Nebraska remembers Missouri's spread offense

September, 30, 2008
9/30/08
6:01
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Missouri's spread offense tests a defense in many ways. And often produces memories that stay with an opposing defense for a long time.

Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and his teammates are preparing for the immense challenge of an offense that hung 606 yards against them last season in a humiliating 41-6 defeat in Columbia, Mo.

"That was a horrible, horrible experience," Suh said. "I know myself I never want to see anything like that again. It motivates you to play hard and I'm eager to get after them."

Missouri even rubbed the victory in the nose of their traditional nemesis late in the game when they scored a touchdown on a fake field goal early in the fourth quarter while nursing a 34-6 lead.

"I've forgotten most of the game, but I remember how crazy their fans were," Nebraska defensive end Zach Potter said. "They kept playing to the end. They have their fakes and they put it on film. It happened to be our bad luck it came against us."

After the game, Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel ridiculed the repeated 3-3-5 strategy that former Nebraska coordinator Kevin Cosgrove ran against his team as something he would have faced in high school.

Soon thereafter, the Cornhuskers' proud tradition of awarding Blackshirts to their defensive starters was mothballed.

Against that backdrop, it's understandable why many Nebraska fans are howling for revenge as they hope to see the Cornhuskers stretch their 15-game home winning streak over their traditional rivals.

"This is just another game, with a little more hype with how well they're playing," Potter said.

Even after struggling against a basic offense in Virginia Tech, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini is intent on playing his attacking, aggressive defense against the Tigers. It will be much different than the read-and-react strategy Cosgrove unsuccessfully used last season.

The Cornhuskers rank 96th nationally in pass defense and 75th in turnover margin. Most harrowing, the Cornhuskers allowed 377 yards in a 35-30 loss to Virginia Tech, a team that came into the game ranked 112th in total offense.

Some might wonder if a more basic approach would be in order against the Tigers, who rank second nationally in scoring, total offense and passing.

But Pelini is determined to try to contain the Tigers with his typical defensive strategy.

"I've never gone into a game making concessions and I won't start this week," Pelini said. "We're going to do that this week and we're going to try to shut them out."

Pelini says it will be difficult for his team or any to notch many sacks against Missouri because of Daniel's quick release. But the senior quarterback can be hounded in different ways that will keep him occupied.

"He gets rid of the ball quick, but that doesn't mean you can't attack him," Pelini said. "You won't sack him a lot, but it doesn't mean you can't affect his rhythm. You have to disrupt it. You can't let him sit back there. You have to disguise things, give him a lot of different looks and mix it up."

The Cornhuskers played strongly late during the Virginia Tech game, but not consistently well enough to win. Critical penalties, including two in Virginia Tech's clinching drive by Suh and Pelini, helped salt away the Hokies' victory.

"There were just too many mistakes and not good enough execution," Pelini said. "We're not where we want to be. We're just a work in progress.

"That's just a reality. The kids are working hard and I like the passion they are playing with. But we aren't executing consistently. You're seeing progress, but there's just a number of errors. And against a team like Virginia Tech or Missouri, they hurt you and it's hard to overcome."

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