Friday, April 10, 2020

Know Thy Enemy: Cornhuskers looking for upset

November 16, 2018
<p>Redshirt freshman quarterback Rocky Lombardi (12) runs off the field during the game against Ohio State Nov. 10, 2018. The Spartans fell to the Buckeyes, 26-6.</p>

Redshirt freshman quarterback Rocky Lombardi (12) runs off the field during the game against Ohio State Nov. 10, 2018. The Spartans fell to the Buckeyes, 26-6.

Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

Know Thy Enemy is a weekly Q&A where the perspective changes from the eyes of The State News to the eyes of the student newspaper of Michigan State football's opponent.

After dropping out of the College Football Playoff rankings following their 26-6 loss to No. 10 Ohio State, the Spartans (6-4, 4-3 in Big Ten Play) will get ready to take on Nebraska (3-7, 2-5 ). 

To help preview this week's matchup, The State News talked to The Daily Nebraskan's assistant sports editor Jacob Bova

Q: In the past few games, Nebraska has held an average of 266.5 rushing yards per game, how do you think they will be able to do against the Spartan defense, who ranks No. 1 in the nation for rush defense?

A: I think that will be the matchup to watch, pretty much during the whole game. I think Michigan State only had one game where they allowed more than 200 yards for rushing. I do think that Nebraska's rushing attack is different than a lot of what Michigan State may have seen. I don't see a Nebraska rusing for 268 yards, but I could see it getting up to the high 100s or maybe the low 200s. I think if they can do that, that will go a long way towards giving Nebraska a good chance.

Q: Last week against Illinois, the Cornhusker defense forced five turnovers, how will they fair against the Michigan State offense and what has been a big success for them?

A: Nebraska's defense has been pretty shaky all year long. Recently, they have been able to start forcing turnovers, which, for a defense that can't stop teams, if they can force turnovers then that's a way of stopping a team and can give the offense good field position.

I think that will translate pretty well to the Michigan State game because I feel like with the Michigan State quarterback situation, which is kind of up in the air at the moment, I think the defense will be able to force turnovers especially with some (expected) bad weather this Saturday.

Q: This season, Nebraska was able to hold both No. 22 Northwestern and No. 10 Ohio State to a close score with one of the games going into overtime, what has been the biggest improvement throughout the season for this team? 

A: Nebraska has been able to, pretty much all season, put up some really good numbers offensively in the yardage department, but it never really translated into points, and that was a problem they faced a lot in the beginning of the season. You started to see with the Northwestern game, they were starting to figure it out and started to have that yardage turn into points. 

Another problem early in the year was that they were very undisciplined and were one of the most penalized teams. That has never really been an issue recently, but at this point the offense has started to figure things out. When they receive the ball to start the game, the first drive results in a touchdown, I want to say in the last five weeks … Nebraska's offense has gotten a lot more efficient recently, which has lead to the better end of the defense.

Q: What players from offense and defense should Spartan fans look out for during Saturday’s match-up? 

A: On offense, Nebraska has a lot of weapons starting with quarterback Adrian Martinez. He is a true freshman, but doesn't play like one. He won the Big Ten Freshman of the Week in the last two weeks and I think he has three on the season. He performed well at the Ohio State game and also during the Wisconsin game and Northwestern. Another player on offense is running back Devine Ozigbo, he's a senior and this year he just, kind of out of nowhere, takes the yardage off and runs with it. He has always been a big running back, but now he can run past people and he can run around people. He looked like an All-Big Ten running back and that's something that (Nebraska coach) Scott Frost talks a lot about. The duo of wide receivers, Stanley Morgan Jr. and J.D. Spielman both have racked around 850 yards on the year and both of them have had very good seasons.

On the defensive side of the ball, I would say the two corners for Nebraska, Lamar Jackson and Dicaprio Bootle have both performed well this year. Bootle has been the one who was consistent all year. The rest of the defense is solid, but not that many big names.

Q: Score prediction and why?

A: I think that Nebraska has turned a corner since that Northwestern game. They have won three out of the last four games with that one loss being a five-point loss to Ohio State at Ohio State. If they have a few plays go their way they can come out on top. They really have been playing like a completely different team than what we saw at the beginning of the year. I think for this game Nebraska's defense won't necessarily be able to stop Michigan State, but they will be able to force a few turnovers that will help the offense be put in good position. I do think that Michigan State's defense will cause the Nebraska offense some issues and they will probably be the best defense they have played since Michigan, and Michigan did not go well for Nebraska. I do think it will go better though and I think at the end of day Nebraska's offense will score a little more on the defense and do enough to let Nebraska come out on top.

27-26 Nebraska

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