Huskers aim to improve over last season with starter at Horseshoe

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 29: The Nebraska Cornhuskers marching band performs on the field before their game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Memorial Stadium on September 29, 2012 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska won 30-27. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 29: The Nebraska Cornhuskers marching band performs on the field before their game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Memorial Stadium on September 29, 2012 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska won 30-27. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images) /

The Huskers look to put forth a good effort on Saturday.

As Cornhusker fans are giddy and ready for the start of the Big Red’s football season, what is rolling around in the back of their minds when the kickoff flies on Saturday at the Horseshoe most likely will be can the Nebraska Cornhuskers Football team respond positively to the training and hard work it put in this off season AND improve?

Yeah everyone knows there will be good plays and others not so well executed but this group must progress mentality which is a supreme test going against the talented Ohio State Buckeyes. They need to build with each snap confidence, experience and mental toughness during a freaking and distracting pandemic! I know that is a tall order but that is the reality but I believe they are ready to start delivering.

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That toughness their coach Scott Frost was to bring back to Lincoln has been a hit or miss proposition these past couple seasons on both sides of the ball and this 2020 team must clearly become more consistent in this area to deliver the long overdue post conference season game.

Obvious fans like I thought many times watching the games and tape of the 2019 campaign the Blackshirts did not play or communicate very well defensively and were thrashed and slashed by teams because they were out of position defensively, failing to wrap up tackles or were sometimes manhandled. I would stand there stunned watching Purdue’s backup quarter back Jack Plummer wheel and deal the ball around the field on our defense like Drew Brees on Sundays!  In that same game with the game on the line, Purdue’s running back David Bell waltzed right past defenders on a reverse play as the Blackshirts had zero containment and they where flat out of position due maybe to a screw-up by Erik Chinander. Those are two examples of dozens of countless breakdowns defensively and I will not talk about the gaffs on offense in 2019 but those were plentiful and cost them wins too.

Maybe the most agonizing and another eyeball rolling bottom 10 highlight from the 2019 came during their final game at Memorial Stadium, where the Blackshirts pick six Nate Stanley to turn momentum in their favor at home but then immediately on the ensuing kickoff gave up a 95 yard return. It was flat out awful because they did battle back in the second half and played defensively (throw out a couple long touchdown runs by Iowa in the first half) better than in any other game that season except at Maryland.  They lost on the final field goal to the Hawkeyes because of those big mental meltdowns that spurred Iowa’s big plays. Defense, offense and special teams must clean up in many phases of their game day execution to topple opponents. Furthermore improve in-game adjustment by defensive coaches which are seemingly nonexistent.

Let’s move onto my Nebraska VS OSU game assessment. Nebraska’s path to victory over OSU rests on the wide shoulders of their five returning starters on the offensive line. Starters Jaimes, Hixson, Jurgens, Farniok and Wilson are arguably the best since Bo Pelini walked the sidelines. They will not see the Nebraska offense slayer Chase Young who now plays on Sundays for the Washington Football Team and ransacked the Cornhusker’s during their last meetings. It should help their confidence but the Buckeyes still have plenty of talent remaining from 2019 when Nebraska had a paltry 47 yards passing. The Silver Bullets have five returning starters back from one of the premier defenses in the country last year and they will reload eventually with repetition. I am just not sure how good day one of the season they will be but still a formidable test for this deeply experienced Husker offensive line. They should matchup favorably with a defense led by new coach Kerry Coombs.

What the Cornhuskers need to win is a herculean effort on offense and defense as in 2018 when four of those five offensive linemen where on the team and they almost pulled off an outrageous upset and lost that football game 31-36 in Columbus. Despite that loss it was undoubtedly their best game of the year and propelled quarterback Adrian Martinez into the national spotlight who put up 450 yards of offense on the road.

Scott Frost needs to unleash his hefty playbook on the Buckeyes and utilize the many skills of Luke McCaffrey to bring the best out of a very green wide receiver core with is highlighted by JUCO transfer Omar Manning and sophomore Wan’Dale Robinson. Dedrick Mills is a solid and versatile back and came on strong last year and he will be relied upon heavily because the rest our freshmen.  They need to be calm, collected and not erratic as last year’s roller coaster offensive performances.

Martinez will be facing a great quarterback in OSU’s Justin Field’s who had a shot to win a National Championship last year and came up short with an end-zone interception at crunch time against Clemson. He is a powerful running quarterback with a hellacious passing touch and arm strength. He also has a plethora of talented receivers to pick defenses apart along with Master Teague III who scored two touchdowns on the Huskers last year. OSU returns 4 five-star recruits on their offensive line to protect Fields and spring holes for their running attack which will really test the Huskers revamped defensive line and rest of the Blackshirts.

In summary there are no five-star recruits on this Nebraska Cornhusker’s roster even though they have according to the 247Sports talent composite the fourth most talented roster in Big Ten football.

A article I recently read said there are 20 five-stars in the whole conference and 12 are on the Buckeyes football team clearly indicating a talent slant heavily in favor of the Buckeyes. Yet playing with toughness, avoiding penalties, mental mistakes and making a few big plays of their own could place Nebraska in a similar situation as in Columbus back in 2018 with a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter. The Cornhusker need to keep their poise and be focused inside the fan vacant Horseshoe. If they do that they can win there in a shootout and make it a real compelling game.