After a 37-34 close call against the Wyoming Cowboys, Nebraska dropped from No. 18 to No. 22 in the AP poll. Reeling from what the coaches and team are calling a wake-up call, the Huskers are set to face the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles.
Southern Miss travels to Lincoln on a 13-game losing streak, currently the longest in the FBS. Most recently, the Golden Eagles succumbed to Texas State 22-15.
The Huskers faced Southern Miss in 2012, a game in which senior quarterback Taylor Martinez threw five touchdown passes and no interceptions. Nebraska secured the last meeting with a 49-20 victory at home. If history plays in Nebraska's favor, this should be a good bounce-back week after the struggle against Wyoming.
How will the Huskers fare in the Week 2 matchup?
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.
When: Saturday, Sept. 7, at 6 p.m. EST
Watch: Big Ten Network
Listen: Husker Sports Network or Sirius Channel 128, XM 191
Betting Line: Nebraska (-29)
Bleacher Report's Michael Felder, Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee preview the 2013 Nebraska Cornhuskers.
1. Have Confidence
Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis said there is nowhere to go but up. He's right. For the entire Huskers team, confidence is going to be key.
Offensively, the team needs to play up to its potential. Defensively, the players need to believe in themselves. What this team lacks in experience can absolutely be made up for in confidence.
It seems like a simple thing to ask, but it could work wonders. Confidence starts from the top down, so if the leaders can pass it on to the younger and more inexperienced players, this week could be very different.
2. Take Advantage of Turnovers
While the Huskers typically worry about their own turnovers, they can rejoice in any that Southern Miss may hand their way Saturday. After all, the Golden Eagles gave up a total of six turnovers against Texas State.
If the Nebraska defense can be prepared to take advantage of any possible turnovers, that would be a benefit to the Huskers. Also, putting pressure on the Southern Miss offensive line and its quarterback will help force those turnovers. That will help keep the Huskers well in the lead.
3. Be Loud
Once again, Memorial Stadium needs to be loud. While Southern Miss does not create the biggest of challenges for the Huskers, it still benefits the Huskers' defense to have noise.
In his weekly press conference, head coach Bo Pelini said the defense struggled with the noise Saturday against Wyoming. While an easy solution would be to be quieter, Memorial Stadium needs to be louder.
This group will face many away games that challenge their ability to communicate. Learning to deal with noise level now is key, and fans should absolutely be on their feet cheering from the first snap to the last.
1. Watch the Turnovers
Southern Miss had six turnovers against Texas State in its season opener. Even worse, three of those came within the first 12 minutes of the game. While the Golden Eagles turned it around, rallying from a 14-3 halftime deficit, they would ultimately lose 22-15 at home.
While Nebraska’s defense is young, players such as defensive end Randy Gregory proved they are out to play. Plus, cornerbacks Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Ciante Evans snagged interceptions against Wyoming. Turnovers are dangerous for any team.
With Southern Miss struggling so badly with them, it’ll have to keep the turnovers at a minimum to stay competitive in this game.
2. Put Pressure on the Huskers' Defense
The Nebraska defense is young. While the Southern Miss offensive line isn't any more experienced, it needs to find the confidence to put pressure on the Nebraska line. During the matchup with Wyoming, the Huskers were slow to get off their blocks, making it easy to run against them.
For the Golden Eagles' quarterback, the room to run would be nice for the senior. All it would take is some pressure that forces the Nebraska defense to struggle. While Pelini expects the defense to make a big jump from Week 1 to Week 2, the Golden Eagles can absolutely challenge that.
3. Block Out the Noise
Memorial Stadium is going to be loud. With nearly 92,000 fans, Memorial Stadium can be daunting for any visiting team. Southern Miss will need to be able to block that sound out. Finding a way to communicate, especially on offense, through that noise will be key. Inability to do so could prove to be futile.
Taylor Martinez (QB, Senior)
Once again, the senior quarterback is worth watching. This time, it will be to see how the leader handles the adversity following the Wyoming game.
Martinez walked out of the matchup with the Cowboys with a bruised shoulder. He assured in the weekly press conference Monday that it was nothing serious and would not keep him from practice or playing against Southern Miss.
While not his best performance, Martinez still has 17 of 22 complete passes for 155 yards and three touchdowns in the home opener. If his shoulder truly is not bothering him—which it shouldn't since it is his non-throwing arm—the senior should be much more prominent in Week 2.
Randy Gregory (DE, Sophomore)
For the junior college transfer, Gregory had a pretty great first game against Wyoming. Unofficially, the defensive end had a sack on Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith. Unfortunately, Gregory reached around Smith's neck, earning a flag on the play.
Pelini and Papuchis tried to argue the call, but it ultimately fell in Wyoming's favor. Regardless, that one play showed Gregory's abilities. Opposing quarterbacks should be weary of Gregory, a defensive end worth noting, especially as his experience grows.
For a full depth chart, click here.
Ed Preston (OL, Senior)
Ed Preston is the only full-time starter to return to the team for the offensive line. At 6’0 and 309 pounds, the redshirt senior looks to lead a crew that allowed 30 sacks for 206 yards in 2012. Of those 30, 20 sacks came in Conference USA games alone.
Preston will be a key factor in bringing this group together, providing time to transfer senior quarterback Allan Bridgford.
Preston may be carrying the load as far as leadership, but alongside senior Vincent Brown, he should help motivate the young offensive line. It won’t be easy, but if Preston can motivate those stepping up as starters for the first time, this line should improve over 2012.
Allan Bridgford (QB, Senior)
While the Golden Eagles may have lost their season opener to Texas State, senior quarterback Bridgford made a good first impression. The transfer from Cal completed 28 of 53 passes for 377 yards and one touchdown. The 6’3”, 220-pound quarterback may have ended up with a 22-15 loss, but the quarterback proved he can lead Southern Miss.
Bridgford will challenge Nebraska’s defense, especially the secondary. When given the chance, Bridgford will pass, using senior wideout Rickey Bradley to his advantage. The two connected a total of seven times for 193 yards against Texas State. Nebraska’s secondary will need to be prepared for the pass.
For a full depth chart, click here.
Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini
On what he learned from the Wyoming matchup:
I learned a lot as a coach the other night, especially regarding the situation we’re in right now. Things haven’t changed as far as what my expectations are and what I think this football team is going to be. If anything, I feel even better about it coming out of the other night.
On over-simplifying the defense:
I think at times, we tried to make it too easy for them. We ended up in a couple situations I didn’t like. We tried to simplify a couple of adjustments where if we would’ve adjusted a different way we would’ve been in a better situation. ... Sometimes you try to oversimplify it. We got caught in a couple of defenses that weren’t good, especially against the quarterback draw…They’re easy adjustments to make.
On the matchup with Southern Mississippi:
They look like a better football team now than they were a year ago. They have real speed at the wideout position and some really dynamic guys on the outside.
Quarterback Taylor Martinez
On his bruised (non-throwing arm) shoulder:
I felt pretty sore. It was the first time I’ve actually gotten hit in about eight or nine months. After this week, I should be perfectly fine on Sundays.
On Southern Mississippi:
I watched a little bit of film yesterday. They’re fast, and they play a confusing defense, I’d say. I know they’re very athletic.
Offensive Tackle Jeremiah Sirles
On Nebraska's potential:
We have a chance to be a really good football team, but it’s not just going to happen. It’s going to come with a lot of hard work.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from Nebraska's weekly press conference Sept. 2 via Huskers.com.
Unfortunately for Southern Miss, their biggest concern for the 2013 is simply winning. That alone makes this matchup against Nebraska fairly daunting. While the Huskers did struggle in Week 1, it was against a strong Wyoming team with a solid quarterback in Smith. As for the Golden Eagles, it’s a little different.
Coming to Lincoln on a 13-game losing streak isn’t exactly the best place to be, especially after losing to Texas State. In preseason predictions, Southern Miss was projected to beat Texas State as well, which means the 2013 season is already off to a rocky start.
Former Golden Eagle head coach Ellis Johnson is gone, which fans of the team like. As for his replacement, Todd Monken, this is his first time as a head coach. Monken brings a lot of energy to the team though, which will benefit in the long run.
Ultimately, this will be a good opportunity for the Huskers to get back on track. Senior quarterback Martinez will put the points on the board, especially with the help of junior wide receiver Kenny Bell, who is anxious to contribute more. This won’t be pretty for the Golden Eagles.
Prediction: 55-10 Nebraska
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