Nebraska (4-1, 0-1 Big Ten)
Saturday, Oct. 8
8 p.m. ET, ABC
Memorial Stadium; Lincoln, Neb.
Head coach: Mark “Bo” Pelini, 34-13, fourth year
2010 record: 10-4 (6-2 Big 12, tied for first place in North Division)
Series mark: Ohio State leads 2-0
School location: Lincoln, Neb.
Colors: Scarlet and Cream
Stadium: Memorial Stadium
Fight song: “There is No Place like Nebraska”
To say Nebraska’s introduction to Big Ten football was a rough one would be an understatement.
The Cornhuskers went into Madison last Saturday ranked eighth in the nation and left with a hiding, a 48-17 defeat at the hands of No. 7 Wisconsin that had head coach Bo Pelini apologizing to the fans that traveled to the game.
“We didn’t make plays,” said the no-nonsense Pelini. “I thought we got away from some of the things we were doing well offensively. Penalties were putting us back. I thought we got out of rhythm offensively because I thought we started on a good rhythm. Defensively, we didn’t make plays. I’m embarrassed by how we played defensively.
“I apologize to the fans of Nebraska because that was a joke. Plain and simple.”
Nebraska had problems on both sides of the ball, giving up 34 points in a row after taking a 14-7 lead in the second quarter. Star quarterback Taylor Martinez threw three crucial interceptions, all of which led directly to Wisconsin touchdowns. The vaunted NU rushing attack finished with 159 yards but had only 3.7 yards per carry.
Defensively, the Huskers were overwhelmed, giving up 486 yards and 27 first downs while forcing only one punt.
“Guys have to make plays. Guys got to compete,” Pelini said. “I’m not going to sit here and name names. We got to coach them better. We got to play better. We’ve got to keep looking for the right combination because right now we haven’t found it.”
The Cornhuskers fell to 14th in the AP ranking, a number they hope to boost against Pelini’s alma mater, Ohio State. The night game in Lincoln will serve as the team’s first Big Ten home game after switching from the Big 12 during the summer.
Both programs are among college football royalty. Nebraska’s 841 wins are good for fourth all-time in Division I-A, seven ahead of fifth-place Ohio State. Since 1970, Nebraska leads the nation with 407 wins, while OSU is next with 382.
“You grew up and every Saturday, like here, it was all about Ohio State,” Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck said. “You can’t help but know about their tradition and excellence of their program.”
Offense In A Nutshell
The Huskers struggled against Wisconsin, but Tim Beck still liked the effort of his charges.
“I saw a lot of good,” Beck said. “I thought our kids played hard. We just didn’t play smart. That’s part of the game too. We can go out and play as hard as we want and be physical and play fast, but if we don’t play smart, we aren’t going to win. We made too many mistakes against a good football team on the road.”
Taylor Martinez’s three interceptions were among the biggest mistakes, but taking those out, Nebraska has had a solid offensive attack this year. The Huskers are fourth in the Big Ten and 23rd in the nation with 37.6 points per game. The Huskers versatile offense, which includes plenty of option runs, I-formation handoffs and other runs, had 38 points or more in the first four games.
Martinez is more dangerous as a rusher, as “T-Magic” has run the ball 83 times for 482 yards (a 5.8-yard average) and eight touchdowns. He is 11th in the league in passing efficiency and has completed 54 of 107 passes (50.5 percent) for 823 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions.
Nebraska finished ninth in the nation last year in rushing and occupies that same spot this season with an average of 249.8 yards, and Martinez’s partner in crime is back in I-back Rex Burkhead. Burkhead, a junior who made the Doak Walker Award watch list this preseason, has racked up 516 yards and eight touchdowns on 81 carries. Burkhead has a low center of gravity and is hard to bring down in the open field.
Top backups include freshmen Aaron Green and Ameer Abdullah, while Youngstown, Ohio, native Braylon Heard has 17 carries but is likely out.
True freshman Jamal Turner, a highly rated quarterback recruit a year ago, leads Nebraska with 13 catches for 223 yards. Senior Brandon Kinnie (44 catches last year), sophomore Quincy Enunwa and redshirt freshman Kenny Bell round out the receiving corps, while tight end Kyler Reed can stretch the field and has a 27.4-yard average.
The offensive line is young and features three walk-ons in possible starting positions for the first time since 1988. Senior Mike Caputo is the top player while right guard Spencer Long has started all five games. Both are former walk-ons.
The left tackle spot is split between returning starter Jeremiah Sirles and senior Jermarcus “Yoshi” Hardwick, with the latter starting all five games. Left guard is shared by Andrew Rodriguez and walk-on Seung Hoon Choi, and right tackle is split by true freshman Tyler Moore – the first true freshman to start a season opener ever on the OL at Nebraska – and senior Marcel Jones.
QB 3 Taylor Martinez, 6-1, 200
IB 22 Rex Burkhead, 5-11, 210
FB 48 Tyler Legate, 5-10, 235
WR X 80 Kenny Bell, 6-1, 180/84 Brandon Kinnie, 6-5, 225
WR Z 18 Quincy Enunwa, 6-2, 210
WR 10 A Jamal Turner, 6-1, 180/6 Tim Marlowe, 5-10, 175
TE 81 Ben Cotton, 6-6, 255/25 Kyler Reed, 6-3, 230
LT 50 Yoshi Hardrick, 6-7, 320
LG 63 Andrew Rodriguez, 6-6, 325/77 Seung Hoon Choi, 6-2, 290
C 58 Mike Caputo, 6-1, 275
RG 61 Spencer Long, 6-4, 305
RT 78 Marcel Jones, 6-7, 320/73 Tyler Moore, 6-6, 290
PK 96 Brett Maher, 6-0, 185
KR 8 Ameer Abdullah, 5-8, 180/6 Tim Marlowe, 5-10, 175
Defense In A Nutshell
Through five games, the Cornhuskers have not played like the “Blackshirts” of yesteryear. Nebraska has given up 27.2 points per game, which places 11th in the Big Ten.
Teams have had equal success running and passing, as the Huskers are eighth in rushing defense (152.8 yards), passing defense (224.2 yards) and pass efficiency defense. Nebraska has been sorely lacking for big plays, as the team is 79th in the nation in sacks with eight in five games, is 113th in tackles for loss with an average of 4.0 per game and has forced only seven turnovers.
Star defensive tackle Jared Crick, a first-team All-Big 12 choice and second-team All-American last year, leads the defensive line. After two straight years with 70-plus tackles, Crick has 19 this season. Defensive end Cameron Meredith has three sacks and an interception, while tackle Baker Steinkuhler is a returning starter with 16 tackles.
Lavonte David leads the linebacking crew and has good instincts vs. both the run and pass. After a school-record 152 stops last year to earn first-team All-Big 12 and second-team All-America designation, the weakside linebacker has 45 stops to go with five TFL, two sacks and an interception.
Junior Will Compton had a career-high 15 stops vs. Fresno State earlier this year and has 27 stops overall as the middle linebacker. Buck position player Sean Fisher has 17 tackles and is coming back from a broken ankle in 2010.
The secondary has been banged up (star corner Alfonzo Dennard) and ineffective after the Huskers lost two first-team All-Big 12 choices last year in Prince Amukamara and Eric Hagg. Dennard has missed three games and is shaking off rust with six tackles.
The other corners have struggled. Ciante Evans is a starter with 18 tackles, while Corey Cooper adds size and physicality, and Andrew Green has been beaten a few times.
Austin Cassidy is an Academic All-American who starts at one safety spot and has 25 tackles with an interception. The other safety spot has been split between Daimion Stafford (38 tackles, second on the team), junior P.J. Smith (an interception and a forced fumble) and Courtney Osborne.
DE 9 Jason Ankrah, 6-4, 265
DT 94 Jared Crick, 6-6, 285
DT 55 Baker Steinkuhler, 6-6, 290
DE 34 Cameron Meredith, 6-4, 260
BUCK 42 Sean Fisher, 6-6, 235
MIKE 51 Will Compton, 6-2, 230
WILL 4 Lavonte David, 6-1, 225
LCB 17 Ciante Evans, 5-11, 185
S 8 Austin Cassidy, 6-1, 210
S 3 Daimion Stafford, 6-1, 200
RCB 15 Alfonzo Dennard, 5-10, 205
P 96 Brett Maher, 6-0, 185
PR 8 Ameer Abdullah, 5-8, 180
Five Fast Facts
1. Nebraska has sold out every game at Memorial Stadium since November 1962, and the streak stands at 314 games. Nebraska is 138-19 at home since 1989.
2. The 2011 Nebraska roster includes three sets of twins. The twins include safety Courtney and wideout Steven Osborne, fullback Colin and defensive end Conor McDermott as well as tight end Jake and offensive lineman Spencer Long.
3. Brett Maher has made 9 of 11 field goals with a long of 50 and averages 47.9 yards per punt. Kickoff return man Ameer Abdullah has a return touchdown and the Huskers lead the nation in kickoff return average.
4. Running back Braylon Heard (Youngstown Cardinal Mooney), fullback Mike Marrow (Toledo Central Catholic), offensive lineman Mark Pelini (Youngstown Cardinal Mooney), linebacker Max Pirman (Orrville) and defensive tackle Kevin Williams (Holland Springfield) are the only Ohioans on the roster. Pelini is the nephew of both Bo Pelini and defensive coordinator Carl Pelini.
5. The game serves as homecoming in Nebraska. The Huskers are 74-22-4 all-time on homecoming and won 36 straight such games from 1969-2004 before going 3-3 since then.
Last Time Out
Fifty-five years ago, Ohio State forced five turnovers and ran for 416 yards the last time it faced Nebraska, a 34-7 win against the Huskers on a beautiful day in Columbus.
The date was Sept. 29, 1956, and 82,153 fans packed Ohio Stadium to see Woody Hayes’ team open the head coach’s sixth season in charge. What they saw was a dominating exhibition by his eighth-ranked Buckeyes, who opened up a 27-0 lead at halftime and cruised home against Peter R. Elliott’s first and only Huskers squad.
The day was a good one for the Buckeyes after a tough offseason that included NCAA probation as part of a scandal that stemmed from Hayes’ public acknowledgment that he sometimes provided money from his own pocket to players in need, a violation of NCAA rules.
According to Jack Park’s OSU football encyclopedia, the probe also brought to light the fact that some players had no-show jobs in which they earned impermissible cash benefits, a violation that resulted in a postseason ban for all Buckeye sports, including football, in 1956.
None of that mattered in the Horseshoe, however, as the Buckeyes scored early and often vs. the Cornhuskers. Ohio State’s season-opening drive was full of big plays, as a 13-yard counter run by Jim Roseboro, a 10-yard sweep by Don Sutherin and a 33-yard fourth-down run by Roseboro set up the season’s first score. At the 8:47 mark, Roseboro plunged in from a yard out to give the Buckeyes a 6-0 lead, which stood there when Frederick Kriss missed the point after.
Nebraska’s next drive ended in a punt, which was blocked by Leo Brown. Brown picked up the ball at the 16 and scored to make the score 13-0 after Kriss’ kick.
The Buckeyes made it 20-0 early in the second quarter with a methodical 67-yard drive capped off by 35-yard touchdown on a sweep over right end by Don Clark.
Ohio State padded the lead before the half when the 1956 version of the two-minute offense took over. The Buckeyes started at their own 16, but it took only five plays to score. Donald Vicic plunged 5 yards, then Roseboro got 6 and Vicic picked up 10 more for another first down. The next play, Sutherin found Roseboro on a 35-yard pass that got the NU 27, and the next play was a touchdown pass from Frank Ellwood to Kriss with a minute left. The Buckeyes’ only two completed passes of the day made the score a commanding 27-0 at the break.
Nebraska scored its only points of the day in the third quarter when Jerry Peterson blocked a punt by Frank Kremblas and recovered it in the end zone to make it 27-7.
Ohio State finished the scoring with 2:41 to play as Clark went 38 yards on a counter play. The Buckeyes finished the game with the fourth team on the field as the victory was won.
The Buckeyes ran for 416 yards on 66 carries, with Roseboro topping the chart with 115 yards on 13 tries. Clark ended his day with 97 yards on nine carries, while Ellwood had 11 tries for 81 yards. Ten different Buckeyes carried the ball, including future famous names Galen Cisco and Dick LeBeau.
OSU was only 2 for 6 on the day passing, with Kremblas going 0 for 3 while Ellwood hit 1 of his 2 tries and Sutherin was perfect on his only toss.
The Huskers offense never got on track. The team had 51 rushes for only 185 yards and lost three fumbles, while newcomer Roy Stinnett tossed two interceptions and finished 5 for 9 for 68 yards.
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