Now that Nebraska football’s start is within 10 days and Sam Keller has been announced as the starting quarterback for Nebraska, it's time to get serious about the football team. I thought I'd try a little point - counterpoint with co-author Husker Mike.
JJ: I'd like you to think about something with regards to Keller. If you look at his stats from his ASU days, he put up over 460 yards against LSU in 2005. LSU has former Husker defensive coordinator Bo Pelini as their defensive coordinator now, and they've been darned good on defense the past few years.
People like to point out his two TD, five INT game against USC in 2005 as some sort of bellwether, but USC's defense in 2005 finished 48th in the nation, compared to LSU which finished third. Clearly he just had a bad day against USC, but was able to light up a darned good LSU defense.
Now he's on a team at a place where we're ALL about football. You think that ASU had better receivers than we have at Nebraska? You think ASU's offensive line was better than ours is now? If he was capable of putting up these numbers at ASU, is the sky the limit at Nebraska?
Nebraska has never had a quarterback that could put up these kinds of numbers. Vince Ferragamo should come to mind for a lot of Husker fans. Not to take away from Ferragamo, but his biggest game (in terms of passing yardage) was 264 against Miami on October 2nd, 1976. That season he finished with 2,071 passing yards and until Zac Taylor came along last season he held the record for TD passes in a season with 20. Osborne wasn't running an option-based offense at the time, the run/pass ratio was around 68/32.
HM: You're forgetting about a kid named Brook Berringer, who put up 267 once on Kansas on 13-for-18 passing. Before the tragic plane crash, there was a lot of speculation he'd end up being drafted by Denver as the heir apparent to John Elway, running Mike Shanahan's variant of the West Coast Offense. I wonder what he'd have done in this offense with his arm and mobility.
As for the difference between Nebraska and Arizona State, there is a big difference between the West Coast Offense, which is a ball-control possession offense that tries to be balanced between rushing and passing, and the video-game aerial circus that Arizona State ran under Dirk Koetter.
The question is how will Keller adapt his game to the disciplined west coast system. He says the right things, but we really won't know until he gets back under center in a real game.
JJ: Keller threw the ball 56 times against LSU, completed 35. He then threw 56 times against Oregon, completing 31. Zac Taylor threw the ball 55 times against Iowa State in 2005, and 50 against Oklahoma in the 2006 Big 12 Championship game. Our offensive line has improved this season which should translate into being able to run the ball against some of the better defenses of the Big 12. I don't see Keller throwing the ball 50 times in a game this season, so that might be the only reason he doesn't have huge numbers at the end of the year. How do you see the offense, Mike?
HM: Keller's numbers against LSU deserve a huge asterisk. LSU's campus was a refugee center for victims of Hurricane Katrina and the game was moved at the last minute from Baton Rouge to Tempe. LSU's practices were disrupted and the players were distracted.
With the injury situation to Marlon Lucky and Cody Glenn, I expect Nebraska to throw the ball more this season than last. Part of the reason Nebraska threw the ball 50 times against Oklahoma were the injuries to Cody Glenn, Kenny Wilson, and Brandon Jackson.
Yes, our offensive line will be improved, but with the health of our experienced I-backs in question, I look for us to rely more and more on the passing game. Especially when Nebraska has a quarterback with a cannon like Keller's.
However, that raises questions about Nebraska's receivers. They struggled to get open against the Sooners and against Auburn. However, our receivers are a young group; we only lost Matt Herian. Maurice Purify is a NFL prospect and Terrence Nunn has a
chance to rewrite the record books for receiving. And I'm curious to see if youngsters like Chris Brooks, Menolik Holt, and Will Henry are going to break through this season.
JJ: Should be even more interesting due to the fact that Bill Callahan likes to spread the ball around. In less than 10 days, the Sam Keller season starts at Nebraska. I have a feeling that at season’s end we’ll be wishing he was back for more.