A spring peek at
Richard Linde, 12 March 2009
and Washington collide at Husky Stadium on September 18, in a game that
could have a profound effect on the remainder of their seasons.
Nebraska should be ranked in the top ten -- although its weak
out-conference schedule might work against that -- when it arrives in Seattle; as for the Huskies, if they should beat
Nebraska, they could earn a top-25 ranking and be headed for a bowl
game for the first time in eight years. (Photo of former player Willie Hurst,
courtesy of dawgman.com. I liked the purple jerseys back then along with
A lot can happen between now
and then, with most of the incoming freshmen arriving in the fall and
looking to fill some unsettled slots leftover from spring. Both teams
play two games before they meet, NU playing Western
Kentucky and Idaho, both at home, and UW playing BYU on the road and Syracuse
Big Red, the stadium by the lake, with its warm, purple glow, could be a
noisy place to begin a road show.
For the Purple gang, its
stadium's noise is its twelfth man on the field, and Husky
Stadium should be filled with loyal, hardcore fans --
along with Dubs, the Husky mascot.
Going into spring football,
here's a peek at the two teams as they stand now.
Nebraska, out of the Big 12
conference, finished 10-4 in
its 2009 season, beating Arizona 33-0 in the Holiday Bowl.
Both the USA Today Coaches Poll and AP poll ranked the Huskers No. 14
after the BCS title game.
Washington, out of the
Pac-10, is coming off a 5-7 season, finishing with impressive victories
over Washington State and California.
Nebraska is returning 10 men
on offense, 7 on defense and both specialists. Washington returns 9 on
offense, 9 on defense and both specialists.
nationalchamps.net for the Huskies' projected
Also, reference this link for
Nebraska's projected starting lineup. And this link for an
springtime overview of the Cornhuskers.
Last year's starting
quarterback at NU, Zac Lee, will miss spring practice, having had elbow
surgery on his throwing arm in January. A 58.6% passer, Lee posted a
pass-efficiency rating of 126.89 in 2009.
The Cornhusker quarterbacks
won't be wearing green, protective jerseys this spring.
"The other thing with a green jersey is that a false sense of security
develops. We want them to know it's a contact sport and they need to be
ready to play the contact sport," says NU offensive coordinator Shawn
Cornhusker fans expect big
things from QB Taylor Martinez this spring. Martinez is a dual-threat QB
out of Corona, which is located in western Riverside County, about 35
miles from Los Angeles.
Four-star freshman Cody
Green (6-foot-4, 220) backed up Lee last season, played in nine games
and registered a PE of 100.37. He completed 53.2% of his passes and ran
for 158 yards.
was the Cornhuskers strength in 2009.
Nebraska excelled on defense
last season, ranking seventh in the nation in total defense. In the
Holiday Bowl, it held Arizona to just 109 total yards. On the other
hand, Washington's offense was its best defense. For the most part, the
UW offense maintained ball control last season and kept its defense, which
ranked seventy-ninth nationally in total defense, off the field as much
as possible. Remember the ASU game? That is, "We jumped a route, a crossing route, and left the middle of
the field wide open," Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian told reporters after
In the last few years, the
Huskies have been notoriously weak against the pass. However, the
Cornhuskers weren't much of a threat passing last season, ranking 101st
in passing offense, so that part of the contest should be interesting.
Locker will likely be an
NFL first-round draft pick in 2011.
Washington's offense this
upcoming season depends on keeping QB Jake Locker healthy, and he is
sure to wear a yellow jersey -- off-limits to contact -- this spring. Last season,
Locker led the conference in total offense, averaging 265.7 yards per
game. He finished fourth in pass efficiency, posting a rating of 130.1,
according to the Pac-10 stats. Locker finished second in passing average
per game with a 233.3 YPG average and rushed for 388 total yards.
Washington's only experienced backups, quarterback Ronnie Fouch has
transferred from school, as has walk-on QB Taylor Bean, who played two
games in the 2008 season. That leaves redshirt freshman Keith Price and
true freshman Nick Montana -- son of the legendary Joe Montana -- to fill in for Locker should he suffer
injury. Coach Steve Sarkisian is looking for somebody to walk on at the
Locker's PE on the game
will play to the mercy of Nebraska's PED.
In the past, Locker's pass
efficiency, per game, has been a function of the pass-efficiency defense
he's faced. In 2009, Nebraska ranked number one in FBS football in that
category. In the Holiday Bowl, the Cornhuskers held QB Nick Foles to a
miserable 33.67 rating and a 30% pass-completion percentage. However,
off that defensive unit, the Huskers lose both safeties (Matt O'Hanlon and
Larry Asante), linebacker Phillip Dillard, defensive end Barry Turner
and nose tackle Ndamukong Suh. Suh, Dillard, and Asante led NU in total
tackles last season. The fourth leading tackler, Jared Crick, returns at
Defensively this spring, the
Cornhuskers will keep a watchful eye on LB Eric Martin, CB Prince
Amakumara, and DE Jason Ankrah.
At this time, the outlook for the Huskies' front
seven is specious at best, unless somebody can hornswoggle me
into believing otherwise.
The Huskies need to find
replacements for their two best defensive players: LB Donald Butler and
DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim. Mason Foster returns at strong side linebacker
and will be joined by Cort Dennison, a five-game starter in 2K9 at the LB position. E. J. Savanah,
who started eight games last season, has departed, which leaves either
Matt Houston or Fred Wiggs, both special teams players in 2009, to fill the void. Foster starred in the
Huskies' victory over Arizona last season. (See "Foster's
'pick-Nick' by the lake.")
Replacing Te'o-Nesheim, the
Huskies' career sack leader, won't be easy. In 2009, he was backed up by
Talia Crichton, Andru Pulu and Kalani Aldrich. Pulu,
a sophomore, is under indefinite suspension for violating team
In 2009 the Huskies gave up an average of 29.5
yards-per-game more on pass defense than they did the year before under
the team coached by Tyrone Willingham which lost all twelve of its
Nebraska returns ten starters on offense but loses
three key players: WR
Menelik Holt, OG Derek Meyer, and C Jacob Hickman. Eight of its
will be seniors.
I-Back Roy Helu (6-foot-0, 215) ran for 1147 yards
last season, averaging 81.93 ypg. WR Niles Paul led the Huskers in
all-purpose yards, accumulating 1697 yards, based on receiving and
returning punts and kickoffs.
The Cornhuskers posted 223 yards rushing against
Arizona in the Holiday Bowl and would like to pound the ball against the
Huskies while stymieing the Huskies' offense. In 2009, NU's offense
ranked 99th in FBS football, so its rebuilt defense will likely be key
to its battle in Seattle.
Besides Locker, the Huskies will rely on RB Chris
Polk to get the job done on the ground. Polk rushed for 1,113 yards last
season, finishing fourth in the Pac-10. Polk had shoulder surgery in
January, his second in two years, and won't be available for spring
practice. He's expected to be ready for fall.
UW returns the conference's
fourth and seventh best receivers, Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aquilar,
respectively. Four starters are back on what some would call a thin
offensive line, no pun intended.
NU kicker, Alex Henerey, booted four field goals in
the Holiday bowl, one from 50 yards out and another from 47 yards. UW's
kicker, Erik Folk, made 85.7% of his field goals in 2K9.
Looked at another way, this game will be a match up
of defensive and offensive minded head coaches.
Nebraska is coached by Bo Pelini, 42, who has a 20-8
record as he enters his third year. Previously, he was the defensive
coordinator at LSU from 2005-2007.
Steve Sarkisian, 36, enters his second year as head
coach of the Dawgs, posting a 5-7 record in his first year. Previously,
he was the offensive coordinator at USC. Sark, as we fans affectionately
call him, signed seven offensive linemen to his 2010 recruiting class.
Nebraska wins on 13 of the 22 stats shown
below, and if the game were played tomorrow, the Huskers would be
favored to husk
the Huskies, leaving them perhaps with a shell for their
Washington and Nebraska have played one another seven
times, and the series is currently deadlocked at three wins and one tie
Table 1. 2009 NCAA Statistics
1. Ball Control
Time of Poss.
2. Blocking and Tackling
Pass Eff Defense
Pass Eff Offense
4. Field Position
5. Scoreboard Baby