Gus Malzahn

Arkansas State football coach Gus Malzahn looks to the scoreboard after Oregon's first touchdown during the first half of their game in Eugene, Ore., Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012.

They’ve matched wits before.

Six years ago, in a late November in Fayetteville. One of those big SEC collisions.

Bo Pelini was LSU’s defensive coordinator. Guz Malzahn was Arkansas’ offensive coordinator.

Malzahn was in his first and last season leading the Razorbacks’ offense, having made a significant career leap to the position after spending the previous five years coaching Springdale High School in Arkansas.

Malzahn showed right away he knew how to call plays at the college level. Coming into that game against LSU, the Razorbacks were 10-1 and ranked No. 5 in the country.

But Pelini’s team got the better of things that day, with LSU pulling out a 31-26 win.

Arkansas had 360 yards of offense, almost all of it coming from Darren McFadden (182 rushing yards) and Felix Jones (137).

On the other hand, Pelini’s defense held the Arkansas quarterback to 3-of-17 passing that day.

“I have a little bit of history with him,” Pelini said. “And I also know what he did at Auburn.”

Yes, both coaches have national championship seasons on their resumes as coordinators, with Malzahn calling the plays for Auburn’s title team in 2010.

Pelini said Malzahn’s Arkansas State spread offense seems to have “a little bit of a mix and match of all those things” from the Malzahn's past stops.

“We’re just going to have to kind of wait and see what they choose to come out and do against us,” Pelini said. “I’m not real sure what we’re going to see. We’re going to have to make our adjustments on the run.”

* Westerkamp a possibility: Pelini is definitely not shutting the door on the possibility of true freshman wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp playing this year, especially after the season-ending injury to Tyler Wullenwaber.

"Jordan’s ready to go," Pelini said.

As in, ready to play on Saturday?

“We’ll see. But he’s ready to play.”

* Doubtful on Rex: Pelini said senior running back Rex Burkhead is “doubtful” for the game.

But he hasn’t declared him out, either.

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Pelini shared a brief conversation with Burkhead before coming to meet the media after Thursday’s practice.

"I want to make sure he's absolutely 100 percent before we put him back there,” Pelini said. “But you know, he’s champing at the bit to get out there. We’ll just see how the next 48 hours play out.”

* Turner's turn: With Tim Marlowe injured, Jamal Turner saw all the snaps at the slot receiver position against UCLA.

The sophomore ended up with three catches for 19 yards, and two rushes for 6 yards.

It's a catch he didn't have, however, that was no doubt on his mind this week.

"He dropped the ball. It cost us a big third down," said wide receivers coach Rich Fisher of a second-quarter incompletion that ended a drive. "I don't like to see that stuff. It's unacceptable to him. It's unacceptable to me. We strive for perfection, and obviously that first game is the bar and the standard.

"It's like I tell a guy, 'If I see you do something on tape, if you prove to me that you can do it, then that's the standard that we're at.' So as far as I'm concerned, unacceptable, can't happen. When you become an upperclassmen in this program you got to keep performing at a high level."

* Seisay time: Mohammed Seisay made the trip to Los Angeles, but the cornerback was limping during the pregame. Given that and the game situation, coaches decided not to play the newcomer.

But it’s likely Seisay will play against Arkansas State.

“I think Mo’s a lot healthier this week than he was last week,” Pelini said. “I think he is closer to 100 percent.”

Because of his improved health, Seisay took "a large amount of practice reps this week, so I think he's a lot more ready to play."

*Their chance arrives: Pelini confirmed that the expectation is to give snaps to redshirt freshman David Santos and newcomer Zaire Anderson on Saturday.

"Depends on what personnel groupings they put out there ... but they had a good week of practice," he said. "And I think you’re going to see more of them. That’s what we’re anticipating."

Pelini said he wouldn’t slot one player above the other right now, but is happy with their progression since the beginning of August.

"But you know what, they have a long way to go," he said. "They’re learning. You know, it’s a lot harder on guys like that to come along when you’re practicing for so much when you don’t really have a good idea — which has been the case for three weeks — of what you’re going to see (from the offense)."

* Another game, please: At this point, the Huskers are eager for another game to try to wash away the bad taste of last Saturday’s 36-30 loss to UCLA.

"I think our guys are anxious to go out and play," Pelini said. "We're looking forward to Saturday."

Reach Brian Christopherson at bchristopherson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. You can follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.


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