Happy Thanksgiving Hawkeye fans. Hope you’re able to enjoy some semblance of normalcy in this abnormal world. As we prepare for the Black Friday showdown between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Nebraska Cornhuskers, we’re looking for more insight on what this Nebraska team brings to the table.
We noted earlier in the week that things have changed a bit since preseason expectations were released, so we went back to the well to get an updated look at the Cornhuskers from Andy Ketterson at Corn Nation.
Here’s a look at our conversation.
BHGP: Things have not exactly gone according to plan in Lincoln this year between the Wisconsin game being cancelled and the 1-3 start, capped by the loss last week. What has gone wrong for the Cornhuskers and what do you see as the main cause for the disappointing start?
CN: To be honest, at 1-2 I was thinking, this is about what I expected (including having a game cancelled because of Covid, haha but not really haha). I thought the Ohio St. game was more competitive than the score indicated, we outgained Northwestern by a bunch and, while I didn’t like the way we backed into it (more on that coming, I’m sure), hanging on against Penn St was a solid job by the defense aggressively not breaking on the last two stands.
But Illinois, MAH GAWD, as Jim Ross would say.
It’s so hard to pick just one thing, but the fact practice was said to be less than full effort, putting it mildly, was disturbing. We can talk about individual breakdown areas on both sides of the ball, but, right now, it still appears to be attitude, state of mind and execution. People can put it on the coaches, but if you’re 18-22 years old and playing D1 football and can’t self-motivate, you’ve got issues. Coaches should just be focusing on execution. If a player at that level can’t take the effort on himself, that’s big red warning light.
On the coaching side, the biggest thing I will put on Frost is his ultra-conservative play-calling when he gets a lead. At Oregon as the OC and at UCF, he put the gas on the floor and went for the kill. Perhaps the pressure to win where it means the most to him is making him hesitant, but he needs to get that swagger and mojo back and sooner rather than later.
BHGP: We’ve seen a fair amount of both Adrian Martinez and Luke McCaffrey this year, who should Hawkeye fans expect to see more of on Friday and what do each bring to the table?
CN: It’s anybody’s guess who lines up in the shotgun first and we won’t know until the offense trots out, but I’m going to say it’ll be Adrian at QB with Luke being slotted in all over. Luke’s inaccurate deeper throws allow a defense to jam 8-9 guys in the box. Adrian’s deep balls haven’t been great, but McCaffrey’s deep throws were simply awful. He badly missed, and in a couple cases flat out ignored, wide open guys deep downfield.
BHGP: Despite limited scoring output in the three losses this season, Nebraska did put up 30 points on Penn State and has found success running the ball, averaging nearly 200 yards per game. The vast majority of that has come from the QB spot with no RB over 100 yards on the season. How can the Iowa defense slow down Nebraska’s QBs on the ground?
CN: No one’s going to completely shut it down, they are simply too quick and elusive. However, and I said this last week in the Penn St. Q&A, a defense will give itself a better chance of containing by breaking down on the rush, moving laterally and just trying to contain them and make them extend outside, or better yet for Iowa, throw the ball. Do that instead of bull-rushing, making a beeline deep into the backfield and going for the kill-shot. They’re both very quick as well as fast and make people look sill who just pin their ears back and try to run them over.
BHGP: The Nebraska defense has certainly seen better days, giving up more than 34 points and nearly 450 yards per game. How have opponents found the most success attacking the Huskers and do you think Nebraska will be able to force Iowa to throw the ball with an inexperienced QB?
CN: Well watching Illinois have their way with the Blackshirts had to have Iowa licking their chops, especially with two backs averaging over 5 YPC. I put Penn St. pushing the Husker D-line around on the offense’s inability to stay on the field for more that 50 seconds at a time the entire second half, but there was no such excuse in the Illinois game. Even if the defense who showed up in the first three games with a lot more hunger, I would think the Hawkeyes will be have an enjoyable day on the ground and not have to put it on Petras.
Our defensive backfield has been grabbing some TO’s though, so I strongly encourage Iowa to feel free to work on their passing game as often as they like.
BHGP: Alright, prediction time. This one opened with Iowa -12 and an over/under at 51.5. How do you see this one shaking out and can Iowa possibly cover that number in a series that has been decided by a field goal the last two meetings?
CN: I’m betting that line would have been very different two weeks ago but the Illini game just had everyone in Red country throwing up in their mouths. That score made it look a lot worse than it was. The air really went out of the balloon when the D finally got a 3-and-out to start the second half and that Illinois punter who moved like Forrest Gump in leg braces lurched, stumbled and power farted his way to a first down on the fake punt.
Jesus. A pro golfer in an Izod and a visor would have looked more comfortable busting downfield.
I reminded myself of that so as not to talk myself into a homer pick. Huskers offense moves better under Adrian and a better effort is there after hopefully having a VERY uncomfortable week of practice, but it’s not enough.
Iowa 37 Nebraska 24.
So there you have it, the Hawkeyes are slated to win the Heroes Trophy yet again. Here’s hoping Andy knows exactly what he’s talking about and Iowa improves to 4-2 on the season.
A huge thanks to Andy Ketterson of Corn Nation for taking the time to dive in on Nebraska football for us. Be sure to give him a follow @AndyKett20 on Twitter. You can also follow Corn Nation @CornNation on the twitters for in game analysis and potential schadenfreude should things go as Andy described.