Thursday, October 8, 2009
What Nebraska and Missouri need to do to win
By ESPN.com staff
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are three things that Nebraska and Missouri need to tonight in order to win tonight at Faurot Field.
Three things Nebraska needs to do to win:
1. Dominate in the trenches. Nebraska’s front four has to dominate the Missouri offensive line and get to Blaine Gabbert often. Nebraska doesn’t necessarily need sacks, but they do need to knock him around. Ndamukong Suh, Barry Turner and Co. can’t let the sophomore get into a comfort zone or it could be a long night. Interestingly, Bo Pelini didn’t think his defensive line was good enough last season so he came up with a wrinkle of a stand-up lineman he thought would fool Missouri. Instead, it paved the way for a 52-17 Missouri win. The Cornhuskers are better and more experienced this season. No gimmicks needed. Just beat them with straight four-man pressure.
2. Have strong, mistake-free games from their cornerbacks. Missouri loves to spread its wide receivers, trying to get matchup advantages. Starting Nebraska cornerbacks Anthony West and Prince Amukamara often are on an island. They can’t get beat by the Tigers’ athletic bunch of receivers.
3. Run the ball effectively. If the Cornhuskers can climb onto Roy Helu Jr.’s back, they likely have a good shot of winning. That would enable them to keep Missouri’s high-powered team off the field and dominate the game. But remember, Nebraska averaged only 2.3 yards per carry against Missouri last season. It has to do a better job to win.
Three things Missouri needs to do to win
1. Early success by Gabbert. The sophomore has played as well as any Big 12 quarterback in the first month of the season, but he hasn’t played a defense anywhere like Nebraska’s. The Tigers like to beat opponents with short passes. Look for Nebraska to play Missouri’s receivers tight and challenge Gabbert to beat them deep.
2. Run the ball better than earlier this season. The Tigers during their Big 12 title seasons ran the ball effectively. But they’ve struggled this season, averaging only 3.8 yards per carry. Derrick Washington, who rushed for 1,000 yards last season, hasn’t played as well this season. He needs a big night against the Cornhuskers. The Tigers seem to have closed ranks this season from the wide splits that marked the Chase Daniel era. Maybe they need to go back to that strategy to provide some running lanes for Washington, Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore.
3. Play with the defensive intensity of the Illinois game. As predicted before the season opener, Missouri’s Sean Weatherspoon indeed “squeezed the pulp” out of Illinois quarterback Juice Williams. The Tigers haven’t played as well since, barely escaping against Bowling Green, allowing Furman to pass for 305 yards and Nevada to run for 218 yards. In order to beat Nebraska, the Nebraska front seven needs to turn up its intensity of that first game as it tries to contain Helu. If Missouri can control the ground game defensively and force Zac Lee to beat the Cornhuskers, it has a good shot at winning.