I ran out of time to do the "Five Reasons We'll Lose" and Five Reasons We'll Win" stuff, so we're back to the "Keys To Victory" format. Bottom line about the keys - they are the points in the game that will lead to success or failure. Not as purposeful at yanking the chains of passersby that get upset at seeing "We'll Lose" as a headline (what, I admit yanking chains? Yes!), but after spending too much time thinking about it, it's what I come up with.
There are football games that are all about mob rule. A whole bunch of guys get together and go up against another group of guys, just to see who can beat the crap out of the other guys the most. This ain't one of those games.
This game is all about isolation, about calling the plays that put your playmaker in a one-on-one situation with the opposition and hoping that they make a mistake. I ran out of time trying to do two separate "Five Reasons" articles, so consider this one that combines the specific keys to the game.
Gimmes: Turnovers, Penalties, Dropped Balls
1. The Mob Rules The Middle
We've already talked about this earlier in the Q&A session, but Nebraska's defensive line will need to keep the middle stopped up and stop the run to win this game.
2. Too Much Penetration Leads to Elimination
You seen the stat where Nebraska is 119th in tackles for loss? Does it like OMG bother you? I wouldn't let it. Take this Oklahoma State game, for example. Brandon Weeden isn't the kind of guy that's going to burn you with his feet, but he will burn you with a checkdown reception or shovel pass to Kendall Hunter. That's why it's better the Huskers don't just tear up the field in a race to get to the quarterback - it's because you'll get badly burned if you don't protect your gaps.
(Jim Gaffigan voice: Isn't this just an extension of #1? He's getting lazy.... )
3. Watch Da Middle Skadiddle
I had this nightmare last night about Kendall Hunter. Okie State goes four wide, doubles on each side, Hunter in a single back set. The four receivers run out routes, taking their defenders with them to the outside of the field. Lavonte David is left to cover the middle of the field, all by himself and Hunter burns him on a run up the middle for a long touchdown.
Like I said it was a nightmare.
4. Let's Meet Again On The Same NFL Team!
Any Husker fan worth their salt would bet corners Prince Amukamara and Alfonzo Dennard could cover any other team's best receivers in one-on-one man coverage. This week that coverage includes Justin Blackmon. It'll be a great battle between these guys, and Nebraska will need to win it to avoid giving up big plays and win this game. Simple, right?
Anyone doubt all three of them will be meeting later in the NFL?
5. Youthful Mistakes
Oklahoma State has four new starters on the offensive line, three new starters at linebacker, and three new starters in the secondary. Nebraska faced it's greatest test of the season last week and failed. This time it's the Cowboy's turn to face their greatest test of the season... and fail.
If you think Husker fans are worried about the potential mistakes our youthful linebackers might make against Kendall Hunter, how do you think Cowboy fans feel about their defense facing Taylor Martinez and Roy Helu?
Mistakes = big plays. Nebraska has been a big play offense most of this season. Time to get that back.
6. The Stop Martinez Blueprint Shmoeprint
You hear the cliché' repeatedly - "They've found the blueprint for stopping (whatever fantastic player or team is in the news but didn't live up to video game expectations this week)", and then they go on about as if everyone can do it. Here, I got a blueprint for you to stop Taylor Martinez. Before the play, you sneak up on him, and nail his feet to the ground. Poof! No more big plays! Ha! (Dinsdale!)
Funny thing is - you got a blueprint, but it still requires the personnel to execute it. Oklahoma State doesn't have near the team speed (especially at linebacker) that Texas has. Nor do they have the depth.
Blueprint? More like a shoeprint, left on your back as he's running over your failed attempts to dive at him. (Okay, that was bad, wasn't it? Bloody mary's all around! whoooo!)
7. Normally I Hate People Who Don't Get Hangovers
Let's face it, must of us get hangovers. Others do, but lie about it. And then there's that 5% of the population who drink adult beverages but don't feel any morning-after affects. Widely despised by the rest of us, they wake up happy, alert and ready to go on with their lives. I hate them. Someone invented the bloody mary with a beer chaser breakfast just for me.
It's a safe bet that if Bo Pelini senses anyone (players, not you or me) suffering from a Texas-sized hangover that they'll be off the field pretty quickly. Pelini would tell you this is not an issue. He also told you that Texas was just another game.
This is the biggest mental challenge the team faces this week, but I have faith in the Pelini. He'd scare me straight, that much I can tell you.