Scouting Report: Nebraska Cornhuskers

A couple of interesting aspects of the Nebraska Cornhuskers have come up over the last few days in preparing for their visit on Saturday. The 20th-ranked Huskers offense is similar in ways to the current Cowboys offense and in some ways to the offense Cowboys fans remember during the days of Les Miles as head coach and Mike Gundy as offensive coordinator.

First, the comparisons to the current Cowboys offense. Like Oklahoma State, the Huskers are vastly improved jumping from 107th last season in rushing offense to their current 2006 standing of 18th. The Cowboys are currently10th in rushing offense.

The reason is Nebraska has matured some on the offensive line with every line starter either being a junior or senior, or in the case of the sophomore left side of guard Mike Huff and tackle Matt Slauson both lettered last season. Experience counts up front and Nebraska has more than they have had in recent years.

The other reason is explosive backs with sophomore Marlon Lucky being the best, and sophomore Cody Glenn and junior Brandon Jackson also chipping in. Lucky is a big-time player that is capable of breaking off the cross country run.

The Huskers, like the Cowboys, are best when they are breaking off "chunk plays," especially chunk scoring plays. An example, in the Texas game Nebraska had seven plays that netted 229 yards and the other 46 offensive snaps gained 11 yards. Against Kansas the Huskers had seven plays account for 345 yards of offense and the other 58 snaps gained just 166 yards. Eliminate the big plays, which come in the running game and enginnered by former OSU recruiting commitment Zac Taylor at quarterback with big play receivers Nate Swift, Terrence Nunn, and Frantz Hardy, and you can control Nebraska.

That's easier said than done because this is where Nebraska resembles the old Miles and Gundy offenses, only taking it a step further. They will hammer at you down after down, changing the look with a wide variety of formations and motions, and then with Taylor, who is a lot like former OSU quarterback Josh Fields, they will shoot over you for the big play. It has worked against most teams, even in their losses to USC and Texas.

On defense the Huskers make no secret that they will come after you. They have a strong front seven with book ends Adam Carriker and Jay Moore as standouts. The inside techniques of Barry Cryer and Ola Dagunduro are solid and take up blockers. The linebackers, especially Corey McKeon, Bo Ruud, and the now healthy Steve Octavian, are quick and aggressive.

Defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove has blitzed close to 50 percent of the time this season. Sometimes he blitzes behind safe coverages, primarily cover four (quarters) and cover six. However, the Huskers have gone with extra pressure and used cover zero (man with no deep safety) roughly 20 to 25 percent of the time. Those times could be key for the Cowboys on Saturday provided they can identify those opportunities.

The secondary has been a weakness and has yielded big plays in the passing game in games against Kansas, Texas and Louisiana Tech. Corners Andre Jones, who is a little banged up, and 5-9 Cortney Grixby have had problems with big wide receivers. The Huskers have yet to see an offense quite like Oklahoma State with a run/pass quarterback and backs and receivers to go along with the package that also includes a viable option game.

Special teams are solid, but nothing too special except a tremendous kickoff coverage unit. They will knock you down and step on you to get to the returner.

The other aspect of the matchup is emotional. Both teams are coming off gut-wrenching losses similar to the Cowboys scenario leading up to the Kansas game. This could be a garden spot on the Huskers schedule for the Cowboys, sandwiched between the late game loss to Texas and coming right before a Big 12 North showdown against Missouri.

Just like any garden you have to plant seeds and work hard to make anything grow. If the Cowboys plant some seeds of doubt with a strong performance early and then continue to work hard they might be rewarded with the big win they and their fans have been wanting this season.

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