Coach's Corner

Washington has improved enough so that they easily could steal this game from Nebraska for a number of reasons. Most important is likely to be Nebraska's reluctance to be playing there in the first place. The Cornhuskers are stepping down to this bowl and obviously, had they beaten Oklahoma, they would have been in a BCS bowl for sure.

Besides, they played in this exact same game last year and that makes it just boring enough not to take seriously.

You can also bet Jake Locker will play a lot better the second time around. If Jake explodes and takes over the game then the Husky kicker, Erik Folk, could win yet another game right at the finish. Most of the Husky wins (four of six) have been that way the whole season so they may as well win another close one. Besides, how big will this win be? Huge, I'd say, and it would further prove how far this program has come back. It might also help on a couple of key recruits.

Now granted, Nebraska saw Jake Locker back in September when they throttled the Huskies 56-21 in an obviously mismatched game. After watching that film, how can the Cornhuskers not be over confident?

The fact that the game happened in Husky Stadium made it in even worse. Still, that game was then and this game is now. How can Locker not play better? The Cornhuskers will see a much improved team on both sides of the ball and a more sound kicking game out of the Huskies.

That game got out of hand early and was over once Taylor Martinez opened the second half with an 80-yard touchdown run. It pushed a manageable two-score game to 35-14.

The Cornhuskers finished with three 100-yard rushers on the day. It wasn't pretty. That 80-yarder was to be Martinez's longest run of the season, and their game against the Huskies was by far their best team performance of the year (533 yards to the UW's 246). It was also the worst performance of the year by the Huskies as a team. Quite honestly, they got steamrolled. They have something to prove to their opponent, and that is another reason to win right there. Washington will be hungry for this game and they will tackle and block much better this time around.

Regardless of their underdog status (and just like the season, nobody picks them to win except themselves), the Huskies will have motivation on their side. Oh, they could get hammered again, but I don't think so. I think Washington has lots of incentives and nothing to lose, and that will result in one of the biggest upsets of recent history.

Washington is also on a three-game winning streak and got there by running the football, stopping the run, and improvements in their special teams. They will need to do those three things, as well as not hurt themselves with mistakes.

The Cornhuskers can make the mistakes; they have all year long with 42 fumbles and losing 15 of them. Wow! Forty-two fumbles is a lot. They will put the ball on the ground, and if Washington can recover say, three of them, then that would really help. Nebraska has also been real sloppy on penalties, committing 97 for 891 yards on the year, including a record-setting 16 penalties for 145 yards in their loss to Texas A&M. They tend towards lots of personal foul penalties, and if Nebraska just plays to norm in those two areas - turnovers and penalties - then that could also help swing this game toward Washington.

Oklahoma exposed the Red secondary with 454 total yards on 342 passing, while Texas ran the ball 46 times for 209 yards. Missouri almost came back and scared Nebraska using a spread set with four and five wide receivers. The Huskies have that in their package, and the great thing about bowl games is that you can mix a number of different personnel grouping and specifically attack a team based upon a whole season of tendencies. Jake Locker will move the ball through the air, but he also needs to scramble and get first downs with his feet.

Washington has gotten a lot better on defense, and much of their inexperience - which was exposed by Nebraska in the third game - should now be more competitive, especially up front. Of course, losing Semisi Tokolahi will hurt, but with Everrette Thompson's versatility and ability to move inside, the Huskies should be able to compensate. Remember that Nebraska also lost a starter on their defensive front.

If Washington can hold Nebraska to under 200 yards rushing and make them advance the ball by throwing rather than running, that should give them their best chance to win the game. That 200 would be down from the 383 in their last game, and is a reasonable goal. They just can't allow any runs over 20 yards and they need to establish an edge on defense. They need to contain Martinez both running and throwing by keeping him inside. This time around if they simply play with better tackling and gap control they will be much improved. That is something the Huskies really improved on near the end of the season.

Remember this, Nebraska is only 4-3-1 vs. Washington all-time and is only 1-3 in bowl games versus the Pac-10. Nebraska's overall bowl record is only 24 and 22, so it's not like they are unbeatable in bowls. During their seven losses over the past two seasons, Nebraska has only averaged 271 yards and 12 points per game. I would think if Washington holds them under 300 yards and 20 points, they probably win the game; just take the big plays off the board, and see what happens.

I know this; if Washington can just answer every time Nebraska scores and keep themselves in the ball game into the fourth quarter, then Jake Locker will put together another game-winning drive and Erik Folk will kick the game winner with no time on the clock.

That's the way we do it. So it be said, so it be done. Top Stories