Nebraska Football: How the Huskers Can Deal with the “Tex”-Factor
When reviewing Nebraska’s outings versus the Texas Longhorns, there’s one term that comes to mind: “gut punch.”
The Longhorns appear to have raided Oklahoma and turned “Sooner Magic” into the "Luck of the Longhorns."
As Texas enters Lincoln for what will likely be the last time for a good, long while, the fragile psyche of Cornhusker fans has shown even before the season began. The good news is that Nebraska may have just the thing to combat Texas' seemingly impenetrable "escape clause."
The Cornhuskers enter the game with the nation’s No. 2 rushing offense led by Taylor Martinez, Roy Helu, Jr. and Texas native Rex Burkhead. The Longhorns’ performance at home versus UCLA, a game in which they surrendered 264 yards on the ground, should give the Nebraska offense a reason to lick their chops.
Martinez is the guy getting all of the talk, and why not? He’s ripping off amazing runs, being talked about as a Heisman dark horse and may lead the Cornhuskers to their first Big 12 title since 1999. All of this as a freshman, no less. The two running backs that have aided Martinez so well in Nebraska’s zone-read offense seem to be severely overlooked.
Texas will likely try to find a way to force Martinez to pass, of course. Rattling the freshman and forcing him into poor throws would be a fantastic prospect for the Longhorns. If they can actually make it happen, that is.
It’s hard to gauge just how good Martinez is at throwing the football as, well, Nebraska just hasn’t needed to thanks in large part to him and his running back cohorts. If Texas loads the box against Nebraska, look for the tight ends to get many opportunities to make catches. Receivers Mike McNeill and Brandon Kinnie both also provide excellent targets.
On offense, Texas seems to have yet to find an identity. Longhorn quarterback Garrett Gilbert has made very poor decisions resulting in a 4-5 TD-INT ratio. This should be of great concern to Texas fans, as Nebraska’s secondary not only statistically ranks as the best in the country, but they are two-deep with talent.
The Longhorns’ rushing attack hasn’t exactly lit up the world either, providing Texas with only 130 yards per game (No. 82 nationally). Texas’ running backs have been shuffled more than a deck of cards with their four best backs combining for 624 yards this season. Nebraska’s quarterback alone has 737 to his credit.
Taking this all into account, pounding Texas with a steady diet of Burkhead and Helu, Jr. while mixing in some playaction passes to the tight ends seems like an ideal way to start off for Nebraska. If the Cornhuskers have success early on, look for some deep balls to receivers Niles Paul and Mike McNeill to stretch the field and open running lanes later on.
Defensively, Texas’ current woes will not aid them against a Nebraska Cornhusker unit that has taken a lot of pride in not only turning offenses one-dimensional, but also breaking their spirits. The 4-2-5 “Peso” look should provide Nebraska all they need to stifle Gilbert and allow linebacker LaVonte David to continue his reign of terror in Big 12 backfields.
Despite all of this, some Nebraska fans still have a fear of Texas overcoming the odds once again.
While it’s true that anything can happen come game day, the Cornhuskers seem far too loaded on both sides of the ball and as a cohesive unit. If Texas cannot find a way to get around ego and poor decisions, Mack Brown may not just leave Lincoln with three regular season losses for the first time in career, but with a team even further decimated psychologically.
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