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Keys to the Game - Nebraska Edition

For those who may have repressed the memory of forgotten the 2008 University of Nebraska @ Texas Tech game, here is a quick recap: Texas Tech scores first and leads the Corn Huskers at halftime 17-7.  Nebraska's lone score of the half came on an 8 minute drive, and back-to-back holding penalties killed what looked to be another long scoring drive for NU, forcing a missed 53 yard field goal attempt. 

Nebraska leads off the second half with 7 minute drive for a field goal, and Tech responds with a touchdown in 2 minutes.  NU follows with another 7:37 drive and a TD.  Tech: 2 minute drive, punt .  Nebraska: 4 minutes, TD, Score is tied at 24.  Tech, 3:45 drive, TD.  NU 2:02 drive, TD.  Tie game. Overtime.

Tech gets the ball first and scores a TD, but the extra point is blocked.  Nebraska ball.  Ganz throws an incomplete pass followed by an interception to Jamar Wall.  Game Over. Tech  37, NU 31.  Over 40 minutes TOP for NU resulted in 21 points in the 4th quarter against a tired Tech defense.

Last week, the Huskers score 28 4th quarter points to beat Mizzou, after being shut out for the first 3 quarters.

Last year, we played in the Jones.  This weekend, we play in their house.  Join me after the jump for this week's Keys to the Game.

There are several things to take away from these two games.  1) Nebraska will NOT give up and roll over.  2) As we have talked about all week, they will continue to hammer away with long drives until their opponent breaks.  my impression is that the Nebraska offense is adequate, but not great, and that they have struggled a little against teams with a pulse.  They have almost even play distribution (run vs. pass), though given the opportunity, they will run first if they can.  And they play a little defense. So how does Tech take advantage of this situation?

Offensive Keys

1. Protect the rock.  I am sure I am starting to sound like a broken record on this one, but it is for a different reason this week.  The children of the corn are pretty good at forcing fumbles.  This is not a team where we can afford to make mistakes and get bailed out by simply scoring faster than they do.  Possessions will be limited.  We have to make the most of each one.  And we are still negative on the year in turnover margin.

2.  Make sure life ain't easy for a boy named Suh.  I started to try to incorporate as many Johnny Cash lyrics into this as possible, but time wasn't exactly draggin' on this week.  Brandon Carter's draft position will either move into the first 3 rounds after this game, or he'll drop to the 6th. I think we'll be best served if we only double team Mr Suh on runs and let Carter work him in pass protection.  If he can't give Sheffield 3 seconds by himself, his draft stock deserves to fall. If Byrnes/Keown are having to help out a lot for pass protection, look for Pelini to bring the blitz more.


the other man in black


3. Work the clock.  We have the luxury of some depth at DT, and we know because of injuries that we can rotate guys around on the DL to provide depth at tackle.  But I don't think this group can hang for 40 minutes.  Certainly it will be on them to get some stops and get off the field, but answering a drive that takes half of the quarter (an eighth) with a 3 and out is a recipe for disaster.  With the way our running backs have been playing, we should have some opportunities to put together some sustained drives of our own.  We just need to make sure they continue to get at least 20 combined touches.

Defensive Keys

1. Contain. Lee can run the ball, and I expect Helu to play, despite rumors of a hurt shoulder.  If his shoulder truly is hurt, up the middle is not where he is going to want to run the ball, so we need to watch for it to come outside.  Stretch out the option and use the sideline.  Don't let these guys get turned north and south.

2.  Cover the tight ends.  McNeill (not our DC) is big target and a touchdown machine.  Helu catches quite a few passes, and they have a couple of solid WR's but Tech hasn't faced a good receiving TE this season.  Bronte Bird matched up pretty well to Pettigrew is the OSU game last year.  We need him to do the same against McNeill.

3.  Win first down.  As I said, Nebraska is a run-first kind of team.  They are also very efficient in converting 3rd down.  To get to 3rd and long, we need to win 1st down.  We need our front 7 to limit the yards on first down carries to less than 3.  Our tackles are doing a great job of keeping the LBs clean.  If they continue to do this, we will be able to force Lee to throw the ball.  Not that he can't, but it is not Nebraska's comfort zone and it gives us more opportunities to make plays on the ball and try to snag an interception or get a big hit from our DBs to knock one loose.  Pasing downs also increase the likelihood of Ford being on the field, and this guy makes plays.

Special Teams

Change your latitude.  Somebody besides Corona make a tackle.