The Other Side: Scouting Nebraska

Heading into Saturday's big game between Rutgers and Nebraska, reached out with Nebraska publisher Josh Harvey for the latest on the Huskers. In this five questions segment, Big Red Report details the 6-1 start for Bo Pelini and dynamic start to the season for running back Ameer Abdullah.

Question 1 -- Two games stand out when looking at Nebraska halfway through the year. What went wrong to let McNeese State stay in the game for so long? What would you say Michigan State did best in pulling off that victory?

Big Red Report publisher Josh Harvey -- “First and foremost, Nebraska didn’t take McNeese State seriously enough. The fire wasn’t there during the games, and we heard multiple players say practices leading up to the contest weren’t very good. Nebraska had a lot of success against Florida Atlantic the previous week and thought they could just show up against a FCS team. McNeese State proved otherwise. They are ranked in the top 10 when it comes to the 1-AA poll, so they aren’t a bad squad. I think it was a learning experience for quarterback Tommy Armstrong as well, when it comes to how defenses might play him this year.

“As far as Michigan State, the Spartans loaded the box on a cold, rainy, and somewhat windy night and forced Armstrong to beat them. They weren’t going to give Abdullah any lane what so ever. Nebraska’s offensive line played very poorly in the contest, and I think it really rattled Armstrong in the first couple quarters. He was running for his life at times and doing it without his leading receiver (Kenny Bell) going out for passes. In a few of those final drives, Armstrong was throwing to a sophomore walk-on receiver and a true freshman. I think the Nebraska offense used the experience, heading into a bye week, and grew from it – at least it looks like they did after playing Northwestern last week.”

Question 2 -- What makes Ameer Abdullah so dangerous? How much is he a product of his offensive line and how much of what he does comes based on pure individual talent?

Harvey -- “I think the offensive line loves run blocking for Abdullah, but I think it’s more a product of him as a player than just having wide open semi-truck lanes for him to run through. I think teams take a look at his size and just assume that he can’t run hard, but it’s not the case. He will run over people and has the ability to cut back very well when he gets to the line of scrimmage. He’s got some of the best vision when it comes to a college back that I have seen.”

Question 3 -- As relatively new members to the conference, what was the transition to the Big Ten like for Nebraska? What is the perception of Rutgers in the fan base as the Scarlet Knights do the same thing?

Harvey -- “I think for the most part the conference was very accepting, largely in part because they had heard of Nebraska fans’ reputation for being classy. In the first year or two, I think the only complaint you would get from a Nebraska fan would be the reaction of fans in Madison after they beat Nebraska in year one.

“I didn’t cover Nebraska until their first year in the Big Ten, but was covering the Big 12 conference in Texas while they were in the conference. I think the biggest difference was the rushing attacks in the Big Ten conference when it came to football. A few teams gave Nebraska trouble on the ground in the first year or two. The Big 12 definitely wanted to spread teams out a little more. The Huskers have since recruited a few positions differently, including linebacker. After playing almost everybody a few times, it’s really helped Nebraska’s coaches.”

Question 4 -- What are your keys to the game for Nebraska?

Harvey -- “I think if Tommy Armstrong can connect on a few early passes, it will really keep the Rutgers defense honest, which allows Abdullah to have a big day. He hasn’t had one in a while and I think this might be the week. On defense, if Nebraska gets the same type of effort from the defensive line that it did last week against Northwestern, I think Rutgers’ offense will struggle to move the football.”

Question 5 -- Rutgers fans are very familiar with safety D.J. Singleton. What can you say about his early development with the Huskers? What kind of role do you see him having the rest of the way this season?

Harvey -- “Right now he’s a backup safety and with a senior starter and the emergence of sophomore Nate Gerry, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. His development has probably been a little slower than I thought.”

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