Thursday, December 30, 2010
Looks like Blackshirts are back for Huskers
A statistical preview of the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl (ESPN, 10 ET) between the No. 18 Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Washington Huskies.
Entering Nebraska’s game against Missouri on October 30, Taylor Martinez led the country with 14 rushes of 20 yards or more. However, during the first half of the Missouri game, Martinez suffered a leg injury and he has not been the same when his number is called to rush the ball.
Since that game, he has not had a 20-yard rush and his per-rush average, not including QB sneaks, is less than half of what it was before the injury.
But the Huskers can turn to running back Roy Helu Jr. for big plays on the ground. Helu has seven runs of 50 yards or more this season, all resulting in a touchdown, making him one of the most explosive rushers in the college game.
Only one other player in the country -- LaMichael James of Oregon -- has more than four such runs this season. And since 2004, only Ryan Mathews has posted at least seven 50-yard touchdown rushes in a single season.
When Washington has the ball, they’d do best to stay away from third down altogether. When the two teams met in September, Huskies quarterback Jake Locker completed just one of his seven third-down passes for six yards, and Nebraska has been tough on third down all season.
The vaunted Blackshirts defense was first in the country this season in opponents’ completion percentage on third down, and was second in opponents’ yards per attempt and pass efficiency.
There wasn’t a lot that went right for him in the September matchup, but Locker will have to be better throwing from the pocket this time around for Washington to have any chance.
Locker completed two of his 15 passes from inside the pocket when the teams met earlier this season and actually ended up with a negative pass efficiency.