Nebraska vs. Northwestern, 10.18.14

Nebraska wide receiver De'Mornay Pierson-El (15) at Ryan Field, Evanston, Ill., on Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014.

ERIC GREGORY/Lincoln Journal Star

There’s a Husker party if …

No turnovers (again). … De’Mornay Pierson-El finally breaks the Husker web site when he throws a touchdown pass to himself. … Maliek Collins gets two sacks to make up for the one last week’s timeout took away. … Tommy Armstrong is the same man on a mission who finished the Northwestern game. … A day of upsets everywhere but Lincoln. … Another 150+ yards for Ameer, ho-hum. … The “Nebraska Eleven Arouses Eastern Admiration,” just as The Lincoln Star reported they did when they beat Rutgers 28-0 in 1920. … Sunshine, 70s and no circus.

There’s Sunday grumbling if …

The Huskers give up a touchdown drive on the first possession (again). … Lou Holtz still hasn’t learned Ameer Abdullah’s name. … Rutgers hits its sack average (3.4 a game). … Chris Christie is dancing at midfield after the game. …“Letdown” is the prevalent word in the state. … Huskers cruise but Ohio State is still the other Big Ten team not named Michigan State everybody is talking about. … The SEC has six teams ranked in the top five this week just because. … A “Nova-caine” headline is atop the sports section.

BREAKING IT DOWN

When the Huskers have the ball …

Beware of Rutgers’ pass rush. Seriously, the Scarlet Knights can get after quarterbacks, with 24 sacks already. On the other hand, Rutgers had a devil of a time trying to diagnose the zone-read a week ago, with the Buckeyes rushing for 324 yards, averaging more than 8 yards a carry. Keep in mind that Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett ran for 107 of those yards. The Scarlet Knights have spent the week with a couple scout-teamers trying to imitate Ameer Abdullah and Tommy Armstrong. But trying to impersonate what it’s like to tackle the real Ameer (who is no doubt relishing the return to FieldTurf) is impossible. Nebraska’s offensive line also has something to prove, particularly the starters at center and on the right side, who saw backups such as Givens Price, Chongo Kondolo and Ryne Reeves steal the show a week ago. How Nebraska works the O-line rotation is something to pay attention to Saturday. And while it’d be a pleasant thing for Nebraska if it could run at will, you can understand why Tim Beck will want to test the Rutgers secondary. The Scarlet Knights are 98th against the pass. The key will be the O-line giving Armstrong time to operate. Oh, and hanging onto the ball, you know, since Bo Pelini teams are 33-1 when winning the turnover battle.

Numbers to know

70: How many receiving yards Kenny Bell needs to surpass Johnny Rodgers for NU’s career receiving yards record. Bell enters the game with 2,410 yards. He also needs just six catches to move ahead of Nate Swift on Nebraska's career receptions chart. Bell has 161 catches.

5: Games Rutgers has played this season decided by 13 points or fewer. The Scarlet Knights have won four of those, including a two-point win at home against Michigan. The loss was 13-10 to Penn State.

PUT THE BINOCULARS ON

Givens Price, OT, No. 78. You probably won’t see Price at right tackle until the third or fourth series. But a week ago, it was Price and his backup O-line comrades who seemed to give Nebraska a lift, part of three scoring drives. Price said this week that consistency is the key for him. It’d be a big step for him if he can put two impressive performances together back-to-back.

Kemoko Turay, DE, No. 58. The guy is only a redshirt freshman, but already has 5½ sacks and has blocked three kicks. Yeah, three of them. He’s listed at just 235 pounds, but his quickness can give O-linemen fits.

When the Huskers are on D ...

Bo Pelini said his team needs to be careful to not get lulled to sleep by a Rutgers team that will run, run, run the ball, then hit you deep. The Scarlet Knights will burn you with the long ball if you’re not dialed in. You never quite know what you’re going to get from Gary Nova, who seems to be one of those hit big-or-miss big guys. He’s thrown for 64 touchdowns and more than 8,000 yards in his career. He’s also thrown about as many interceptions as any QB in college football. Rutgers took a big punch when it lost bruising running back Paul James to a season-ending injury. Desmon Peoples, who has 409 yards rushing, is the guy the Huskers will need to lock down. Stop the run and force Nova into obvious passing situations and you like Nebraska’s chances, considering only Miami’s Brad Kaaya has completed more than 50 percent of his passes against the Huskers. The first series should be interesting. The Huskers have allowed five touchdown drives on seven opening drives. It’s an odd habit Nebraska would do well to break. Still, the Huskers are coming off a dominating second-half performance against Northwestern. They’ve got their Blackshirts now. What’s that mean? Maliek Collins will tell you it means expectations only got higher.

Numbers to know

48.3: The completion percentage opposing quarterbacks have against the Husker defense, which puts NU third in the nation. Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova is completing 61.8 percent of his attempts, so something has to give. Nova has also thrown 47 career picks, the third-highest total among all active FBS quarterbacks.

41.9: Average yards per catch for Rutgers wide receiver Andrew Turzilli. He’s only caught seven passes, but he gets a lot of bang for his buck, having caught touchdown of 80 and 93 yards.

PUT THE BINOCULARS ON

Maliek Collins, DT, No. 7. The sophomore defensive tackle has become a handful for opposing offensive linemen, drawing some rave reviews from Rutgers coach Kyle Flood this week. Collins’ stats don’t do justice to how well he's playing. For him, all-conference honors just seem a matter of time.

Leonte Caroo, WR, No. 4. Easily Nova’s favorite target, the wide receiver has more than twice as many catches as anyone else in the roster. Caroo not only has 34 receptions, five are for touchdowns, and each catch averages a sparkling 19.1 yards.

FINAL THOUGHT HEADING OUT THE DOOR

You saw last week how teams are starting to punt away from De’Mornay Pierson-El. There can be a price to pay for that, of course. It often increases the likelihood of shanked punts. As that goes, it’s worth bringing up that Rutgers punter Tim Gleason a week ago had punts of just 23 and 32 yards. So he’ll have some pressure to respond. And he’ll have to do it without letting No. 15 for Nebraska get in his head.

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​Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

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