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October 14, 2010
Week 7 preview in the Big 12
Normally, the fine citizens of Nebraska are cordial and welcoming, but there are a few topics that can raise their collective ire and angst.
They include, but are not limited to, liberal politicians, Bill Callahan, bad corn and soybean crops, and the Texas Longhorns.
By way of democracy, Tom Osborne and agricultural technology, the first three issues have been handled much to the satisfaction of most Nebraskans. But the Longhorns ... that's another matter.
The beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers are 1-8 against Texas since the Big 12 was established in 1996 and have lost the past five times they've faced Bevo. Each of those losses was like a horror movie with a different villain.
Nathan Vasher intercepted a Jammal Lord pass at Texas' 1 in the final seconds to seal the Longhorns' 27-24 win in 2002; the loss ended Nebraska's 26-game home winning streak.
Cedric Benson rushed for 174 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-7 rout in 2003.
Aaron Ross forced a late fumble on what should have been a game-clinching pass to Terrence Nunn in 2006. The Longhorns recovered and Ryan Bailey kicked a field goal for a 22-20 win.
Jamaal Charles rushed for 216 yards and three touchdowns in the fourth quarter as Texas came from behind for a victory in 2007.
One second was correctly put back on the clock in last season's Big 12 championship game, allowing Hunter Lawrence a chance to kick a 46-yard field goal in a 13-12 Longhorns win.
The Huskers are in their last season as Big 12 members. But before they leave for the greener pastures of the Big Ten, their fans want nothing more than to avenge those losses and make Omaha steaks out of the Longhorns.
Texas coach Mack Brown is anticipating an enthusiastic but not hostile crowd.
"It will be like the other three trips we've had up there," he said. "They're an unbelievable crowd. I don't expect it to be any different."
Huskers defensive tackle Jared Crick, a native Nebraskan, hinted that Brown may be in for a surprise.
"When people around the area recognize you and come up and talk to you, one of the things they talk about is last year's Big 12 championship game," Crick said. "But we've come a long way since last year. We've matured and moved on. We're focused on the task at hand. And after this game, we'll move on to the next.
"But for what the fans think and what other people think ... I'm sure they have their thoughts. They're still angry about it and want retribution."
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, hired by Osborne after Callahan was fired, said revenge is not a motivating factor for the Huskers.
"There's no revenge," Pelini said. "Nothing else can be part of it, other than to execute and do the things necessary to win the football game."
That would mean springing quarterback Taylor Martinez for big gains and turning in the kind of defensive performance that Nebraska routinely had last season, when it led the nation in scoring defense.
"We want to be better than we were last year," Crick said. "We have a long way to go, but we see improvement at every position every week. Last year, it took us a couple of weeks to find out how good we were. We see ourselves in the same position we were a year ago."
Well, Nebraska fans hope the Huskers won't be in the same position. If Texas pulls off another win, it might be.
Best matchup: Nebraska's offense vs. Texas' defense. Despite its collapse against UCLA, Texas still is ranked sixth in the nation in total defense. True, part of that is because the Longhorns have faced some offensively challenged opponents. But Texas also held Texas Tech's offense to seven points and played a strong second half against Oklahoma. Meanwhile, Nebraska is seventh in the nation in total offense with an average of 494.4 yards per game. Behind QB Taylor Martinez and RBs Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead, the Huskers have one of the most productive rushing attacks in the country. But as with Texas' defense, Nebraska's offensive stats have been boosted by facing some poor defensive teams.
Player on the spot: Colorado QB Tyler Hansen. He was pulled in last week's 26-0 loss to Missouri and replaced by Cody Hawkins. Hansen will be back in the starting lineup this week against Baylor, but he may be looking over his shoulder. Whoever is at quarterback has to get the Buffaloes moving if they're going to keep up with Baylor. Only fourth-ranked TCU has held the Bears to fewer than 30 points this season.
Numbers game: It has been 66 years since Oklahoma State defeated Texas Tech in Lubbock (14-7 in 1944). The Cowboys haven't beaten Tech on the road since. Of course, that's somewhat misleading because the Cowboys and Red Raiders did not play annually until the Big 12 was formed in 1996. But in Big 12 play, Texas Tech is 6-0 against Oklahoma State in Lubbock and its average margin of victory is 24.6 points.
What they're saying
"They're probably the same as they are for any other game. It's the next one." -- Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, on his players' excitement about facing Texas
"I don't think we've been ultraconservative, but I do think there've been some opportunities to take the ball downfield that we've not done early in the game. Even if you don't hit those, it sends a message about vertical throws that might open something underneath as you go." -- Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis, on the Longhorns' seemingly conservative game plans thus far
"It's not a situation where we're getting beat into the ground and not having success. I think you lose confidence if you think you're overmatched. We have great players and a great system; we're just making mistakes at unfortunate times." -- Texas A&M QB Jerrod Johnson, on the turnover-prone Aggies' confidence level
Etc.: Baylor QB Robert Griffin has had back-to-back 300-yard passing performances. It's the first time in his career he has had consecutive 300-yard games. He has accounted for 16 plays that have covered at least 30 yards. Of those, 11 have resulted in touchdowns. ... Colorado RB Brian Lockridge, who missed last week's game with a sprained ankle, needs surgery and will miss the rest of the seaso. WR Will Jefferson is moving to RB to provide depth. ... Texas Tech junior DE Scott Smith has been suspended for the rest of the season for violating team rules. ... Iowa State RB Alexander Robinson has a foot injury that forced him out of the second half in last week's loss to Utah. X-rays were negative, but his status this week is uncertain. ... Kansas P Alonso Rojas has at least one 50-yard punt in five consecutive games. ... Kansas State RB Daniel Thomas remains seventh in the nation in rushing, but has been held to less than 100 yards in each of the past two games. ... Dating to last season, Nebraska has scored on its first drive in six of its past seven games. The Huskers are outscoring opponents 38-7 in the first quarter this season. ... Missouri is outscoring opponents 50-3 in the third quarter. The Tigers and Iowa are the only teams in the nation that have not allowed a third-quarter touchdown. ... Nebraska's defense has held 13 consecutive opponents to 21 or fewer points. ... Oklahoma's heralded freshman RB Roy Finch, who drew raves in August for his speed and elusiveness, will make his season debut against Iowa State. He has been sidelined with a hairline fracture in an ankle. Sooners LB Austin Box has been out with a back injury, but he has returned to practice. It's unsure if he'll play Saturday. ... Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman said he's sticking with QB Jerrod Johnson, who has thrown nine interceptions in the past three games. Johnson threw eight interceptions all of last season. ... A&M may be camera-shy or have stage fright. The Aggies have lost 11 consecutive games that were televised. Saturday's game against Missouri will be shown regionally on Fox Sports. ... Texas Tech has given up a special teams touchdown in each of the past two games. ... Colorado K Aric Goodman apparently lost his job after missing a 40-yard attempt last week. It was his third miss in four attempts. Walk-on Marcus Kirkwood figures to handle the kicking duties. ... Nebraska has averaged 34.1 yards on its 28 touchdown plays.
Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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