After an emotional and extremely gratifying win over Missouri last week, there was some concern that the Huskers might have a problem on their hands this week against Texas Tech. Not only because of the concern for a potential letdown, but because the Red Raiders, more than perhaps any team in the Big 12 this decade, have been a thorn in the side of Nebraska.
Last year's overtime defeat. The LeKevin Smith fumble in 2005 that lost Nebraska the game. The 70-10 drubbing in 2004 that was a quintessential Blackshirts-under-Cosgrove moment.
With momentum building and Nebraska starting to make waves nationally, Texas Tech comes to town in a matchup that will go a long way in determining just how far the Huskers have come the past year.
In many ways, this game is a classic trap game. Coming off a big road comeback...a team whose offense has given you fits for years...your own offense coming off a performance that stunk of Garbagio Armani for the first three quarters, with a quarterback who still hasn't shown he can put together a whole game against a quality opponent. An injury to a key offensive cog (Burkhead).
Lest we forget, the real reason Nebraska was in position to win last season in Lubbock wasn't because of a stout defensive performance or offensive fireworks. It was due to the Husker offense spending 2/3rds of the game on the field. Literally. Joe Ganz and company were on the field for 40 minutes.
Can Nebraska do that again? And furthermore, do they really have to rely on that this year? Yes, it would obviously help to keep the Tech offense on the sideline most of the game, but unlike last year, I don't think it's an absolute necessity. This season, there's a Nebraska defense that is playing with a confidence and swagger that wasn't there last year.
A year in the system has given rise to a unit that has grown by leaps and bounds, and that will go a long way in stopping the Red Raiders tomorrow. With most of the game spent in the Dime formation, it will all depend on sound tackling and preventing four yard gains turning into 40-yarders.
The biggest advantage Nebraska has is that it's defensive line's dominance enables the Huskers to drop seven players into coverage and still generate a pass rush, something that is an absolute necessity against Texas Tech. If Suh and his buddies on the front get into the backfield and throw off Steven Sheffield's timing, it will go a long way in keeping the Red Raiders off the scoreboard.
The most comforting feeling in Pelini's second year is the complete lack of complacency in Nebraska's program. It seems as if every cog within the team refuses to rest on their laurels or previous accomplishments. The team has adopted Pelini's expectations of perfection, and that will be the reason that there will be no letdown against Tech.