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Keys to the Game: Virginia Tech

It’s finally arrived: The first “big game” in the Bo Pelini era. In fact, each and every game from here on out can very well and should be considered “big games”. Virginia Tech offers the best of an admittedly poor non-conference slate, but it’s a night game, will be regionally-televised, no doubt some solid recruits will be in attendance and Nebraska has an ability to sell itself as a program again.

This works for the kids in uniform and ones that could choose to put one on in the coming days. After VT comes Mizzou, but Tiger fans as much as I’d love to get into that dustup, I’ll look forward to writing about the black and gold next week. What does Nebraska have to do to make sure that they’re undefeated going into my next “Keys of the Game” article?

1.) Get Ganz time – As Joe has shown us when he has time in the pocket he can work over a secondary until he’s not only zipping passes through (and in some cases over) them but can zip through them as well. I would advise Coach Watson not to go to the “Option Well” too many times this week as VT will be looking for it, but a sweet faux-option dropback/playaction job would be gorgeous. Much like NMSU, Joe needs to have the time to be the player that he is and he is good enough to get the job done.

2.) Mix it up! – Establishing the running game will be key in defeating the Hokies. Regardless of if Nebraska wants to win by one or 100, all facets of the offense Watson wants to provide need to be there. We saw this against NMSU, but the Hokies have slightly better talent*. It is imperative that Lucky and Helu are able to do damage and if that’s the case, Castille needs to bruise some bodies as well. If Virginia Tech allows Nebraska to bring a balanced attack to this game, they’ve lost.

*Ya think?

3.) Marketing time is over – We’ve all seen the shirts that Bo knows defense or how Bo shoots and kills water buffalo with slingshots and marshmallows or how he can skin a buck in 2.4 seconds. That’s great. The ACC’s not exactly lighting the world on fire as a conference right now, but let’s see some action to back up the marketing and branding.

Virginia Tech does not bring two quarterbacks that cannot be corralled to this matchup. Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor are two different styles of QB, but both can be contained and shut down by Pelini.

This will, however, be a true test for the defense as a whole as RB Darren Evans has shown the ability to make things happen, so I believe that the front seven and specifically Ty Steinkuhler and Ndamukong Suh are going to play one of the biggest roles of this game. If they can keep the middle closed allowing the ends to crash and the line syncs? Nebraska can control this game from the outset. If, however, holes form, it’s going to be a long day.  

I’m not too worried about safety play this week. More cautiously optimistic, actually. Larry Asante upped his game a bit last week plus Anthony West returns to a secondary that can use all of the healthy depth and talent it can get its hands on. In summary, I don’t think that this is going to be a high scoring affair.

I think that if either team breaks 20 points it’ll be no more than 23 and Beamerball will likely translate to both sides of the game. We have Zach Potter. Every kick is blockable, do you hear!? Look for a close, defensive battle (ugly game) that could be won by either side.