Cornhuskers a Tall Order for Young Huskies

Nebraska is simply one of the finest football programs in America. They have won at least nine games every year since 1962. They are the biggest entertainment draw in the whole state and have had 313 consecutive sellouts crowds of over 85,000. They have won national championships and have over 150 kids on their team. 'Nuf said!

This will be an incredible win for a Husky team comprised mostly of sophomores and freshmen. They will be decided underdogs.

Given the results of their last bowl game, there is also no way this Cornhuskers team does not come into a rubber match with Washington thinking anything but revenge. The Huskies embarrassed them last December and they have pointed to this game since the first of the year.

Like the Huskies, they too are on an "ABC" schedule for their pre-season. They opened up by hosting Chattanooga. That's right, the Chattanooga Choo-Choos. Then they hosted Fresno State, winning 42-29, and are now they're hosting the Huskies. Why do they get three home games? Because they're Nebraska, that's why! They do complete their out of conference games by playing Wyoming on the road, but they could beat Wyoming playing anywhere. Washington is their "A" game, and they will be ready.

As you know, the Nebraska Cornhuskers are now in the Big-10 Conference (that really isn't ten, but who is counting?). Whatever, they're good again and everyone expects them to contend to win the "Legends" division of the Big-10 that isn't 10.

The Big Red is a machine. It's the most popular fall pastime in the whole state and they can roll you up with their option game if you're not ready to stop the quarterback. Someone has to be responsible for the QB, Taylor Martinez, on every snap, and sometimes you need to simply zap, or immediately attack him. That probably won't work all the time, because, like everyone else today, Nebraska runs the spread zone read option with the QB in the gun. When he "keeps", it is usually out the backdoor with the back going the other way, often with no pitch. His read is the end man on the line of scrimmage; contain will be critical, and keeping him in the pocket is probably better than letting him run or bootleg with the ball.

In their win against Fresno State, all Martinez did was account for 365 yards. He had 15 rushes for 166 yards, and scored two touchdowns and passed for another 219. By the way, he opened the game with a 57-yarder on a keep. Sound familiar? Then he added a 46-yard touchdown scamper and another 38-yarder. That's 141 yards right there, But he also had two fumbles and two interceptions. So there it is, one of the keys to help the Huskies; go for three to four turnovers and win the game right there.

Martinez also threw one 53-yarder, one 43-yarder, and one 42-yarder, so stopping him from running won't necessarily win the game. No doubt Nebraska will think they can throw after watching tapes of Washington's first two games. I think if you pick your poison then you might be better off eliminating his run and taking it from there.

Nebraska really put the game against Fresno State away with a 100-yard kickoff return by a true freshman, Ameer Abdullah, who ended up setting a school record for return yardage with 211 yards. Maybe kicking to the other guy might be considered, but regardless - Washington's coverage teams, who have been pretty good, will certainly be tested. He is a freshman, so he too could fumble.

All things considered, there are certain things that Washington can do to improve their chances. First and foremost is to take the long plays off the board: No long runs of 20 yards or more; no long passes of 25 yards or more; and no long kick returns over 30 yards or more will help the most. Nebraska had eight total plays of 38 yards or more against Fresno State. Then win the turnover battle by plus-three, and repeat last week's no drops for the receivers, and eliminate the missed tackles on defense. These simple fundamentals, along with protecting the football, usually dictate games.

When you play in Lincoln, you can bet the trenches will be a day-long battle and a test of wills. The Cornhuskers have a great tradition of playing hard-nosed, tough football up front. They are huge and they try to intimidate. In the Holiday Bowl, the Huskies matched that toughness in the lines, and as the game progressed seemed to get stronger - particularly in their will to win. Nebraska's line hasn't forgotten that, so the Dawgs up front will have to bring it every play. This game will reflect that concept, and watch the interior play - because these guys will try to bully the Huskies and "crush" their enemy "totally" (It's actually one of the 12 rules in their weight and conditioning program.)

It's all about matching their toughness when you play Nebraska. That's how you beat them, along with scoring more points, of course.

On defense, the "Black Shirts" are certain to be thinking they have to lock down Chris Polk. If Chris can gain at least 145 yards and scores twice for the Huskies, then Washington will probably win.

Of course everything could go south, and believe me I've been on that sideline when it did. You know Nebraska will try and knock you out in the first half, so just keep the score close and give yourself a chance to win it in the fourth, get the lead, and then let Polk take care of business.

Washington knows they can beat Nebraska because they've done it before. Nebraska knows this too. There is a chance, and if the Huskies can pull it off they will become immediately ranked. They would come home to host California, starting league play filled with confidence.

Let's see how they play on the national stage. This is their "A" game, so let's see them bring their "A" game. They will have to bring it in order to win.


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