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Crossfire: Nebraska Q&A

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To get a better look at what we should expect from Nebraska this weekend, we turned to our colleagues at Corn Nation for a Q&A. My responses to CN are available here.


1. So, four games into the Pelini era, what have we learned about Nebraska so far?

Blankman: This is clearly a rebuilding year for the program as a whole.  There is solid talent but I would argue that there is not the proper staff to coach every aspect of the team and perform other duties.  I think that Bo is finding his head coach identity and it’s going to take a year or two to truly find if it’s simply intensity that defines him.


Husker Mike:  Sadly, the coaching change hasn't corrected as many problems as we had hoped.  While our red zone defense has improved significantly, we still struggle with fundamentals.  On offense, we're way too inconsistent and struggle with running the ball.


Corn Blight: It’s going to be a tough road back and it isn’t going to happen all in a single season. I knew that already. I fear for the sanity of those who thought that the return of Tom Osborne and hiring Bo Pelini would automatically give us seven points to start the game. 

With regards to the team on the field, I’m disappointed that we’re not more physical than we are, and that particularly is true on the offensive line. I had hoped these guys would be monsters, and so far that’s not been the case. Apparently you can’t flush Bill Callahan’s influence in only a few games. 


I figured the secondary would be a work in progress, but I thought that our safeties would be fine.


2. What are the biggest lessons Nebraska took out of the home loss to Virginia Tech? What deficiencies exposed during the game worry you the most when it comes to matching up with Mizzou?

Blankman: If you want to beat Nebraska, put eight men in the box and throw on offense.


Husker Mike:  Several times, Nebraska's secondary couldn't cover Tech's young receivers.  Fortunately, Tech's Tyrod Taylor missed those wide-open receivers. Chase Daniel won't.


Corn Blight: There’s still a lot of work to do in the secondary, and there’s still a huge problem with consistency. Some of this is due to playing young guys and learning a new defense, but some of it is a lackadaisical attitude that hasn’t yet been cleansed from the program. 


3. The blueprint for slowing down Mizzou's offense is generating pressure with four down linemen. Do you expect Nebraska to be able to generate that kind of pressure?

Blankman: Not unless changes are made. Pierre Allen looked far too slow against Virginia Tech whereas Cameron Meredith appeared to look very fast and capable of playing from a linebacker or lineman’s spot.  If Meredith doesn’t get his fair share of snaps against Mizzou, someone’s got naked pictures.


Husker Mike:  One area where there is clear improvement on defense is on the defensive line.  Ndamakong Suh has been living up to his reputation, and Ty Steinkuhler has been a force as well. Zach Potter has continued his strong play from last season.  By that same manner, Nebraska hasn't faced an offense like Missouri's  yet.  But there is a glimmer of hope that the defensive line can get Daniel out of rhythm occasionally.


Corn Blight: Yes, I do. Ndamukong Suh has played pretty well (other than a costly penalty against VaTech), coming up with a couple sacks, an interception which was returned for a TD, and a forced fumble. I disagree with Blankman in that I think Pierre Allen has done decently for a young guy taking over for the injured Barry Turner. Allen is third in tackles and has a sack of his own. 


We could see more rotation on the front four so they’d stay fresher later in the game.  



(More questions after the jump)



4. What should Mizzou fans expect from the Nebraska offense? Are the Tigers going to get a healthy dose of Castille, Helu and Lucky out of the backfield?

Blankman: Marlon Lucky and Roy Helu will be Mizzou’s primary concerns out of the backfield.  I would also look to see a concentrated effort to get Nate Swift, Todd Peterson and Menelik Holt the ball via the air. Joe Ganz will run some option as well.


Husker Mike:  We'd like to think so...but the I-backs were spectators for the most part against Virginia Tech. Marlon Lucky will start, but beware of Roy Helu when he gets into the game in the second half. Otherwise, watch out for the tight ends on play action and the wide receiver screens.  Unless, of course, Shawn Watson has been playing rope-a-dope the last few weeks.


Corn Blight: I would prefer that we run the ball consistently and only go to the air when play-action is necessary. The only way I see us winning this game is in limiting the Tigers’ opportunities, keep the game relatively low scoring. 

Okay, honestly, Husker fans don’t even know what to expect out of this offense. Part of that is because it’s multiple - meaning we should be able to run or throw dependent upon what the defense is giving us. Part of that is because one week we look like we could run over people, the next week we miss a bunch of assignments, aren’t physical enough or the quarterback decides to have a bad game as was the case against Virginia Tech. We’ve yet to play a complete game. Maybe we’re due. 


5. You've made no secret of your belief that Lincoln will once again harness Chase Daniel like it did in 2006. As an opposing fan, what do you think it will take for Daniel to exorcise the demons you love to mention?

Blankman: Throwing the football.


Husker Mike: I think if Daniel plays like he has this season and Gary Pinkel doesn't interfere, he stands an excellent chance of exorcising those demons.


Corn Blight: I haven’t have I? Ha! If you were in my shoes, what would you do - maybe play up the biggest asset you have (haven’t won in Lincoln in 30 years mantra), over and over until people are tired of hearing it (think: election year)?

The only thing Daniel has to do is be himself. He’s an excellent quarterback and Mizzou has an excellent team. The biggest thing I’d be worried about is whether or not his head swells too large to fit into a helmet. 

On the other hand, Nebraska was embarrassed in Columbia last season and they haven’t forgotten it. The fourth quarter fake field goal provides all the bulletin board material the Cornhuskers need for this game. If Missouri comes into the game believing that all they need to do is show up, then we may see Oregon State vs USC again this week. 


Staying with that theme, this is a great game to see whether the whole of Nebraska’s team is going to play with urgency. I would love to see us win this game, but it will be more interesting to see if every one of our guys fights until it’s over. 


6. In June, you predicted a 35-31 win for Nebraska. Do you stand by your prediction, or would you care to tweak it?

Blankman says: Missouri 45 Nebraska 20


Corn Blight: Slightly. Nebraska 31-30. 

I based the prediction on Nebraska getting turnovers and I’ll stick with that. Is it a homerific pick? You’re damned right it is. 

There’s one more thing to mention. It’s been a while since Missouri experienced their famous bad luck, so perhaps the good karma well has run dry. Maybe we’ll see another "Fifth Down" or "Flea Kicker" play that determines the outcome of the game. I’ve been extra nice to everyone around me this week just to see if it’ll tip the scale.