UW-Nebraska Q&A swap

Brian Christopherson is the beat writer for Nebraska football for the Lincoln Journal-Star, and he agreed to swap five questions and answers with me about Saturday’s Wyoming-Nebraska game.

Here are my questions and Brian’s answers. Brian’s questions and my answers will come later. Would love to hear your thoughts and opinions:

1. Are Nebraska coaches and players concerned about the defense after giving up good chunks of yards and points the last two weeks?

Anytime you give up 67 points in a span of two weeks, I think there has to be some level of concern. That said, (head coach) Bo Pelini is a real confident guy when it comes to coaching defense. He has said several times this week that all the mistakes he’s seen early in the season are fixable. And his track record does show that his defenses almost always get stronger as the year goes along. But no doubt he has a challenge on his hand right now. Teams have had some success running right at Nebraska — see Fresno State’s 190 rushing yards — and youth at the corner spots has been exposed. Nebraska is obviously greatly missing departed players Prince Amukamara, Eric Hagg and DeJon Gomes. It also hasn’t helped that the team’s best corner, Alfonzo Dennard, has been on the sideline with a pulled muscle injury. Dennard adds a lot to the defense, and not just because of his coverage ability. He brings a swagger to Nebraska’s secondary that hasn’t been there so far. I think it’s fair to say people around here are surprised by how much Nebraska’s defense has struggled so far this year. Before the season, coaches said this defense had the potential to be the deepest of any Nebraska has had since the Pelini era began in 2008. But to this point it’s been a group that has seemed off-balance and lacking that assuredness that has defined Nebraska defenses the past two years. So I think there is concern mixed with the hope of Husker fans that this defense will iron out some wrinkles and steadily improve much as it did the second half of Pelini’s first season in 2008.

2. What kind of improvement and progress has quarterback Taylor Martinez made from last year as a freshman to this season as a sophomore?

I think Taylor Martinez has improved, and it’s been most noticeable in the past game-and-a-half. He still struggles with the intermediate passing game, but his ability to take off for a 50-yard run two or three times a game will still give defensive coaches headaches. He also did a much better job against Washington securing the football, something he didn’t do the first couple of games. The sophomore is still figuring out the option game — which he did not run often in high school. You can tell he’s not a natural at it, but he has gotten better in each game this year at running it. The big question about the offseason about Martinez was whether he could be a leader, and take control of the huddle more than he did as a freshman. It’s hard to say anything definitive off of just three games, but Martinez has seemed to better himself in that area. He was praised by coaches for the way he commanded the offense against Washington. The quarterback seems to be settling into his role well, but then it’s the next couple months of this season where he’ll really be put to the test.

3. Do you get a sense the team is overlooking Wyoming a little bit with the Big Ten opener at Wisconsin next week?

I think the fan base is looking ahead to Wisconsin. I don’t get the sense that players and coaches are. This team hasn’t been dominant enough at this point to be overlooking anybody — and it seems like it realizes this. Certainly the Wisconsin game has been talked about a lot around here. And it would be natural that players hear some of that chatter. But I’d expect the defense would have plenty of motivation after two weeks of giving up a lot of points. And the offense, while playing very good last week, is still a work in progress under first-year offensive coordinator Tim Beck. So I don’t think this is a team that arrives to Laramie with puffed out chests.

4. What kind of impression are you getting from players, coaches and fans about Nebraska coming to Wyoming to play a football game?

I think everyone in Nebraska is excited about this game in Laramie. It’s certainly an unusual road trip for the Huskers to make. But it seems like most fans I run into think it’s pretty cool — especially those Husker fans in western Nebraska that were able to snag tickets. The fact that Nebraska’s playing in a 30,000 seat stadium — which is the smallest stadium the team will have played in since a trip to Hawaii in 1971 — makes it a hot ticket, and I think adds to Nebraska’s fans interest in seeing their team play in such a setting. Of course, there’s also the historical connection the two programs have. The fact that Bob Devaney arrived toNebraska after coaching Wyoming is not lost on many Husker fans. So I think people are excited these two teams are getting together for the first time in 17 years. And those around here remember how tough a game that was for Nebraska, with the that national champion Husker team fortunate to win a 10-point game over Wyoming (in 1994).

5. Predictions for the game, including the final score.

I think Wyoming will move the ball a little on Nebraska, but the Huskers have some explosive playmakers on offense who I think might break this one open for Nebraska. And while I know Wyoming fans are passionate, Nebraskans seem excited to travel to this game and I wonder how much red will be in the stadium to eliminate a home-field advantage. Factoring all that, I’m going with a score similar to what the spreads are showing. I’ll sayNebraska 41,Wyoming16.

 

16 thoughts on “UW-Nebraska Q&A swap

  1. Ouch! 41-16?? I am surprised this guy thinks the blackshirts will shut down our offense that much. This is a big test for us. But I don’t think this game gives the pokes as many problems as that blue team does in idaho. I think we will have a chance in this game. I truly believe our defense will show up. That is the big question in this game. But IMHO, I don’t think nubraskuh is a top 10 team. At least I haven’t seen it yet from what they have done on the Football field. RG- what are your thoughts about how our defense will play this weekend? Also, what are your thoughts on Browder. With the “possibility” of him playing…that tells me he WILL play. How much better does our defense become with him on the field?

    • I’m with you that I would like to think the defense will come to play. The first key is not letting Martinez go nuts in the run game. If UW makes him throw, that should be a good thing despite the secondary struggles.

      Not sure what to think about Browder because he hasn’t played much defense in a real game since 2009. Didn’t do that much until late last year. From what DC said, he and the staff must have a lot of faith in him if that’s what they’re saying. Browder’s been on the scout team, at least last week he was. We shall see. I’m all for anything that helps, but can’t say for sure he will make that big a difference.

      RG

    • You truly believe Wyoming will have a chance in this game? I’m a pokes fan, but that’s laughable. We barely beat BOWLING GREEN. Now, were playing NEBRASKA. Come back to reality please, they will cover the spread.

  2. I think this will be a great game throughout, even if the score does not reflect it. I agree with Brian on many of his points but I think the most important point made is that Nebraska is looking for that break out game. I agree that they will not come into Laramie with there chests puffed. The offense has been hit or miss and the defense has really yet to show up. As soon as they get it together though it could be a long game for their opponent. And that may happen next week or the week after, nothing says it will happen in Laramie, or at all for that matter. And the last thing, you can count on a lot of Big Red fans. They travel and they travel well, always!!!

    • As I wrote in my column for tomorrow’s paper, I think just how many Nebraska fans show up is as highly anticipated as how the game will go. LOL

      Thanks for the comment Cullen!!

      RG

  3. There will be no more than 6k nebraska fans. They just arent available and the athletic department did it right by not making single tickets available. This is our game! All of the left over tickets that weren’t sold through season tickets were distributed to the cbj club and made available to the students. There were only 120 or so available on stub hub. There will be a lot of nuhbraskuh fans outside the stadium in this game. Gauranteed.

    • Hope you are right about that. I’m still guessing about a third of the cried will be in Red. But also don’t under estimate how much Nebraska fans want to watch their team and the number in the area. I know UW fans who also are Nebraska fans. Where will their true alliance be?

      RG

  4. As a displaced Wyoming native living in Omaha, I am looking forward to coming home and wearing my brown and gold! No matter who wins it will be good to be ‘home’

  5. RG – What are your expectations for Brett Smith in this game? Obviously, this is the most talented defense he has ever faced and probably the biggest game of his young life, but the kid seems very composed. He has really looked good to me both as a passer, but also using his feet to extend plays and find the open receiver. What are the keys for his (and the offense in general) success? I really don’t see us running the ball with much success against this defense so I tend to believe the offensive production must come from the true freshman. Your thoughts?

    • I agree with you on UW’s run game but hopefully it can be somewhat effective so it doesn’t all go on Smith’s shoulders early. I expect him to have to make more plays with his ARM and legs for UW to have a chance but hopefully the coaches call plays early where he can be successful. Also would like to see how Smith’s poise will be in front of a.packed stadium and a big time foe. It definitely will be a learning experience.
      Good question! Thanks for the post.

      RG

  6. Thanks for the reply. I think this is an abvious “look ahead” game for Nebraska. I actually think UW has a decent chance at suprising the nation. I am definitely biased and that is a total homer view. However, from what I am hearing (and reading) from the Nebraska faithful, they have not been overly impressed with their team thus far. If Wyoming can hang in there and keep it close they have proven they can win a close game. With a little luck (maybe a few turnovers or big special teams play) Wyoming has a chance. Might be one in a million, but I’m sayin’ there’s a chance!

    • If UW can get off to a good start and hang in there, I would love to see what would happen in the fourth quarter. Hope it gets to that point.

      RG

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