Bad news, Iowa State.
You’re hosting the Nebraska Cornhuskers this weekend.
Not only did Nebraska banish the Missouri Tigers from Memorial Stadium for the final time in Big 12 play this past Saturday, but along with them went the demons of playing in front of a home crowd. Any doubt that the Cornhuskers couldn’t perform in friendly confines flew off of the heels of Roy Helu, Jr.’s cleats.
307 rushing yards later, the BCS No. 7 Cornhuskers take their “Us Against the World” mentality to Ames. While the revenge factor didn’t play well versus Texas, Iowa State’s chances to notch back-to-back wins over the Cornhuskers are substantially less than the Longhorns’ were. Eight turnovers to Iowa State’s benefit only happens once in a lifetime, after all.
Both fans and coaches wonder if Taylor Martinez is, in fact, ready to play as Nebraska suggests. At this point, it’s likely that Iowa State’s Paul Rhodes is game planning to see both the young Martinez or veteran senior backup Zac Lee under center.
Martinez being out would be unfortunate for the Cornhuskers, but it shouldn’t give the Cyclones any less pause. As seen versus the Missouri Tigers, Nebraska can run the ball. They average 295 yards per game on the ground. Iowa State ranks 99th in the country allowing 194 per game, so relief isn’t likely to be found there for the Cyclones.
Lee is actually considered the more polished passer and as of late, Nebraska’s receivers have found new life following the loss to Texas. Niles Paul, Brandon Kinnie and Mike McNeill are all legitimate threats. Naturally, Iowa State would be remiss to forget about Kyler Reed, the sophomore tight end who’s been scorching opposing defensive backfields lately.
If Martinez is able to trot onto the field, Nebraska’s playbook flies wide open. While the Cyclones might expect less runs by Martinez himself, quarterback keeps need to be respected. Any further injury to T-Magic’s leg would be a problem, but that’s not an issue if no one is within 10 yards of him.
Iowa State has managed to put together a respectable ground game this season with Alexander Robinson (749 yards this season). Dual-threat quarterback Austen Arnaud will likely be utilized in the same fashion that Texas used Garrett Gilbert and Missouri did Blaine Gabbert.
Regardless of which quarterback lines up under center for Nebraska and when they do, Iowa State can’t rest on its’ laurels once they’ve found some defensive success. The Cornhuskers are now clicking on all cylinders and have a bag full of tricks to throw at the opposition.
Iowa State has a lot to digest from seeing all that Nebraska has displayed this year on offense. Now the Cyclones just have to find a way to keep defensive coordinator Wally Burnham from tearing out too much hair sweating the eventual outcome.
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