Get Rex Involved Early And Often
Junior Rex Burkhead leads the team in rushing, with 652 yards, and 9 touchdowns. Bo Pelini coached teams are undefeated when they rush for more than 205 yards.
I don’t think today’s game will be to competitive, but to put the game away early they need to give Burkhead the ball early and jump out to an early lead. This will allow the coaching staff to be comfortable putting in the younger backs like freshmen, Ameer Abdullah and Aaron Green. There is no word yet, if freshman Braylon Heard will be ready to play today.
Build Taylor Martinez’s Confidence
If offensive coordinator Tim Beck wants to open up the passing game, he will need to put sophomore quarterback Taylor Martinez in good situations. Give him one to two options to throw the ball, and give him a check down route on each play. Let him dump it short early, and give him some confidence, and then open up the big play on a weak secondary. Minnesota ranks 91st nationally in pass defense.
Contain A Mobile Quarterback
Since arriving in Lincoln, Bo Pelini has struggled with dual-threat quarterbacks. The Golden Gophers feature Marqueis Gray, a 6-foot-4 290 dual-threat who returns to action this week after leaving the game with injury in last weeks game at Purdue. Gray rushed 6 times for only 20 yards, but scored one touchdown against the Boilermakers. Nebraska will need to contain Gray if they want today’s game to go as it planned.
Find Out What Else You Have
If Nebraska gets up early, they need to see what else they have at quarterback. I am not calling for Taylor Martinez to loose his starting job. When you have a quarterback that runs as often as Martinez does, it is nice to know if he goes down to injury, that there is a servicable backup. If Nebraska has a double digit lead in the fourth quarter, they need to get Brion Carnes, and maybe even Jamal Turner a couple snaps at quarterback to give them real game experience.
Getting the young running backs, and cornerbacks involved in the game are crutial as well. Nebraska can not continue to only rely on Rex Burkhead as an option at running back. They need to get the young backs involved and at least 8 to 10 carries if this game gets out of hand.
With the slow start that corner backs Andrew Green and Ciante Evans have had, it will be important to build their confidence against a weak passing game this week. The spotlight will be on sophomore Stanley Jean-Baptiste. Baptiste has received all the headlines in the past two weeks. He is 6-foot-3 and a former receiver who came into the game against Ohio State and caused an interception and helped lead the comeback against the Buckeyes.
Photo provided by Sports Illustrated.