - vs. Stanford - W 43-38
10/24/09 - vs. UCLA - W 27-13
11/07/09 - vs. Washington State - W 48-7
11/14/09 - at. California - L 16-24
11/21/09 - vs. Oregon - L 41-44
11/28/09 - at. Arizona State - W 20-17
12/05/09 - at. USC - W 21-17


09/05/09 - vs. Florida Atlantic - W 49-3
09/12/09 - vs. Arkansas State - W 38-9
09/19/09 - at. Virginia Tech - L 15-16
09/26/09 - vs. Louisiana-Lafayette - W 55-0
10/08/09 - at. Missouri - W 27-12
10/17/09 - vs. Texas Tech - L 10-31
10/24/09 - vs. Iowa State - L 7-9
10/31/09 - at. Baylor - W 20-10
11/07/09 - vs. Oklahoma W 10-3
11/14/09 - at. Kansas - W 31-17
11/21/09 - vs. Kansas State  - W 17-3
11/27/09 - at. Colorado - W 28-20
12/05/09 - vs. Texas* - L 12-13
*Big XII Championship Game




Wednesday the 30th will mark the 3rd all-time match-up between Arizona and Nebraska, since first meeting in 1961.  Arizona currently holds the series lead (1-0-1).  The last time these two teams met was also in the Holiday Bowl, following the 1998 regular season.  In the first half, the Wildcats would take a 9-0 lead off of 3 Mark McDonald field goals, 2 of which came from Nebraska turnovers.  The Huskers would battle back, as Shevin Wiggins took a 45 yard pass from Eric Crouch for a touchdown between 2 field goals from Kris Brown, giving them a 13-9 halftime lead.  Early in the fourth quarter, Keith Smith would hook up with Brad Brennan from 16 yards out to put the Wildcats back on top 16-13.  Just minutes later, Nebraska answered with a 4 yard Eric Crouch to Tracey Wistrom touchdown pass to regain the lead 20-16.  However, Arizona was not done yet.  They marched down the field on a nine play, 68 yard drive that was finished off by a Kelvin Eafon 1 yard TD rush that gave them a 23-20 lead with just over 6 minutes remaining.  Nebraska was unable to respond this time, as QB Eric Crouch was intercepted by Arizona CB Chris McAlister with 3:10 left in the game.  Arizona punted to the Huskers one last time with :34 left to play, but Nebraska was unable to move the ball into field goal range, as the Wildcats hung on to the victory.









Arizona is decent offensively, but needs to work on their consistency.  In their last game, the Wildcats had a pretty impressive first half against USC, mounting a pair of scoring drives, and typically were moving the ball even on non-scoring possessions.  In the second half, however, they were stuck in neutral until their next-to-last possession, in which they scored the go-ahead touchdown, which was good enough to win the game 21-17.  The Wildcats are currently ranked 40th nationally in total offense (407.50 ypg), 39th in passing (240.08 ypg), 67th in passing efficiency (127.34 rating), 47th in rushing (167.42 ypg), 41st in scoring offense (29.67 ppg), 52nd in interceptions thrown (11), 30th in fumbles lost (8), and 35th in giveaways (19).  

: So. Nick Foles (249 of 377, 2420 yds, 19 TDs, 8 INTs) starts at QB for the Wildcats.  He took the starting job four weeks into the season and hasn't looked back.  Foles has a nice arm and puts a good zip on the ball.  He has good pocket presence, steps up, sets his feet, and makes nice throws all over the field.  He can really thread the needle when he's on top of his game.  He throws the underneath routes well and does a good job of checking down his receivers.  He's been inconsistent, however, and will look very average for long stretches of time.  If he's allowed to get comfortable in the pocket, he'll pick an opponent apart, but when he does get pressure, he'll start lofting balls around that are just asking to get intercepted.  Even when he isn't getting pressured, he'll throw an occasional lame duck out there.  He is currently battling an injured non-throwing hand, which has changed the way he takes snaps.  Foles is not a mobile threat and does not typically rush with the football.  Behind Foles is So. Matt Scott (40 of 71, 443 yds, 1 TD, 3 INTs).  Scott began the season as the starting QB, but was moved to back-up duty because of his lacking arm.  He is quite a runner, though, and much more of a rushing threat than Foles.  He has rushed for 305 yards on 40 carries (lost 14) on the season.  The offense will change a bit if Scott has to come into the game in relief of Foles.

: The Wildcats' running game has been by committee this season, with four backs contributing often to the offense, largely due to minor injuries suffered by all throughout the year.  Jr. Nic Grigsby (75 carries, 559 yds, 5 TDs), So. Keola Antolin (103 carries, 568 yds, 4 TDs), and RFr. Greg Nwoko (76 carries, 273 yds, 3 TDs) have all had time as the top back, with Sr. Nick Booth (36 carries, 150 yds, 3 TDs) getting a number of carries behind them.  Grigsby has been injured, missing 3 games overall this season, but should be ready to go for the bowl game.  He has averaged an impressive 7.5 yards per carry, and is very slick and speedy.  He'll make you pay for a missed tackle or two, and had an outstanding 94 yard touchdown run earlier this season.  Antolin is the smallest of the group at 5'8", 186 lbs., and has tremendous acceleration through the hole as well as sideline-to-sideline speed.  Nwoko is the power back of the crew, working well on short yardage situations.  The backs are used pretty often in the passing game, accounting for over 15% of total receptions on the team.  Grigsby (10 catches, 51 yds), Antolin (15 catches, 71 yds), Nwoko (18 catches, 186 yds), and Booth (2 catches, 16 yds) have all caught passes this season.  At fullback/halfback is Sr. Chris Gronkowski (2 carries, 1 yd), with TFr. Taimi Tutogi (11 carries, 50 yds, 1 TD) backing him up.  
: The Wildcats' receiving corps is full of quality wideouts that have produced nicely this season.  Starting at the receiver positions are Sr. Terrell Turner (47 catches, 450 yds, 4 TDs) at "X" and Jr. Delashaun Dean (39 catches, 372 yds, 2 TDs) at "Z".  Turner is a steady, dependable receiver that runs clean routes and has very good hands.  He was held without a catch against USC, a rarity for this season.  Dean has great size (6'4") and has good hands.  He works hard to get yards after catch and does very well one-on-one with smaller corners.  So. Bug Wright (23 catches, 234 yds, 1 TD) occasionally enters as a starter at SHB, while So. David Roberts (42 catches, 398 yds, 1 TD) is also an occasional starter at STE.  Wright is just 5'9", but has a very good vertical leap and will let it all hang out to try and make a catch.  He does a good job of getting open, breaks tackles often, and moves up-field quickly.  Roberts is a tough receiver and has held onto the ball, even when getting crushed this season.  Reserves in the rotation at receiver include So. Juron Criner (43 catches, 580 yds, 9 TDs), Jr. Travis Cobb (1 catch, 15 yds), and So. David Douglas (31 catches, 320 yds, 2 TDs).  Criner has the most potential of the entire group, and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.  He does a good job of seeing the sticks and getting first downs, runs clean routes, and is tough to beat one-on-one.  He's 6'4" and has excellent speed to go along with that, making him a dangerous target.  At tight end is Jr. A.J. Simmons (10 catches, 132 yds, 1 TD), with Sr. Chris Gronkowski (4 catches, 20 yds) backing him up.  This group really misses Jr. Rob Gronkowski, whom injured his back in September and missed most of the season.  He is an NFL caliber tight end and will likely be back for his senior season next year.

: Arizona's offensive line has been one of the better groups this year nationally in keeping their QB upright.  They are ranked in the top 10 in both sacks given up (10th) and tackles for loss allowed (8th).  Run blocking has also been pretty solid, leading the way for their speedy backs.  Starting at tackle is Sr. Mike Diaz (6'5", 320 lbs) on the left and Sr. Adam Grant (6'6", 325 lbs) on the right.  Diaz has good pass blocking technique and footwork, keeping his man at arm's reach at all times.  The former JUCO prospect should definitely have a shot at the next level.  Grant is a big, strong tackle that also has good feet.  He hasn't been quite as consistent as Diaz, but is a quality performer at tackle when he is healthy.  The top reserves at tackle are Jr. Phillip Garcia (6'7", 325 lbs) and Jr. Jack Julsing (6'8", 295 lbs).  Starting at guard is Sr. Herman Hall (6'3", 303 lbs) on the left and So. Vaughn Dotsy (6'5", 335 lbs) on the right.  Hall is a versatile lineman that can also see time at center if need be, however, he does have issues with quick, strong defensive tackles.  Dotsy has shown good footwork and quickness for his size, but needs to be a bit more consistent when opening rushing lanes.  Jr. Conan Amituanai (6'4", 335 lbs) serves as the top back-up at guard.  Starting at center is Jr. Colin Baxter (6'4", 295 lbs), with Sr. Blake Kerley (6'2", 285 lbs) backing him up.  Baxter is a solid all-around blocker that has good size, strength, and quickness.  




Arizona's defense is a very solid group that does well in nearly every area.  In their last game, against USC, they did a good job of keeping the Trojans from mounting much of an attack, limiting them to just 282 yards and 17 points.  They were helped out by USC's numerous dropped passes, however.  The Wildcats currently rank 21st nationally in total defense (315.83 ypg), 43rd in pass defense (203.92 ypg), 38th in pass efficiency defense (117.95 rating), 22nd in rush defense (111.92 ypg), 46th in scoring defense (23.17 ppg), 44th in interceptions forced (12), 94th in fumbles recovered (7), and 75th in total takeaways (19).  

: The Wildcats' defensive line has been pretty good this season, but needs to be more consistent in their pass rush.  Starting at defensive end is Jr. Ricky Elmore (43 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 PBU) on the left and Jr. Brooks Reed (20 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 FF, 1 PBU) on the right.  Elmore leads the Pac-10 conference with his 10.5 sacks (14th nationally).  He has a good first step and does a nice job of getting around the opposing tackle.  He has also been dependable in stuffing the run this season.  Reed's production has dropped from last year, however, he has missed 3 games this season with injury.   He can be very good when he's at his best, but he hasn't gotten there very often this season.  Jr. D'Aundre Reed (14 tackles, 2.5 sacks) serves as the top back-up at defensive end.  He started the three games that B. Reed missed, and filled in nicely.  In the game against USC, he made a nice move to the inside, blowing by the offensive lineman for a sack.  Starting at defensive tackle is Sr. Earl Mitchell (44 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 1 FF, 1 QBH, 1 PBU), with Jr. Lolomana Mikaele (11 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1 FR) and So. Dominique Austin (4 tackles) backing him up.  Mitchell is a leader for the group and has had a very nice season.  He's got a good motor and doesn't give up on plays, really working hard to get after the ball carrier.  Sr. Donald Horton (22 tackles, 3 sacks) starts at nose tackle, with Mikaele and So. Jowyn Ward (1 tackle) serving as his back-ups.  Horton is undersized for the nose, at just 6' and 275 lbs., and isn't strong enough to get off of double teams.  

: Arizona's linebacking corps, overall, is an athletic, well rounded group that plays both the run and pass effectively.  Starting at middle linebacker is Sr. Vuna Tuihalamaka (68 tackles, 1 INT, 3 PBU), with Jr. C.J. Parish (3 tackles, 1 FF) backing him up.  Tuihalamaka is the star of the group, delivering crushing hits and doing a good job in coverage.  At times, he seems to come out of nowhere to put the ball carrier down.  His tackling skills make him a valuable asset to the defense, as he seems to always make the play at the point of impact, never getting pushed away or dragged with the ball carrier.  At weakside linebacker is Sr. Xavier Kelley (69 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 PBU), while RFr. R.J. Young (6 tackles) and TFr. Jake Fischer (7 tackles) back him up.  Kelley is very quick, and is finishing up another good season.  He is second on the team in tackles, and does well in coverage and also when blitzing.  Sr. Sterling Lewis (36 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FR, 1 PBU) starts at strongside linebacker, when they are in their base defense.  Lewis is a speedy backer that is well suited for LB blitzes.  He may only have 2 sacks, but when he does blitz, he has done a good job hurrying decisions by the opposing QB.   

: The Wildcats' defensive backfield has played well this season, however, they have given up a pretty high 18 touchdowns through the air (7th in the Pac-10).  Starting at cornerback is So. Trevin Wade (66 tackles, 5 INTs, 1 FF, 9 PBU) at left corner and Sr. Devin Ross (74 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FR, 11 PBU) at right corner.  Corner is probably the strongest position on the entire defense, and Wade's emergence has been big for the Wildcats this season.  He is an excellent athlete that has made opposing quarterbacks pay when they have tried to pick on the sophomore.  He needs to work on his rush support skills, however, as he has missed a number of tackles against opposing running backs.  Ross is the best of the secondary, possessing lock-down coverage skills and next level athleticism.  He's also a sure-tackler, wrapping up and hitting hard.  He's physical with receivers, and got away with a pass interference late in the USC game that could have made a difference in the game.  Players in the reserve rotation include Jr. Marcus Benjamin (7 tackles, 1 PBU) and Jr. Mike Turner (11 tackles, 1 FR).  Benjamin has looked good in his limited playing time and will probably push hard for a starting job next season.  He does a good job in rush support and reads the quarterback well in coverage.  Starting at strong safety is So. Robert Golden (37 tackles, 2 INTs, 1 PBU), with Jr. Joe Perkins (21 tackles, 1 INT) backing him up.  Typical for a strong safety, Golden is a big hitter and doesn't miss tackles.  He's just a sophomore and has two years to get even better.  Perkins struggles with rush support and has been dragged many yards after making contact by opposing running backs.  Against USC, this happened twice, with the second one going for a touchdown.  Sr. Cam Nelson (64 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 3 FF, 3 PBU) starts at free safety, with TFr. Adam Hall (9 tackles) serving as the top back-up.  Nelson is wrapping up his third year as a starter and continues to be a well rounded safety, and is good at both coverage and run support.  In nickel situations, Sr. Corey Hall (35 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 PBU) serves as the nickel back.  Hall is a big hitter, can also play outside linebacker, and does a very nice job in run support.




Arizona's special teams units are a mixed bag.  Their return game is one of the best in the nation, but there have been issues with the coverage teams as well as the kicking game.  The Wildcats currently rank 77th in net punting (34.79 yd avg), 11th in kickoff returns (25.48 yd avg), 4th in punt returns (16.40 yd avg), 38th in kickoff coverage (20.53 yd avg), and 106th in punt coverage (12.79 yd avg).  

: So. Alex Zendejas has made 17 of his 22 field goal attempts with a long of 47 this season.  He has had 1 blocked, and has missed 2 of his last 5.  So. John Bonano works as the kickoff specialist, pushing 7 of his 39 kickoffs for a touchback this season, with a 65.6 yard average, kicking between the 4 and 5 yard line.  

: Jr. Keenyn Crier is averaging 41.4 yards on his 48 punts with a long of 68 this season.  10 of his 48 punts have been downed inside the opponents' 20.  

: The top kickoff return unit for the Wildcats consists of Jr. Travis Cobb (28 kick returns, 26 yd avg, 1 TD, 95 yd long) and Sr. Nick Booth (3 kick returns, 13 yd avg, 20 yd long).  Cobb is a homerun threat, but is more slippery than he is fast.  The top punt returner is So. Bug Wright (11 punt returns, 19.2 yd avg, 1 TD, 86 yd long).

: The Wildcats' kick and punt coverage units have been decent this year, but have had some issues with missed tackles.  On the season, the kick coverage unit is allowing an average of 20.9 yards on 54 kickoff return attempts with a long of 57.  The punt coverage unit is allowing an average of 12.8 yards on 14 punt return attempts with a long of 53.    







Nebraska's offense is one of the worst in the nation, statistically.  They lack playmakers at quarterback as well as wide receiver, and have difficulties on the offensive line.  The Huskers were terrible in their last outing, against Texas in the Big XII Championship Game, totaling just 106 yards.  The offense has scored just 2 touchdowns in the past 9 quarters of play.  Nebraska currently ranks 102nd nationally in total offense (317.15 ypg), 101st in passing (175.92 ypg), 81st in pass efficiency (122.29 rating), 68th in rushing (141.23 ypg), 80th in scoring offense (24.54 ppg), 60th in interceptions thrown (12), 68th in fumbles lost (11), and 69th in giveaways (23).  

: Nebraska is likely to finish the season off with Jr. Zac Lee (164 for 279, 1970 yds, 13 TDs, 10 INTs) at QB, despite not looking starter caliber.  Lee looked great against Nebraska's Sun Belt opposition early in the year, but has not had a solid game against a member of a BCS conference.  He was just 6 of 19 for 39 yards and 3 interceptions in the Big XII Championship Game.  He's been playing not to make mistakes, which doesn't do much good unless the team is getting scores from the defense and special teams.  In most games this season, he has been hesitant to throw downfield, instead choosing to check down to much shorter routes.  When he does go downfield, it usually doesn't end well.  He doesn't have great pocket presence, and when pressured chooses to run to the perimeter instead of stepping up into the pocket.  This has been an issue because he just isn't great throwing on the run.  When Lee has been "on", he's shown great arm strength and accuracy, but he hasn't been "on" against any defense of note.  He has decent speed and has rushed for 106 yards on 85 attempts (has lost just over 100 yards on sacks).  TFr. Cody Green (33 for 60, 313 yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) started at QB against Baylor and Oklahoma, but after getting pulled in the 2nd quarter of the Oklahoma game, hasn't seen much action.  He didn't provide the spark many had hoped, but has potential to be a big-time dual-threat QB at some point down the road.  He can run pretty well and has shown a very strong arm, but he just hasn't put it all together mentally yet.  He has carried the ball 26 times for 140 yards and 2 touchdowns (lost 11 yards on sacks).    

: Nebraska's running backs are led by Jr. Roy Helu Jr. (217 carries, 1139 yds, 10 TDs).  Helu Jr. has a great combination of hard running, leaping, and cutting ability.  He can beat defenders by running around them, by them, and over them.  He has really turned into a complete back over the past year.  He was bothered by an injured shoulder for much of the year, but has looked more like his old self over the past month or so.  The top back-up to Helu Jr. is TFr. Rex Burkhead (64 carries, 257 yds, 2 TDs), an impressive young back that does a very nice job running between the tackles.  He hits the hole quickly and breaks tackles well.  One weakness, though, is that he tends to run into his blockers and slowing his momentum.  He missed much of the season with a broken foot, but has played well since returning to action.  TFr. Dontrayevous Robinson (38 carries, 159 yds, 2 TDs) is now the number three option with Burkhead back from his injury.  He has shown a lot of potential in his limited carries, running with good power and decent speed.  So. Marcus Mendoza (4 carries, 10 yds), So. Austin Jones (6 carries, 15 yds), RFr. Lester Ward (8 carries, 24 yds), and RFr. Collins Okafor (1 rush, 9 yds) are battling behind Robinson.  Nebraska typically likes to throw the ball to their backs, with Helu Jr. (19 catches, 149 yds), Burkhead (11 catches, 76 yds, 1 TD), Mendoza (7 catches, 45 yds), Robinson (4 catches, 26 yds), and Jones (1 catch, 2 yds) each catching passes this season.  Strangely, Nebraska has thrown to their backs just three times over the past four games.  At fullback, RFr. Tyler Legate (3 catches, 27 yds, 1 TD) is the top guy and but hasn't really seen much time on the field.  When Nebraska has lined up in 2 back sets with Legate in as a lead blocker, the offense has moved the ball pretty well against marginal defensive fronts.  

: Nebraska's receivers need to be more consistent if the offense is going to show something in the bowl game.  There have been too many instances of dropped passes and lackadaisical play throughout the season.  Starting at "Z" is Jr. Niles Paul (36 catches, 673 yds, 3 TDs).  He has a great combination of size, quickness, and route running skills.  He is very inconsistent, however, as it seems for every great catch he makes, he'll drop just as many easy ones.  Unfortunately for Nebraska, he's been about the only guy making plays in the group.  Starting at "X" is RFr. Khiry Cooper (13 catches, 80 yds, 1 TD).  He's probably got the most up-side of Nebraska's receivers, but needs to be more physical and work to get open.  Reserves include Sr. Menelik Holt (15 catches, 175 yds, 1 TD), So. Curenski Gilleylen (16 catches, 299 yds, 1 TD), Sr. Chris Brooks (13 catches, 177 yds, 1 TD), Jr. Brandon Kinnie (13 catches, 129 yds), TFr. Antonio Bell (1 catch, 3 yds), Jr. Will Henry (1 catch, 1 yd), and Sr. Wes Cammack (1 catch, 2 yds).  Holt started at "X" for about half of the season, however, dropped passes and poor blocking led to his demotion.  Gilleylen is a speedster that developed into a very dangerous deep threat, but he dropped a couple of passes early in the year and hasn't been targeted since.  Brooks turned into a solid possession receiver this year and probably has the best hands of the entire group, but needs to be a better blocker.  Kinnie has great measurables and is starting to show that he can catch the ball.  Henry is a big body (6'5") but is yet to make an impact.  Nebraska's top TE is Jr. Mike McNeill (25 catches, 240 yds, 4 TDs), with So. Dreu Young (5 catches, 78 yds), So. Ryan Hill (2 catches, 8 yds, 1 TD), RFr. Ben Cotton (5 catches, 43 yds, 1 TD), and RFr. Kyler Reed (6 catches, 54 yds) competing behind McNeill.  McNeill does a nice job of picking up yards after catch, as well as getting open in the endzone.  This is a deep and talented group of tight ends, which are a big strength for the Huskers' offense.  

: Nebraska's offensive line continues to be far too inconsistent as the season draws to a close.  At times they do a nice job, but they are also committing costly penalties and getting beat by opposing linemen.  Starting at tackle is Jr. Mike Smith (6'6", 295 lbs) on the left and So. Marcel Jones (6'7", 310 lbs) on the right.  Smith is typically among the best linemen for the Huskers, but has had his share of issues as well this year.  Jones has potential to be a rock on the right side, however, he's young and makes a number of mistakes.  Jr. D.J. Jones (6'5", 315 lbs) is listed as a co-starter with Marcel Jones, even though Marcel sees more snaps.  D.J. doesn't have great torque in the hips and gets beat often by athletic linemen.  TFr. Jeremiah Sirles (6'6", 310 lbs) is another possibility to see in a reserve role at tackle.  Starting at left guard is Jr. Keith Williams (6'5", 315 lbs), while Jr. Ricky Henry (6'4", 300 lbs) starts at right guard.  Williams is a pretty solid blocker, but still has a lot of room for improvement.  He does very well as the pulling guard, plowing through his man and opening holes.  Henry is a player known for his strength and his nasty streak, which has caused a few personal foul flags this year.  Sr. Andy Christensen (6'3", 305 lbs) and Sr. Derek Meyer (6'5", 315 lbs) are Nebraska's top reserves at guard.  Sr. Jacob Hickman (6'4", 290 lbs) starts at center, with So. Mike Caputo (6'1", 275 lbs) backing him up.  Hickman is the leader of the group and a typically solid center.  Caputo isn't a prototypically sized center, but he has very good technique and leverage.




Nebraska's defense is one of the best in the nation this season, and the best that the Blackshirts have performed in about a decade.  In the Big XII Championship Game, they shut down the Colt McCoy led Texas offense, holding them to just 202 yards and 13 points.  The Huskers are currently ranked 9th nationally in total defense (284.54 ypg), 25th in pass defense (189.08 ypg), 3rd in pass efficiency defense (90.54 rating), 11th in rush defense (95.46 ypg), 2nd in scoring defense (11.23 ppg), 9th in interceptions (19), 75th in fumbles recovered (8), and 17th in total takeaways (27).

: Nebraska's defensive line is one of the best in the nation.  The group is big, strong, athletic, and makes plays all over the field.  Starting at defensive end is Jr. Pierre Allen (47 tackles, 3 sacks, 8 QBH, 5 PBU) on the right, with Sr. Barry Turner (49 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR, 13 QBH, 4 PBU) on the left.  Both are very good athletes and are playing well, but not quite as well as expected going into the season.  Turner has stepped up his game lately, however, and had an impressive game last time out against Texas with 7 tackles and 2.5 sacks.  Their play has been helped by the excellent play by the d-tackles this season.  RFr. Cameron Meredith (21 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 FR, 2 QBH, 1 PBU) and RFr. Josh Williams (3 tackles) are the top reserves at defensive end.  Meredith has been impressive in his back-up role, and is pushing for more playing time.  Starting at nose tackle is Sr. Ndamukong Suh (82 tackles, 12 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF, 24 QBH, 10 PBU, 3 BK), with So. Terrence Moore (2 tackles) backing him up.  Suh is an elite defensive player that has a motor that doesn't quit, flies to the ball and forces turnovers.  He very rarely comes off the field, yet still has the energy to bring it in the fourth quarter.  He was named the National Defensive Player of the Year, also winning the Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski, and Bednarik Trophies.  So. Jared Crick (70 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 2 FR, 16 QBH, 4 PBU, 1 BK) starts at defensive tackle, with RFr. Baker Steinkuhler (17 tackles, 2 PBU) providing back-up.  Crick has really turned into a big time d-tackle this season, making opponents have to think twice about always doubling up on Suh.

: Nebraska's linebacking corps is led by starting weakside linebacker Sr. Phillip Dillard (76 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF, 4 QBH, 2 PBU).  Dillard is a former starter at MIKE that that has done an excellent job at WILL this year.  He brings athleticism and experience to the field that has been invaluable.  Behind Dillard is So. Matthew May (10 tackles).  May has not seen much action this season.  Starting at middle linebacker is RFr. Will Compton (38 tackles, 0.5 sack, 2 QBH, 2 PBU), while Sr. Colton Koehler (5 tackles) is the top reserve.  Compton works hard to get after the ball carrier, but is still learning the defense and makes mistakes.  Starting at buck linebacker is RFr. Sean Fisher (35 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FR, 3 QBH), with TFr. Eric Martin (12 tackles, 2 BK) and RFr. Micah Kreikemeier providing back-up.  Fisher stands at 6'6", and like Compton, should get better each week as they learn how to quickly read and react to the opposing offense.  Unfortunately, with Nebraska playing so much Nickel and Dime, Compton and Fisher haven't really had a large amount of playing time, which has slowed their progression.  Martin is a special teams dynamo and has the ability to be a force for the Huskers at LB when he gets the mental aspect of the game down to match his physicality.  

: Nebraska's defensive backfield has played very well this season, and kept up a high level of play no matter the competition.  Other than a few of big plays given up, they have done a very nice job in coverage and making solid tackles.  Jr. Prince Amukamara (61 tackles, 2 sacks, 5 INTs, 1 FF, 1 FR, 11 PBU) starts at LCB, with Jr. Dejon Gomes (45 tackles, 4 INTs, 3 FF, 3 QBH, 5 PBU) and TFr. Andrew Green listed as the top reserves.  Amukamara is a great athlete and has been solid in coverage this season.  Gomes has also been solid in coverage this year, but has missed some tackles in run support against physical ball carriers.  So. Alfonzo Dennard (31 tackles, 7 PBU) took over the role as starting RCB a few games into the season and has performed very well.  He's a physical corner that makes plays on the football and is a solid tackler.  Jr. Anthony West (11 tackles, 3 PBU) backs up Dennard, but has only been average, and needs to play more with his head on a swivel.  So. Lance Thorell (6 tackles, 1 PBU) is another reserve at corner that occasionally sees time.  At strong safety is Sr. Larry Asante (76 tackles, 2 INTs, 2 FF, 7 PBU) starts, with Jr. Eric Hagg (39 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF, 3 QBH, 4 PBU) and RFr. P.J. Smith (14 tackles) backing him up.  Asante has great athleticism and is a big hitter.  He's probably the best of the defensive backfield, and earned 1st team all-Big XII this season.  Hagg does a good job as a blitzing safety and making tackles in the open field.  He's been fairly weak in coverage this season, however.  Sr. Matt O'Hanlon (64 tackles, 2 sacks, 5 INTs, 1 FF, 2 FR, 4 PBU) starts at free safety.  O'Hanlon is often picked on and has been burned in the past, however, has been making some big plays this season both in coverage and in run support.  Behind O'Hanlon is Hagg, So. Austin Cassidy (9 tackles, 1 PBU), and RFr. Courtney Osborne (1 tackle).  




Nebraska's special teams units have been excellent this season.  They have some of the best kickers in the nation, however, the return and coverage units can be hot and cold.  The Huskers rank 75th in net punting (34.88 yd avg), 34th in kickoff returns (23.31 yd avg), 34th in punt returns (11.34 yd avg), 13th in kickoff coverage (19.12 yd avg), and 101st in punt coverage (12.23 yd avg).

: Jr. Alex Henery has one of the strongest and most accurate legs in the nation.  He has made 20 of his 24 attempts this season, with a long of 52.  He's made 32 of his last 33 kicks from under 50 yards.  Jr. Adi Kunalic has a booming leg and is arguably the best kickoff specialist in the nation.  Kunalic has pushed 28 of 70 kickoffs for touchback this season, with an excellent 68.6 yard average, kicking between the 1 and 2 yard line.  He made a huge mistake late in the 4th quarter of the Big XII Championship, however, kicking the ball out of bounds, giving Texas great field position to get into field goal range and eventually kick the game winning FG.  It was the first time Kunalic had kicked off out of bounds all season long.

: Jr. Alex Henery has averaged 41.7 yards on his 73 punts with a long of 76 this season.  28 of his 73 punts have been downed inside the opponents' 20 so far this year.  He added punting duties to his repertoire this season, and has been a key weapon for the Huskers.  When directional punting or attempting to get the ball downed inside the 10, he's been phenomenal.

: Nebraska's top kickoff return unit is made up of Jr. Niles Paul (15 kick returns, 26.5 yd avg, 44 yd long), and RFr. Tim Marlowe (12 kick returns, 23.7 yd avg, 40 yd long).  At punt returner is Jr. Niles Paul (35 punt returns, 10.3 yd avg, 1 TD, 59 yd long).  These units have been very good at times, but are not very consistent.  Paul has been very good the past two games, however.

: Nebraska's coverage teams have been pretty good this season, but are not immune from occasional tackling problems.  This has allowed an occasional big return.  The kick coverage unit is allowing an average of 19.1 yards on 42 kickoff returns (76 yd long), while the punt coverage unit is allowing an average of 12.2 yards on 30 punt returns (62 yd long).  They have done a really nice job the past three games, keeping returners from doing any real damage.




Position/
QBs:
RBs:
WR/TE's:
OL:
DL:
LB:
DB:
Special Teams:
Coaching:
+ = Slight
++ = Moderate
+++ = Large





QB - Nick Foles - Hand - Probable
WR - David Douglas - Shoulder - Probable
RB - Nicholas Grigsby - Shoulder - Probable
TE - Rob Gronkowski - Back - Out for Season


FS - Rickey Thenarse - Knee - Out for Season
CB - Jase Dean - Knee - Out for Season
QB - Kody Spano - Knee - Out for Season
LB - Blake Lawrence - Concussions - Ended Career




Nebraska's defense hasn't allowed their opponents many points this season, and Arizona's defense has also been quite good.  Look for most of the scoring to come by way of field goals, with neither offense able to find consistent success moving the football.  Nebraska's offense has been sputtering all season, and it's hard to imagine the light bulb suddenly coming on, however, Arizona's defense is not quite as stifling as the Texas defense Nebraska saw in the Big XII Championship game, so the Huskers might be able to put the ball in the endzone a time or two.  The Wildcats gave up 17 points to USC in their last game, and the Trojans could have easily put up a couple more touchdowns if not for a large number of dropped passes downfield.  Arizona's offense has been inconsistent this season, and will need QB Nick Foles and the offensive line to be on top of their game to find a way to make something happen and keep plays away from Nebraska NT Ndamukong Suh.  Foles will be helped greatly if the running backs can find some seams to run through, which has been very difficult to do against Nebraska's defense this season.  

This should be a very hard fought, close game that will be on the line late in the fourth quarter.  Nebraska's defense and special teams will be the difference, however, helping their offense out with takeaways and putting the Arizona offense in tough positions by pinning them deep.  Nebraska by 3-7 points.


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