|All Points West: Huskers better every week|
|October 28, 2016 Frank Marquez|
Getting to the end of October, unbeaten? Now, thatís a feat for Coach Mike Riley in his second year. There were even vague comparisons to the great Tom Osborne, who by the way, according to the Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel, had a nice long phone conversation with Riley just before former offensive line coach Milt Tenopir died. Shatel said they talked about football, Sam Foltzís death and how Osborne dealt with something similar with Brook Berringer.
A side note (as if youíve been hiding under a rock), the No. 8 (AP Poll) Huskers have scored 27 points in their last two games.
So, what does Nebraska have planned for the No. 11 Badgers? Maybe, a taste of their own medicine.
Much has been made of Wisconsinís defense. Last week, that defense did not allow a single TD against the Iowa Hawkeyes, who Nebraska plays in four weeks on November 25. The Hawks, for all their worth, gave the Badgers what for with their own defense, allowing only two TDs and a field goal in the fourth quarter.
Against Iowa, Jack Cichy and Garret Dooley had six and four solo tackles, respectively. Not break out numbers, but steady. But keep in mind, Hawks QB C.J. Beathard simply does not have the weapons that are at Tommy Armstrongís disposal. Though Nebraska TE Cethan Carter has been ruled out against the game against Wisconsin, the return of senior wide-out Jordan Westerkamp adds to a deep corps already, gaining more experience, thus confidence as the Huskersí wins continue to mount. The list includes speedsters with a sixth-gear shifting, Alonzo Moore, Stanley Morgan Jr., and junior DeíMornay Pierson-El, who my gut tells me, is ready for a breakout game. And, donít forget Brandon Reilly.
Also, donít forget the sporadic surprise runs by Armstrong, as well as work-horse running backs Devine Ozigbo and Terrell Newby, who have been known to run through defenders like a hot knife through butter. Though Ozigbo and Armstrong played with some aches and pains, they have shown they can muster up the big plays when the Huskers need them. Also, playing through injuries, the offensive lineís Nick Gates and David Knevel have been invaluable in superior run blocking and pass protection. They should give fits to Cichey, Dooley and T.J. Watt (the younger brother of J.J. Watt who plays for the Houston Texans).
Countering on offense and running an inverted wishbone formation this season, the Badgers have been led by QB Alex Hornibrook, a southpaw, who won the job over projected starter Bart Houston, who unimpressively ran a few series against Iowa. Expect running back Corey Clement Ė the Badgers version of Ozigbo Ė and receivers Quintez Cephus, Jazz Peavy and Troy Fumagalli to be the most active on offense.
Last week, Purdueís offense one dimensionally played as expected with the Boilermakers QB David Blough targeting favorite receiver DeAngelo Yancey for two TDS. Though, Nebraskaís defenders are no pushovers. Look for possible pick sixes from Chris Jones and Nate Gerry in the secondary, while Ross Dzuris, who has record 4.5 sacks on the season, will look do the same against the Badgers. Heís getting good at hunting quarterbacks. Josh Banderas, who has come on as of late, and Dedrick Young II, had five solo tackles apiece against Purdue, and will look to hold down the middle, and likely will shut down Fumagalli on short routes.
Letís face it. The Huskers have shown they can outlast opponents and have worn them down repeatedly. Nebraska has outscored opponents 98-13 in the fourth quarter. They put up 10 points on the board against Purdueís zilch, and got close to scoring on the final drive of the game to run the clock out. The Huskers were that close to covering a three-TD spread.
On offense, the Huskers also convert on third down 49 percent of the time, drawing out long drives. By the time the fourth rolls around, the Black Shirts still have fresh legs, while the opponentís defense suffers.
Head to head, Nebraska and Wisconsin have played only 10 times in their history. With the Freedom Trophy at stake, the Badgers hold a 6-4 edge in the series and have won four of the five Big Ten games the teams have played. Last year, kicker Rafael Gaglianone made a 46-yarder with four seconds left for the 23-21 heartbreak decision. In the previous year, probably the most painful of memories, the Badgers with running back freight train Melvin Gordon torched the Huskers, 59-24.
Iíd say itís about time for some payback.
Conference wise, what remains helpful is knowing the No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes are vulnerable. A fourth quarter letdown during the White Out game against Penn State proved that not playing at your best when it counts can keep things interesting for the Big Ten. This week, the Buckeyes take on a resurgent Northwestern. According to Las Vegas odds makers, Nebraska has a 2.1 percent chance of running the table, and a 6 percent chance of beating both Wisconsin and Ohio State.
Interested in watching what might be an instant classic? Kickoff is at 5 p.m. local time at Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wisconsin, and will be aired nationally on ESPN and online at ESPN3.com.