Nebraska vs. Rutgers, 11.14.15

Nebraska tight end Cethan Carter (11) scores against Rutgers in first-quarter action at High Point Solutions Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015.

How do the Huskers light up the scoreboard?

1. Consistent running punch. Four or five yards a pop early. Imani Cross making noise in his final home game. An O-line getting after it like it did against Michigan State. Run for around 175 yards and you like Husker chances.

2. Limited Yolo (You Only Live Once) bombs from Tommy Armstrong. Iowa ranks fifth nationally in turnover margin. Desmond King is a true ballhawk. The Huskers probably can't get away with three interceptions like they did against Rutgers.

3. A big play or two from Alonzo Moore. You know you're going to get consistency from Jordan Westerkamp, and Brandon Reilly is becoming much the same way. But it seems that this offense really rolls when Moore has four or five impactful touches.

4. Overcoming the elements. It's going to be cold. Probably in the 20s with winds gusting more than 15 mph. The football is going to be hard, the hits are going to sting. Huskers need to embrace it and find plays that fit the conditions.

5. Patience. It could very well be high-scoring, but let's say it turns into a grind in tough conditions. There may be some drives when field position is more valuable than trying to go big in a tough third-down situation.

How do the Blackshirts shut 'em down?

1. Beware the bootleg. C.J. Beathard and this offense are outstanding at it. Husker defenders are going to need great eye discipline and always be cognizant that the Hawkeyes love to suck teams in with the play-action game.

2. Nebraska's D-line is as healthy as it's been in a while. That group needs to be animals. If Iowa is consistently churning out 4 or 5 yards on first down running the ball, it'll probably be a long day for the Blackshirts.

3. A secondary always aware that Beathard is very good at extending plays. Nebraska defensive backs may have to cover a couple beats longer than against some other teams. Don't consider a play dead until it's definitely dead.

4. Blitzes have to get home. The Huskers did this well against Rutgers, but have struggled with it throughout the year. If Nebraska is bringing pressure, there can't be a lot of "almosts" against Beathard. Almost getting there could end up in a 30-yard pass.

5. Full energy for 3 1/2 hours. No sulking when Iowa makes a big play or two. That is sure to happen. Winning is going to require resilience and a focus that never wavers.


CETHAN CARTER, TE, NO. 11: You sense it's starting to really click for the junior tight end. Sure, it'd be great for NU if he got loose for four catches like he did last game. But his blocking will mean just as much. Can he help set the edge the way he did so well against Michigan State?

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SAM FOLTZ, P, NO. 27: Mike Riley thinks it's going to "a field-position game" and we're totally buying the possibility. Foltz has a big job ahead. Iowa's got a really good returner in Desmond King. The Husker junior punter is going to have to be good with directional punting and hang time to do his part to not let King get loose.


MICHAEL ROSE-IVEY, LB, No. 15: He's been limited or not available most of the conference season, but his workload just may increase Friday. The Huskers are going to need him at his best against an Iowa offense that has done well at enforcing its will on teams.


1: Number of times Nebraska has defeated two top-10 teams in the same month. That was October 1995 — No. 8 Kansas State and No. 7 Colorado. The Huskers five times have defeated two top-10 teams in the same regular season. Nebraska has never defeated top-10 opponents in consecutive home games.

65: Mike Riley's winning percentage after bye weeks going back to 2003, when he returned to Oregon State. He's 13-7 after Saturdays off, with four wins against ranked teams in those games.

134: Number of punt return yards De'Mornay Pierson-El gave the Huskers against Iowa a year ago on just three returns to spark a comeback. Nebraska will have to find output elsewhere this time.

There's a Husker party if …

Locals looking up cost of flights to Nashville in late December. Hey, there'd be enthusiasm for any bowl with a win. ... Can't get "Let Me Clear My Throat" out of your head. ... The Janovich runs free, a fullback to crush another team's dreams. ... Eleven hip hip hoorays. Huskers did 10 after Michigan State.

Saturday brunch stinks if …

You're looking at a spreadsheet of five-win teams that have to lose to get the Huskers to a bowl. ... Nebraska tries the same fake punt play it did against Iowa in 2013. Apologies if you had forgotten it. ... Lead photo in this paper is a couple Nebraska boys in black and gold holding the Heroes Trophy up to the sky. ... The Iowa fan living next door sets up Kirk Ferentz Christmas light tribute.

BC's best guess: Huskers 30, Hawkeyes 27.

It's the rare case where a 5-6 team doesn't see itself as the underdog to an 11-0 team. There's plenty of respect from Nebraska players for Iowa, but not fear. The cold and wind might knock this score down a bit, but a big part of me thinks this one could be a lot like Nebraska-Michigan State. QBs extending plays. Teams matching scores. There's no Pierson-El this time, but the home team makes that one extra play to clinch a bowl spot, continue momentum and make the Husker fans' leftover turkey taste that much better.

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


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