2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 4 - Nebraska at Wyoming
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Sept. 24 Nebraska 38 … at Wyoming 14
CFN Analysis: Is Nebraska just mediocre because it's waiting to finally be able to focus on Wisconsin? No. There's no passing game, the defensive front is shockingly bad at getting into the backfield, and the offense is all Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead. The ground game worked against Wyoming, rumbling for 333 yards and four scores, but the passing game relied on the big play and the defense failed to do enough to get into the backfield. Against Wisconsin, the Huskers have to manufacture ways to get behind the line and get to Russell Wilson or it'll be a long, LONG day.
Wyoming hung around. The linebackers started to miss in the second half, and the offense wasn't in place to push the ball deep or hit any home runs, but the offensive line did a nice job of keeping QB Brett Smith clean. The special teams did a decent job with Austin McCoy having a great day punting the ball, and the defense held up for about three quarters, but the Cowboys were overmatched. It wasn't a brutal showing and it wasn't an ugly blowout in any way. If they can beat Utah State on the road next week, 4-1 with a bad UNLV coming to Laramie should mean a strong record before dealing with the Mountain West big boys.
(AP) LARAMIE, Wyo. -- No. 9 Nebraska finally can set its sights on its first Big Ten Conference game with a trip to Wisconsin next weekend.
"We knew going into the year it was going to be a challenge, and it's staring us right in the face right now," Huskers coach Bo Pelini said after Nebraska beat Wyoming 38-14 on Saturday night. "We'll see how our guys react. I think everyone is looking forward to it. We'll find out a lot about our football team."
First things first, though. Nebraska took care of the Cowboys with Rex Burkhead rushing for two touchdowns and a career-high 170 yards and quarterback Taylor Martinez adding 157 passing yards and another score.
The Huskers (4-0) rolled up 490 yards total offense, including 333 on the ground, in their first road game of the season and last game before their highly anticipated Big Ten debut after officially leaving the Big 12 over the summer.
"We're all excited and we're looking forward to the challenge," said Burkhead, who had TD runs of 45 and 16 yards and piled up the yards on just 15 carries. His previous career high was 129 yards against Iowa State in 2010.
"Rex has been playing like that all year," Pelini said. "It doesn't surprise me. Rex is a heck of a player and ran his butt off again tonight."
Wyoming (3-1) was led by quarterback Brett Smith, who passed for 166 yards and two scores.
"I thought we had a great game plan," Smith said. "We were able to execute a few times, but not enough."
The Cowboys entered the game with their first 3-0 start since 1996, although two of their games this year were against lower-division FCS teams, and they struggled with Nebraska.
The Huskers scored on their first two possessions of the second half and opened a 31-7 lead on Burkhead's 16-yard scamper, a 20-yard field goal by Brett Mahar and an 8-yard TD pass from Martinez to Kenny Bell.
Smith connected with Robert Herron on a 10-yard TD pass, only to see Nebraska drive for a score on its next possession on a 1-yard run by Braylon Heard. Wyoming, which entered the game averaging 36 points and 492.3 yards of offense, was held to 305.
Nebraska led 14-7 at halftime. Burkhead scored on his second carry of the game, romping 45 yards off the left side on first down. Martinez followed with an 8-yard TD run up the middle before Wyoming answered with a 48-yard TD pass from Smith to Mazi Ogbonna, who took a short slant pass and avoided three Nebraska tacklers as he cut across the field.
Nebraska star defensive tackle Jared Crick did not suit up for the game after suffering an unspecified injury the week before against Washington. The 6-foot-6, 285-pound senior had started 31 straight games for Nebraska. He has 14 tackles and one sack in three games this season.
Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard played in his first game of the season after pulling a muscle in his right leg in mid-August. He sat out most of the second half, finishing with four solo tackles.
"I feel pretty good. No soreness at all," Dennard said.
It was Nebraska's first road game at a non-BCS conference school since a 38-14 win in 2003 at Southern Miss., and the first time the Huskers had visited Laramie even though the two states border each other. The game drew 32,617 people to War Memorial Stadium, making it the third-largest population center in Wyoming on Saturday. Many were wearing Nebraska red.
The stadium has a listed capacity of just about 29,200, which the smallest stadium Nebraska has played in since 1971. Wisconsin's Camp Randall Stadium seats 80,000.
"I'm sure it will be different up in Madison for our offense," Pelini said.
Nebraska (3-0) at Wyoming (3-0) Sept. 24, 7:00, BTN
Here's The Deal … Nebraska is everyone's big date over the next several weeks.
This is being called the biggest home game in Wyoming history, or at least the hottest ticket, with excitement sky-high after the Cowboys' hot start helped by a somewhat stunning road win over Bowling Green last week. This is very young, very inexperienced UW team that's in a stepping-stone season, and while some other big names have made the trip to Laramie over the years, this one is generating the biggest buzz.
Nebraska is getting on I-80 and going eight hours west this week, but its brain is eight hours to the east and Camp Randall Stadium for next week's inaugural Big Ten conference game against Wisconsin. Tickets are impossible to get for the huge conference showdown, and while that's all anyone wants to talk about, first, the Huskers have to start playing better than they have over the first three weeks and have to put down the pesky Cowboys.
Nebraska is 5-0 in the series with the first game in 1934 and the last coming in 1994, and the Cowboys haven't been close all that often losing by a combined score of 203 to 69. But this is the first time Nebraska has come to Wyoming.
Why Nebraska Might Win: The Wyoming pass defense hasn't shown up yet.
Wyoming's run D stats aren't great because the run defense is great; teams are spending their time moving the ball through the air. Weber State was effective completing 19-of-28 passes for 314 yards and two scores, and Bowling Green bombed away for 437 yards and four scores last week. The UW secondary has come up with four picks in the first three games, and Nebraska's passing game hasn't exactly rolled so far, but if Taylor Martinez wants to try pushing the ball down the field, it should be able to do it.
Of course, Nebraska is going to do what Nebraska is going to do and it's going to get the ball moving on the ball, and Wyoming hasn't faced anyone yet who can run the ball with any regularity. Even if the Cowboys can load up and stop Martinez and Rex Burkhead from getting loose, the secondary could be dinked and dunked on to death.
Why Wyoming Might Win: the pass rush has been tremendous and the defensive front has been phenomenal at getting behind the line. The Cowboys ripped off nine sacks so far and 20 tackles for loss, and they should be able to get to Martinez on a regular basis if the Husker O line doesn't play far better. The Big Red running game has been fine, but it's taken far too much work to get going with any consistency.
Yes, the Wyoming secondary is vulnerable, and yes, Martinez should have his moments throwing the ball. However, he's just not accurate enough to be relied on to carry the offense through the air if the ground game is getting stuffed. Martinez only completed 10-of-21 passes against Washington last week, and did the same against Fresno State also completing 10-of-21 throws. If Wyoming can keep the big plays to a minimum, and if the offense can control the clock, it'll have a chance. That means it needs a huge game from …
What To Watch Out For: Brett Smith, who needs to have the game of his young life. The true freshman been every bit as good as the Cowboys have dreamed of, considering the quarterback situation was such a concern after Austin Carta-Samuels left, and now he has to be even better. He picked a great time to come up with his best of the three games, throwing for 267 yards and a score, and running for 37 yards while moving the chains and not making mistakes. He has to be error-free against the Huskers and he has to keep pushing the ball on the Big Red secondary that had problems with Washington's Keith Price last week.
Nebraska is getting a great start out of a true freshman of its own. Ameer Abdullah has run the ball a little bit, with no real luck, but the speedster has been phenomenal on returns averaging 43 yards per kickoff return last week and 42.5 yards per try over the last two games. He's also a difference maker on punt returns averaging 13 yards per pop. Even if the Husker offense is sputtering, Abdullah should come up with a game-breaking dash to turn things around.
What Will Happen: After about a quarter of euphoria and hopes for one of the strongest wins in Wyoming history, reality will set in. The Nebraska running game will work with Martinez and Burkhead each running for 100 yards and controlling the clock throughout. Smith will have a big game and will get Husker fans freaking out about what Wisconsin's Russell Wilson might do next week, but it won't be enough.
CFN Prediction: Nebraska 48 … Wyoming 20
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Nebraska -23.5 O/U: 59
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