We all know what happened last year. Nebraska ran and ran and ran and people were all cranky about it as if the tried and true strategy of "keep the game close and try to steal it in the end" wasn't valid and hadn't worked for underdogs in every sport for the past 1500 years. Last year's conservative approach is still a big story. People have the idea that Bill Callahan needs "let it all hang out" which I presume means throwing the ball all over the place. Screw proving a point, I'd like to see us win the game.
'Pound the Rock' is a central theme in Nebraska football and has been since 1894. Just because some guy showed up from the NFL with an offense from the West Coast doesn't mean anything has changed. We are Nebraska. We run the ball to win. It's in our soil and in our heritage, and it won't be any different in this game. What has changed is that we now have a quarterback capable of throwing the ball and guys that are capable of catching it and that's it.
If you were looking for a fancy analysis, forget it. There's been plenty of it around the Internets - the only thing I haven't seen is recommendations on what type of food the Huskers should have the morning of the game (there's still time for that!). This game isn't about fancy - although it may be about tricky - it's about consistent execution through four quarters of football.
Here's our "Bill Callahan Keys To Victory" over USC:
Be Efficient on Offense
We don't have to be good on offense, but we must be efficient. It means taking advantages of the opportunities that present themselves. Nothing real fancy needed to accomplish this goal:
- No dropped balls by receivers, and no overthrows on open receivers like we saw in the Wake Forest game.
- Downfield blocking on all running plays all of the time and the receivers hold their blocks until the play is over.
- No sacks given up by the Husker offensive line. We haven't given up a sack this season. Why start now?
- No dancing at the line. Quick decisions by Marlon Lucky will result in an extra yard or two, a mile's worth of difference after four quarters of football. You know that we'll see more of Cody Glenn and Quentin Castille in this game.
Bottom line - keep the ball, and keep it moving by whatever means necessary.
Smack that Booty
I'll spare you the booty jokes - around here we're more about stupid than crude - but the more that John David Bigbooty ends up on his backside, the better off the game will go. The same goes for the rest of the Trojans. Larry Asante making receivers pay for running route in the middle, Ndamukong Suh getting USC's freshman center to flinch as he's hiking the ball, Corey McKeon stopping Chaucey Washington long enough for him to be gang-tackled at the line.
USC players commented after last year's game about how tired they were when the game finished. Considering that we didn't have the depth that we do now it'd be good to see USC cramping up late in the third quarter. Constant body blows throughout the game and we can wear them down. The "keep it close and steal it in the end" strategy works well in this regard.
Bottom line - let's literally beat the hell out the Trojans. If the Huskers lose, at the least the Trojans walk away knowing they were in one helluva fight.
Make A Statement
USC is going to come into this game and try to make a statement about being the #1 team. Nebraska is coming into this game hoping to make a statement that we're part of the national conversation.
Nebraska needs to let USC worry about making their statement while all we should be worrying about is playing football. If we play the football we're capable of playing, the crowd will stay in the game, the team will feed off the energy from the crowd and USC will begin to wonder what they've gotten themselves into. As the game goes on they will become more worried about making their statement, which will lead to self-doubt, which leads to anxiousness, which leads to acts of stupidity. Pete Carroll's teams aren't known for self-doubt, but you wouldn't have known that watching last year's USC-UCLA game in which the Bruins smothered the Trojans big offense winning 13-9.
If USC is successful in taking the crowd out of the game early we will have lost a huge advantage in the game. Night games give a home team an extra advantage in that people have spent more time imbibing and enter the game in somewhat of a frenzy. Home crowds will keep that frenzy as long as the energy level in the stadium stays high. Unfortunately a home crowd is more apt to crash for the same reasons - a lack of energy and everyone crashes simultaneously.
Protect the Ball
Pete Carroll's team doesn't give up the ball very often, and they've made a living out of taking it away from their opponents. Specifically, no interceptions by Sam Keller combined with the Blackshirt defense swarming on USC's running backs and we might just win this battle.
There aren't a lot of marquee games this weekend so the Huskers and Trojans are in the national spotlight. Right now it won't bother me if we lose while keeping it close and playing well. Ask me again tonight around 9:00 pm and I might give you a different answer.