Let's get this thing started! Every Thursday on CN we will list the "Keys to Victory" for the Huskers upcoming game. I promise not to list "limit turnovers" and "run the ball" every week, but since this is the first game of the year, hell, I might just throw them in there. Each week if you have a suggestion or thought on a key that may be important for the upcoming game, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise, go ahead and rip this apart or add something to it in the comments section.
- Protect the football. Yes, it's a tired cliché, but it's a true one. Turnovers are the ultimate equalizer. Southern Miss has talent, no doubt about it, but make no mistake: Nebraska has a talent advantage at almost every position. Probably the easiest way to neutralize talent is to turn the ball over. Notice I didn't say "win the turnover battle". Yes, it would be nice to see the Blackshirts return to their takeaway heydays, but for this game I think it's much more important for our offense and special teams to protect the ball.
- Jump on ‘em early. Get off to a slow start against a team that knows how to win (12-2 and conference and bowl champs last year), and Nebraska could find itself in big trouble. Get off to a slow start and watch the confidence of a relatively young Southern Miss squad grow and grow after each snap. I don't expect this game to be put away in the 1st half, but the longer the Golden Eagles linger, the more pressure will build inside Memorial Stadium, and perhaps the tighter Nebraska plays.......and coaches.
- Run at will. The Golden Eagles are replacing several starters on defense. First game of the year. Memorial Stadium will be rocking. This would be a great time for Barney's boys to clear gaping holes for Burkhead and company. I don't care if Martinez morphed into Manning during the off season, Nebraska has to run the ball effectively to win. Always has, always will. Plus, punishing Southern Miss with the running game could give the O-line and offense a jolt of confidence moving forward.
- Keep the big plays in check. By all accounts Tracy Lampley is an electric player. He can beat you in a variety of ways, including special teams, running, and receiving. If he breaks loose for a couple big gains and plays, he could energize his team. Make Southern Miss earn every yard, and the game is ours.
- Harass their QB. We all remember last year when sacks and TFL were rarities for the Blackshirts. Southern Miss has a first time starter at quarterback, Chris Campbell. The Blackshirts need to welcome him to Lincoln.....over and over again. Put some early heat on him and watch his throws leave just a little too soon. They could incorporate a version of the spread, so I'm sure they will try a lot of 3-step drops, quick outs and slants, and wr/rb screens. Regardless, hit their quarterback early and often.