Dec 31, 2012

Nebraska’s Key To Victory: Pound The Rock

The Big Red can win the Capital One Bowl with a balanced diet of their three leading rushers that keeps Georgia on its heels and controls the time of possession. A healthy rushing attack gives the Blackshirts enough rest between drives and lets quarterback Taylor Martinez be the dual-threat that makes him so dangerous.

Nebraska averages over 250 yards per game on the ground, good for eighth in the nation. Leading the way is sophomore sensation RB Ameer Abdullah with 1,089 yards. Just behind him is Martinez with a career-high 973 yards. Senior RB Rex Burkhead has only 535 yards this season after leading the team in 2011, but he was limited to just seven games. Burkhead’s 7.23 yards per carry is the best among the trio, and is why he is considered a sleeper pick in the upcoming NFL draft. Any of the three is capable of breaking the game open with a big run.

Having three weapons in the running game makes the Huskers different from the attacks Georgia has seen for most of the year. A mobile quarterback like Martinez opens up the offense for all three backs. Mark Richt has repeatedly mentioned his concerns about stopping the Huskers rushing attack.

“I don’t think you can knock good backs down,” Richt said on Monday. “So I think it’s very important to come with pace and come with an attitude, but if you don’t wrap up when you tackle, then you’re going to have moments where the guy is going to make you look bad.”

As Chris Brown points out in a great piece on SmartFootball.com Nebraska’s multiple offense poses unique challenges to Georgia’s 3-4 defense. 

As an example of an option-based attack against a 3-4 defense, look no further than Sunday’s Cowboys/Redskins game. Alfred Morris, Robert Griffin III, and Washington’s potent zone-read option offense eliminated Dallas’ Demarcus Ware as a hybrid linebacker/defensive end in the 3-4. Nebraska could similarly force Jones into isolated scenarios, neutralizing his decision-making ability. While he may be the most athletic player on Georgia’s front seven, he can’t tackle three players at once. 

Running the ball will allow the Huskers to control the clock, but they must be mindful of the turnover ratio. Nebraska has struggled to protect the football all season. “I feel like offensively that’s been our Achilles heel all year,” said offensive coordinator Tim Beck. “We hurt ourselves more, you know, consistently in games than defenses do. We turn the ball over a lot and put our defense in bad situations and/or give up scores at times, so we have to play well.”

Beck’s comments reflect Nebraska’s attitude towards preparation for the Capital One Bowl: getting back to Nebraska football and fixing mistakes that have plagued the team all season. After the Big Ten Championship game loss to Wisconsin, coverage of the team has focused on the theme of redemption. However, Coach Bo Pelini has stressed the words “opportunity” and “challenge” when speaking with his players.

“Well, you know, no matter what happens, you don’t ever never wipe that taste out of your mouth,” Pelini said. “That isn’t going away, regardless of what happens tomorrow.”

“Life is about opportunities and it’s about challenges…It’s why I do what I do and it’s why the players play.”

With a BCS top-10 team on the opposite sideline, the Huskers need to take advantage of favorable matchups to make their second Capital One Bowl appearance a more successful game than the first.

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