OK, time to come down from our Sparty high and figure out if this team has another one left in them. No bye week yet and a long list of walking wounded faces the Huskers. Our east-coast opponent might be as equally wounded (21 players on their injury report) so there will be no excuses.
Let's dive right into questions.
Can this Husker team win two games in a row?
The last time the Huskers won two games in a row was October 25 and November 1, 2014 against Rutgers and Purdue (both at Memorial Stadium). It has been even longer since the Huskers won a road game as part of their back-to-back victories.
This team has been consistently inconsistent. Last week was a complete effort all around. This week....
Can the Husker secondary corral Carroo?
Rutgers extremely talented wide receiver, Leonte Carroo has been hurt most of the season (he has only played in 13 quarters I believe) but still leads the Scarlet Knights in yards (527) and touchdowns (9). ALL other Rutgers receivers together have combined for 5 touchdowns. Today (Thursday) Carroo was listed as probable by Coach Flood. Even if he is at 75%, he is still going to cause problems for the porous Nebraska pass defense.
Rutgers quarterback, Chris Laviano, has negative rush yards this year. When he took over for an injured Gary Nova against Nebraska in 2014, he was the Knights leading rusher (54 yards). We have seen this Husker team leave holes for quarterback runs when they have to commit too many resources elsewhere. Let's hope that is not the case this week.
With a long list of wounded wideouts, will Nebraska be able to take advantage of a bad and equally wounded Rutgers secondary?
This week we face a defense that is not good at anything but is especially bad against the pass (allowing over 303 yards per game and ranking #122 - only 2 spots ahead of the woeful Husker pass defense). Many of the Scarlet Knights secondary are on the injury report and have missed games already, so that terrible ranking is partially a reflection of young players having to step in.
Nebraska clearly has the talent at wide receiver to take advantage of a bad Scarlet Knights secondary, but Moore, Westerkamp, Morgan and Reilly were all hurt after last weekend (all probable for this weekend). Hovey, Allen, and Turner have all seen some action but the last two especially have had a hard time hanging on to catches.
Rutgers has an average rush defense (#54; allowing 155 yards per game). This is not "bad", but perhaps the fact they are not the same caliber as Sparty could free up Cethan Carter to run a few routes. It could also be a good time to use the large stockpile of relatively healthy running backs (I am not aware of any of them outside of Newby having a significant injury). Unfortunately, Nebraska probably does not have the luxury of game planning to rest the weary or limit the hurting. They need this win too much.
The Scarlet Knights have given up between 48 and 52 points in EACH of their last four games (only one of those, against Indiana, was a win). Points can be had, but the Blackshirts are going to have to keep the clamps on, especially if Carroo plays. Nebraska cannot let Rutgers hang around enough to mount a 4th quarter comeback.
Keep an eye on the battle of kick returners. Rutgers has a good one in Janarion Grant (PR and KR). Nebraska's own Stanley Morgan has really emerged in kickoffs the past two games (although he was injured in the Michigan State game). If Morgan is able to return kicks, it could be a great back and forth battle. That facet of the game could have a significant impact on starting field position but with two leaky secondaries, that may not be the important part. The critical piece might be if either can spring one for a touchdown. "Free" points are always helpful, especially for an offense as bruised as Nebraska's right now.
What are your questions? Did I miss something? Tell me in the comments!