The more I read about this game, the more nervous I get. Maybe it's the constant barrage of coverage yet on Appalachian State. That people don't know what to expect from Michigan. Maybe it's the feeling that I get after a 52-10 win over an overmatched opponent that makes me feel like we're reading too much into this Husker team. I don't know.
I do know that people are good at convincing themselves into believing things that aren't true, so I become pretty skeptical about everything right before a game. What if Wake Forest sandbagged last week, didn't show anything, even though they lost? What if their starting quarterback really isn't out? What if our offensive line looked so good because Nevada really sucked? What if we're still a bad road team? What if they invented a new form of flubber and no one knows?
Argh! I'll probably stay up all night thinking about all this stuff, but honestly Wake Forest is just like Nevada. They're a team that Nebraska should crush if we expect to compete with the USC's of the world. I believe that will happen in just a few more hours. Unless Wake Forest can get that offensive line going. Maybe run a trick play early and make it work. Pick off a pass like last week and return it for a touchdown.
Argggh - squared!
- Pound the Rock
Is this a cliche' yet? It may be, cliche' being defined as:
cliche' - a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.
So it's a cliche', but it's our cliche'. As it has been for many games, it is so true once again. 12 offensive lineman made the road trip to fill 10 rotation spots, so for the first time in a while, we have plenty of depth on the line. We will pound the rock. We will pound the rock to the outside to see how their linebackers move to the ball, and if we can catch them, we will continue. And wear them down. Nobody said that just because we have a 'West Coast Offense' that we have to throw the football.
Wait, there's more. Wake Forest typically deploys a "bend don't break" defensive scheme, much like Nebraska did last year. Given that mentality, Nebraska can pound the rock anywhere on the field to the Red Zone, aptly named this season because it should be ours. Once in the Red Zone, the Huskers can deploy the "Jump Ball":
Maurice Purify, 6-4, 220, Sr.
Todd Peterson, 6-4, 210, Jr.
Nate Swift, 6-2, 200, Jr
Will Henry, 6-5, 210, R-Fr
Menelik Holt, 6-4, 215, Soph.
Mike McNeill, (TE), 6-4, 225, R-Fr.
JB Phillips, (TE), 6-3, 245, Sr.
Wake Forest secondary:
CB, Alphonso Smith, 5-9, 191 lbs, Rshrt-JR
SS, Kevin Patterson, 5-10, 185, R-Jr.
FS, Chip Vaugh, 6-2, 220, R-Jr.
CB, Kerry Major, 5-11, 179, R-Jr
Obviously there's a mismatch in sheer size. If you've been reading this blog long enough, you know that I like Courtney Grixby. He's a great athlete and a credit to the Huskers. His Demon Deacon counterpart, Alphonso Smith, also 5-9, shouldn't be taken lightly because of his stature either. Last week against Boston College, Smith returned one interception for a touchdown and forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
Watch for the jump ball game in the red zone.
- Keep It In Front Of You
Ndamukong Suh, 6-4, 305, nose tackle, against Chris DeGeare, 6-4, 362, center. That's where it begins, and that's not a cake walk. Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe is known for his misdirection and you can bet that if Wake gets it going at all on the ground that we'll see plenty of deception.
Your favorite play is watching a Nebraska linebacker blitzing into the backfield and crushing an opposing team's quarterback, right? Same here. Unfortunately, that's only good if they have the ball. If Wake gets it's offense going, then Nebraska needs to play honest defense. Don't pursue with abandon. Pursue with purpose.
No big plays by Wake, no successful trick plays by Wake equals a Nebraska win.
- Once again, be special.
All of the previews I've seen have talked about the Demon Deacons on offense, throwing the ball 60 times, moving it around, keeping Nebraska off-balance. They've talked about the Deacons defensive front seven. That they're big, strong, and fast. But not one has mentioned Wake Forest kicker Sam Swank.
Swank doubles as Wake's starting place-kicker and punter. He's on the watch list for both the Lou Groza and Ray Guy awards, and he was a semifinalist for the Groza award in 2006. Swank finished fourth in the nation last season in field goals per game with 1.64, hitting 23 of 31,including 5 of 7 from beyond 50 and two from 53 yards. He owns the school record for the longest punt at 86 yards. Let's not get ourselves into a situation where this guy controls the outcome of the game because he's too damned good for us to let that happen and come out with a win.
Last week Husker fans were thrilled with the performance of true freshman Adi Kunalic, as well we should be, but Kunalic has yet to play on the road, and yet to be put in a position where we need him for a game-winning field goal.
To stay out of that situation, Nebraska needs to keep getting touchbacks on kickoffs. We need to maintain coverage on punts and kickoffs, and it'd be great if we got a big return again this week. Last week, Grixby's big return blew open the game. We have yet to return a kick for a touchdown under Bill Callahan's watch. It wouldn't suck if that finally happened.
I don't think Nebraska has this problem, I haven't seen it mentioned, but I'm bringing it up here just to get it out of my system. We're not looking ahead to USC. They are the 800-pound gorilla no one has mentioned. Nebraska needs to get on the road at Wake Forest, take care of business and come home. That's it. No looking ahead. That can occur at about 3:00 pm Saturday.