Nebraska Football: 10 Burning Questions for the Cornhuskers vs. Idaho
Nebraska came out of fall camp and played the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky hard. WKU was able to push back enough that head coach Bo Pelini was far from pleased.
After all, the Blackshirt defense did allow WKU running back Bobby Rainey to have a banner day rushing the football.
Pelini’s brother, defensive coordinator Carl Pelini, said, “The mistakes are correctable,” during the post-game press conference.
Next up, Idaho and native son Nathan Enderle from North Platte, Neb., comes to town.
What questions does Nebraska need to answer against the Vandals as they continue towards The Battle in Seattle?
Will The T-Magic Show Continue?
Assuming that things remain static, Taylor Martinez will see the bulk of quarterback duties vs. Idaho.
Game 1 vs. WKU was all about Martinez getting comfortable.
Game 2 will still be about getting Martinez in rhythm with the offense, but can he still thrill the crowd with his speed and agility in Nebraska's zone reads and once the pocket breaks down?
His throwing motion looked a little off during his first start, though admittedly, a few of those incompletions can be credited to his wide receivers.
Look for Martinez to start on his feet before trying to do some damage through the air.
Will The Running Backs Come Out of The Shadows?
Last week, Taylor Martinez showed that he can be a threat on the ground.
Now, his running backs need to be given the opportunity to show that they can be just as dangerous.
Rex Burkhead did get some opportunity vs. the Hilltoppers and he did score.
Roy Helu Jr. also put points on the board for the Cornhuskers, but his carries were limited.
The use of Dontrayevous Robinson was a bit baffling, as he wasn’t used in the power back role.
Idaho did hold their opposition to 155 yards rushing per game last year and return 10 starters from that defense.
If Nebraska is able to gash the Vandals' defense on the ground, and at all, it should provide an excellent morale boost for the match up against Washington.
Will The Real Niles Paul Please Stand Up?
Niles Paul has been the talk of the Nebraska receiving corps since the 2009 Holiday Bowl.
Against Western Kentucky, he dropped some sure passes and even was slow on a couple of routes.
To be fair to Paul, he did have to work with a brand-new quarterback in their first live game action together.
Fortunately for Niles, he's going to be going against a defense that was absolutely putrid against the pass last year in Idaho's.
Idaho gave up nearly 280 passing yards per game in 2009.
While having no real pass rushing threats this year, whoever is throwing Paul the ball should have ample time to throw appropriate passes.
He just needs to hold up his end of the bargain.
Will The Receivers Get a Chance To Prove What They Can Do?
Nebraska has quite a bit of talent at the receiver position.
The problem against Western Kentucky was that Taylor Martinez was having so much success on the ground that their opportunities were rare.
Brandon Kinnie did look far more impressive in using his body to make catches. Mike McNeill was non-existent.
Nebraska’s tight ends were also mostly taking their time blocking for Martinez.
Shawn Watson needs to find a way to get the ball to Kinnie, McNeill, Quincy Enunwa and perhaps Ben Cotton, so that some level of confidence can be built before their first road game next week.
Will The Offensive Line Continue to Gel?
Common perception was that Nebraska’s offensive line development issues would start with the tackles and move in towards center Mike Caputo.
In fact, the issue seems to be the exact opposite.
Caputo not only proved skeptics wrong, but also was praised heavily by offensive coordinator Shawn Watson.
Guard Ricky Henry’s footwork was a bit sloppy at times vs. the Hilltoppers and he needs to work on keeping his hands inside.
If he can’t, the Cornhuskers will find themselves accumulating multiple holding penalties trying to keep Martinez upright.
The tackles, whoever they may be, need to practice what they’ve learned this week against the pass rush this week.
It proves to be an excellent opportunity as there is no real threat aside from defensive end Aaron Lavarias who tallied four sacks last season.
Can The Defensive Line Crush Enderle?
Nathan Enderle is a very capable quarterback, as he showed last year passing for 2,906 yards (22 TDs, 9 INT).
He's also a fellow Nebraskan and probably a nice guy, but as Jared Crick told the Omaha World-Herald, "no mercy" will be shown come game day.
Enderle's offensive line may not be able to help him much against a very agitated Nebraska defensive line looking to make up for mistakes made against Western Kentucky.
The Vandals will be starting four new offensive linemen.
To make matters even more complicated, Idaho’s most experienced running back and receiver graduated.
The Vandals should give Nebraska’s defensive line many opportunities to show what they can do and give them a good look at how to attack a passing quarterback far closer in ability to their next opponent’s.
Will The Light Come On For Nebraska's Linebackers?
While Taylor Martinez made WKU's defense look the fool, the Blackshirts had a debuting linebacker tearing up the Hilltoppers and making his presence known.
LaVonte David looks to deliver an encorem and Alonzo Whaley knows that he needs to step up in replacement of his friend, Will Compton.
“I know for a fact it's not this hard to play linebacker at other schools. (Coaches) tell you up front, ‘We're hard to play for. We coach perfection," Whaley told the Omaha World-Herald.
The linebackers need to get their signal-calling science down to an art before tripping to Seattle.
Will The Nebraska Secondary Still Sparkle?
Four players return for Idaho who had 30+ catches in 2009.
While the Vandals’ leading receiver leaves, there are still weapons for Enderle and he knows how to utilize them to the fullest.
Look for Prince Amakumara to be a rare option to throw near yet again while Alfonzo Dennard is a more likely target.
Dennard made some mental mistakes during Nebraska’s last game versus Western Kentucky and the safeties had mental lapses as well.
Despite this, the unit remains deep and ever changing in the Cornhuskers’ 4-2-5 “Peso” defense.
This will provide an excellent test to see if the vaunted Blackshirts can handle a legitimate passing threat.
Can The Kickers Get Some Love?
Being a kicker is a bit of a catch-22 situation.
While Alex Henery is arguably the best kicker/punter in the country, when he doesn’t have the opportunity to do much of either, then things get boring.
Adi Kunalic’s a big fan of scoring, regardless of how it comes. His key duty is kicking the football out of the back of the end zone on kickoffs.
Henery may actually get an opportunity for his first field goal try of the year vs. the Vandals as kicking seven extra points vs. WKU was an easy day, but Henery’s not a guy who’s all about the bench.
It wouldn’t hurt to get him a few token tries just to warm his leg up if at all possible.
Can Idaho Knock Off The Cornhuskers?
Jacksonville State went into Ole Miss' house and dismissed the Rebels.
North Dakota State embarrassed Kansas in Turner Gill's debut.
Who's to say that the Idaho Vandals can't shock the college football world and defeat the Cornhuskers?
Nebraska can and they proved it last Saturday.
While Idaho is a vastly more talented squad than Western Kentucky, they’ll be facing one of the few teams that actually played well across the board last week.
That list was as short as the Vandals’ margin for error if they want to win.
First, there is Martinez and his weapons that need to be nullified, and if his receivers start clicking, then Idaho is in real trouble.
Then, a Blackshirt defense that always has something to prove, whether the public believes it or not, needs to be taken into account.
Former Nebraska head coach, now-Athletic Director, Tom Osborne, always pointed out that the most improvement a team usually saw was from the first to the second game.
Look for that trend to continue and for Nebraska to be 2-0 after Saturday.
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