Nebraska Football 2011: 5 Things the Huskers Must Do to Win the Legends
In early October Nebraska went on the road to Madison. The Huskers received a rather rude welcome to the Big Ten, getting routed 48-17.
A week later Nebraska welcomed the Ohio State to Memorial Stadium. At half time, the scoreboard read 20-6 in favor of Ohio State.
This was it. It was now or never.
If the Huskers were going to show everyone they belonged in the Big Ten, it would start in the second half. Nebraska responded and came back to win 34-27. Nebraska saved its season and avoided an 0-2 start in conference play, which would have surely knocked them out of the Legends race.
After a bye week and a dismantling of Minnesota on the road, Nebraska faced the Spartans from Michigan State—another must-win. Instead of letting emotions get to them, the Huskers responded in the face of adversity and played a near perfect game.
Now, here we are: Week 10.
Nebraska is in the driver seat of the Legends division, and its goal of getting to Indianapolis is still intact. But now comes the home stretch: Northwestern, Penn State, Michigan and Iowa. Lose one and the Huskers chances of winning the Legends decrease significantly. Lose two and Nebraska might as well book its ticket to the Insight Bowl.
Nebraska must do these things to win the Legends.
Give Burkhead His Carries
Last weekend against Michigan State, Rex Burkhead had a career-high 35 carries for 130 yards and two touchdowns. The Nebraska offense piggybacked on Burkhead and it worked out perfectly.
If Nebraska wants to get to Indy, Burkhead is going to need to continue to get the ball. In the first half, Rex continually gets three to four yards a carry. But in the second half, he wears down the defense and those runs go from three to four to 10 or 11 yards a carry.
That is why Burkhead is so dangerous: He's a tough, physical runner.
Burkhead isn't just a runner, however. He can also burn defenses in the passing game. Just ask Ohio State or the Spartans.
Regardless, Nebraska needs to keep getting the ball to No. 22.
Keep the Freshmen Involved
There's been a bunch of new faces on the field this year that have contributed to the offense. Kenny Bell and Jamal Turner have both shown their electric play and speed.
Turner leads the team in receptions, yet for some reason he failed to see the field at all against Michigan State. That is going to need to change. He's too dynamic of a playmaker to be sitting on the bench, as is Bell.
Not all of the talented freshmen are receivers. Nebraska has three talented running backs, who sometimes get overshadowed by Rex Burkhead.
Aaron Green, Braylon Heard and Ameer Abdullah each bring unique skills to the table. Abdullah has already shown what he can do on returns, giving Nebraska a legitimate threat to run it back on almost every punt or kickoff return.
But why limit their skills by putting only one on the field? That's why Nebraska incorporated Husker fans' new favorite formation, the Diamond.
If Nebraska utilizes its young talent, they're going to go a long way.
Get in the End Zone
Get in the end zone. This sounds pretty black and white doesn't it? But Husker fans have seen several instances where Nebraska has been unable to do just that.
I bring to mind a drive in Minnesota where the Husker offense was unable to punch through a terrible Gopher defense and had to settle for a field goal. The very same thing happened the next week against Michigan State.
Granted, the Spartan defense is amazing, but still.
Nebraska can't afford to waste possessions and only settle for three. Nebraska needs more touchdowns and less field goals.
Continue Pressuring the Quarterback
Nebraska, after weeks of watching quarterbacks run by them or get a pass off untouched, finally got some pressure in the backfield. Granted, Kirk Cousins isn't the most skilled runner, but it's a start.
Nebraska recorded four sacks on the Spartans' QB, thanks in part to a new defensive line scheme. Nebraska's defensive line kept moving around all game, confusing Michigan State's O-line and Cousins.
But another thing that helped the D-line get pressure was the play of the secondary. Nebraska went out of a two-deep safety scheme for pretty much the entire game. With the secondary locking down receivers, Cousins had to hold on to the ball longer, and well you get the gist.
If Nebraska keeps up the improved defensive play, Indianapolis and even a Big Ten Title is a real possibility.
This may seem obvious, but the only way Nebraska is going to make it the Lucas Oil Stadium is to put up numbers in the W column.
It doesn't really matter how the Huskers do it. It can be ugly (Penn State), but at the end of the day the Huskers must emerge victorious.
At the end of the day the only number that matters is the one the win column.