Nebraska Cornhuskers running game vs Michigan State


Have you ever found yourself holding out hope for the Nebraska Cornhuskers and their running game? Have you wondered why bad turnovers are better than a two yard gain? Throughout the year, the Huskers had a simple formula for winning right in their lap. However, the offense decided it was more important to throw passes than to win games.

The most evident example came in the loss to Illinois. Whether the coaches choked in the late-game situation, or there was a miscommunication on the call, the fact remains the Huskers decided not to call a run play.

Coming into the game against Michigan State, the Huskers average 35.8 rushing attempts per game. On the surface, the number isn’t bad, but they throw the ball 37.8 times per game, and it’s not good ratio for this team. But how bad has it gotten?

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During Ryker Fyfe‘s first career start at quarterback, the Huskers ran the ball 29 times for 77 yards. Keep in mind, they played a Purdue team giving up 184 rushing yards per game. The insistence to implement the passing game caused the loss as much as anything. Sure, Fyfe threw for 407 yards, but he also matched his four touchdown passes with four interceptions. It was part of a five turnover day for a team not capable of making mistakes. Throwing the ball 48 times isn’t a recipe for winning with this team.

Terrell Newby

If the Huskers didn’t have the mental toughness to run the ball against the Boilermakers, how are they going to run against the Spartans? Currently, Spartans’ opponents run for 115 yards per game. Giving up 3.5 yards per rush, it’s evident the Huskers won’t have an easy time establishing the run. However, the Huskers have to show a semblance of a running game to slow down the Spartans’ pass rush. If you are unaware, the Spartans have an impressive pass rush.

The Spartans have 26 sacks this season. Shilique Calhoun leads the defense with eight sacks. For his career, Calhoun has 24.5 sacks, and he is a nightmarish match up in one on one situations. Still, the Huskers could keep him guessing with a ground attack. Of course the Spartans’ defense has tremendous players at every position. Linebacker Riley Bullough leads the defense with 53 tackles. Meanwhile, Jon Reschke is second on the team with 48 stops.

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With running back Terrell Newby dealing with an ankle injury, the backfield could be depleted on Saturday night. Newby leads the Huskers with 697 yards on 129 rushing attempts. His 5.4 yards per attempt is third among the running backs, behind Andy Janovich‘s 6.8 yards per carry and Devine Ozigbo‘s six yards per carry. However, Imani Cross averages 3.7 yards per rush. Still, he’s second on the team with 39 rushing attempts.

A healthy Newby might not be the best running back for the Huskers in this game. Out of all the I-backs, Newby is the least powerful inside the tackles. He’s a speed guy that loves to get on the edge, but the Huskers have rarely put the speed to good use this season. Therefore, it wouldn’t be surprising if Ozigbo became the main rusher this weekend. However, don’t hold your breath. Despite Ozigbo’s physical gifts, he’s only carried the ball 16 times this season.

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Tommy Armstrong will be the x-factor in the run game. After a one week hiatus due to a foot injury, Armstrong should be back in the lineup. It remains to be seen if he’s at full strength. Once Armstrong establishes himself as a running threat, the entire game will change for the Spartans’ defense. If he’s limited in his mobility, it won’t be a pretty site for the Huskers’ offense.

In the end, the Huskers don’t seem ready to change their stripes. Therefore, they won’t be ready to stick with the ground attack if it’s not working early. In fact, the Huskers won’t stick with the running game if they have early success.