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Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Huskers hope to survive mayhem on road

By Mitch Sherman

The numbers don’t look good for Nebraska.

Michigan is 19-0 at home under coach Brady Hoke in three years. Over that same time, Nebraska is 7-8 away from home, including a 6-4 mark in Big Ten opponents’ stadiums.

Tommy Armstrong Jr.
Tommy Armstrong Jr. struggled in his only road start, throwing three interceptions Oct. 12 at Purdue.
When the Huskers visit the Wolverines on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC), the visitors won’t take good memories of their last trip to Michigan Stadium -- a 45-17 loss in 2011.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., Nebraska’s expected starter, of course, wasn’t there two years ago. He’s started just one road game, Oct. 12 at Purdue, and threw three interceptions before he was replaced in the second half.

Northwestern also intercepted Armstrong three times last week in Lincoln.

So how will the Huskers and their young quarterback survive the mayhem of the Big House and more than 100,000 fans?

“We’ve just got to make sure we don’t turn the ball over and give our defense a chance,” Armstrong said. “They’re starting to click at the right time.”

The Blackshirts held Northwestern scoreless on 11 consecutive drives from midway through the second quarter until the Wildcats kicked a go-ahead field goal in the final two minutes. The Huskers will likely need a similar effort against Michigan, which is averaging 46.6 points in five home games this year.

“I guess I can’t really explain it,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said of the Wolverines’ elevated play at home. “I know I feel a lot more comfortable here, playing at home, because of our crowd and the energy they bring.

“I’m sure Michigan shares the same thing. I’ve played in Ann Arbor, and they’ve got a good fan base. The place will be loud. It’s 110,000 people, so obviously that gives them an advantage. We have to understand that going in.”

Another key for Nebraska involves stability on the offensive line. It lost All-Big Ten guard Spencer Long against Purdue last month. Guard Jake Cotton went down last week with a sprained knee ligament.

The Huskers may shift tackles Andrew Rodriguez or Brent Qvale to guard or move center Cole Pensick and play backup Mark Pelini at center.

Regardless, they must avoid mistakes like the three penalties that cost Nebraska a pair of scoring opportunities in the fourth quarter against Northwestern.

“We’ve got to find guys who can step up,” left tackle Jeremiah Sirles said. “And when they step up, they’ve got to step up with a purpose. We have a standard that we set. It stays the same, no matter who’s in there.”