After last week's game, I joked that this weeks' three keys for the Iowa State game would be:
- Score More Points than the other guys!
- Don't Quit on the Play!
- Throw It to the Guy On Our Team!
Those keys came from the negative reaction that was haphazard offensive play against Texas Tech. I'll drop them because Iowa State has been playing well enough to deserve some attention.
Husker fans tend to take the Cyclones for granted, especially at home, where Nebraska hasn't lost to Iowa State since 1977. The Husker football can't afford to take anything for granted. Right now the goal of winning the Big 12 North is still intact. A loss at home to the Cyclones would be a total disaster, and could lead to a riotous fan base.
Find The Right Combination
What's wrong with Nebraska's offense? We were treated to a smattering of responses this week from the media, from fans, and most were of the bumper sticker variety - pointing to a single problem as if it's elimination the problem would be cured.
Shawn Watson has come under fire, as has Zac Lee, along with the offensive line. All are guilty in some regard. Watson because he's ultimately responsible for making the offense go, Lee because of his lack of production, and the offensive line because they haven't yet performed well as a unit.
This game is the perfect time to find the right combination that works on offense. That means getting the right players on the field running plays that they'll execute well enough in order to be successful. Whether that's running, throwing or punting on third down, it has to happen.
Does it matter to anyone whether the starter is Zac Lee, Cody Green, or the one that's most successful? Do we care if Niles Paul has more receptions than Mike McNeill if the Huskers win?
Eliminate the Stupid
This is one of the same keys as last week, and it's going to stay a key until this team stops shooting itself in the foot. Ndamukong Suh has picked up a number of personal foul penalties, but has no one has complained about him because his penalties are the result of agression. Were the the rest of the penalties of that manner, fans wouldn't be so uneasy.
I'm thinking about the offensive line in particular. Enough with the false starts and holding calls. The unit hasn't played well enough to establish a strong running game, making the margin for error small for gaining first downs. Eliminate the mistakes, open some holes, and maybe Roy Helu can take some time off to heal up while the offense finds a quality replacement for the injured Rex Burkhead.
Stop The Run
With Tom Herman calling the plays you would have thought Iowa State's biggest threat would be in the passing game. Herman came from Rice, where he broke 50 of the school's offensive records with a high-octane attack that ranked in the top ten nationally in passing, scoring and total offense.
Herman has decided to run the offense to be successful with the players he has. This year it's about establishing the run with running back Alexander Robinson and quarterback Austen Arnaud. Robinson has had four 100-yard games already, and has gained 735 yards so far this season, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Arnaud is the second-leading rusher, with 434 yards and a 4.8 per carry average.
The Husker defensive will want Arnaud to beat them through the air. His completion ratio of 57 percent is decent enough, but his touchdown to interception ratio of 2-1 (10 TDs, 5 INTs) should have the secondary salivating. They didn't get a turnover against Texas Tech. They should get a couple against the Cyclones.