Huskers Win Battle Of Top Defenses

  • Tuesday, November 10, 2009 2:14 PM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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Oklahoma's visit to Nebraska represented the top two defenses in the country taking on offenses with more than their fair share of offensive struggles. The Sooners' issues are well-documented: the careers of Sam Bradford and tight end Jermaine Gresham were prematurely ended by injuries, putting a freshman quarterback behind a sub-par offensive line. Nebraska's woes are largely from a tactical point of view -- they haven't settled on a starting quarterback because neither is able to move the ball down the field, though that assignment has grown tougher as the season has progressively neutered the running game. First Quentin Castille was dismissed for failing his fifth drug test, and then Roy Helu Jr., probably their best offensive weapon, is hampered by a shoulder injury that's reduced his effectiveness and caused him to miss snaps.

So there shouldn't be much surprise that the game was low-scoring, a 10-3 Nebraska win, given their offensive reputations. Oklahoma finished first nationally in scoring last season, averaging more than 51 points per game. The Huskers scored 35.4 points per game and were ranked 25th nationally.

The game was also significant in regards to the disparity between the Big 12 North and South Divisions. Nebraska's win was the first time since 2007 a Big 12 North team beat Oklahoma, and the first Nebraska win over the Sooners since 2001, when Eric Crouch caught a touchdown pass on his way to a 20-10 win and a Heisman.

It's a down year for Oklahoma, but if the North wants to rebuild its reputation, games like this must be won. Nebraska can rest easy, now that it has a signature win under coach Bo Pelini.

This week: 3-3 overall, 2-3 Big 12

Overall: 55-23, 22-9 Big 12

Hits

Oklahoma State 34, Iowa State 8: Keith Toston is a nice storyline in the Big 12. The senior got his chance to start after running back Kendall Hunter went down injured in the second game of the season. He had his day in the sun against the Cyclones, rushing for 206 yards and three touchdowns.

Kansas State 17, Kansas 10: Manhattan and Lawrence are only a few hours apart, but they might as well be at the North and South poles. You'd think they're cashing each other's checks every weekend, with the Wildcats soaking up all the success the Jayhawks were supposed to have and KU wallowing in KSU's shoulda-been failure. Back to the same old mantra for Kansas: When does basketball start?

Texas 35, Central Florida 3: I can't help but feel that a game against Central Florida after a schedule featuring Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech has to feel like a vacation. I doubt Jordan Shipley would disagree. The wide receiver decimated the school record for receiving yards in a game, finishing with 273.

Misses

Nebraska 10, Oklahoma 3: How many teams can upset a ranked team with only 39 passing yards and seven first downs? About as many as can boast the top defense in the nation. Nebraska's offense was completely inept, but it took care of the ball and did what it needed to win. Best stat: The lone touchdown drive was one yard long.

Colorado 35, Texas A&M 34: There's just no telling what these teams will do. A&M had the win and was running away with it, but they tripped over themselves and let Colorado surge back for the win.

Baylor 40, Missouri 32: I can tell you Gary Pinkel's having trouble sleeping. This was supposed to be the Tigers' "let's get back on track" game. Instead, Baylor quarterback Nick Florence turned it into the "who's Robert Griffin?" show. Next up for Mizzou: Kansas State. Uh oh.

Big 12 Preview | Nebraska No. 4

  • Sunday, August 30, 2009 7:05 PM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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2008 record: 9-4 overall, 5-3 Big 12 Conference, co-Big 12 North champions

2009 projection: 10 wins and division supremacy, but NU will need another season to climb back among the elite.

Reason to get excited: The defense made a huge leap in Coach Bo Pelini's first year, cutting its average yards allowed by more than 125 yards per game, and finished the season on a 6-1 tear.

Reason not to get worked up: The secondary will have to prove it can defend against big arms.

The gist: Nebraska is ranked in most everybody's preseason Top 25 with an unknown, unproven quarterback. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson raves about quarterback Zac Lee's abilities, and he has the arm strength and passing abilities that Joe Ganz lacked last year. He's also got a bulked up Roy Helu Jr., who looks ready to become a star all-purpose back. Fellow running back Quentin Castille's dismissal from the team will put more pressure on Helu, but the impact of his loss on the run game has been exaggerated. The offensive line loses Matt Slauson and Lydon Murtha but reloads to form one of the strongest O-lines in the Big 12. The receivers are loaded with talent but a little light on experience. Defensively, Ndamukong Suh is one of the best players in the country. He led or was tied for the team lead in sacks, tackles and interceptions last season, and leads a strong defensive line. The Huskers' secondary and passing game is the point of concern. Even with senior safety Larry Asante and returning cornerback Anthony West, Nebraska might struggle if the passing defense can't get stops -- and picks.

Rallying point: Suh. They're already engraving his name on the Lombardi Award trophy.

Cover your eyes: If Helu's hamstring troubles put him on the bench.

For what it's worth: The only game on Nebraska's schedule that is a highly probable loss is Oklahoma. The division is getting better, but NU is getting better, faster. They've got Texas Tech at home, and the game at Virginia Tech looks much more winnable with Hokie running back Darren Evans out for the season. Watch out on the road at Baylor and Kansas, but if they win every game they should, Nebraska will end the regular season will 10 wins, maybe 11.