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Huskers Look to Bounce Back in Waco
The Blackshirts, ranked No. 5 nationally in scoring defense, will lead the Huskers into Waco
Photo Courtesy Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications
Courtesy: NU Athletic Communications
10/27/2009
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The Matchup

Nebraska takes to the road for a Halloween morning matchup against the Baylor Bears in Waco, Texas. Kickoff for the meeting at BU’s Floyd Casey Stadium is set for shortly after 11:30 a.m., with television coverage for the game provided by Versus.

 

The Huskers are coming off a 9-7 loss to Iowa State in Lincoln last Saturday. The setback droppped the Huskers to 4-3 overall, including a 1-2 record in Big 12 Conference play. Despite consecutive home losses to Texas Tech and Iowa State, Nebraska remains in contention in the Big 12 North Division, as only Kansas State has fewer than two league losses.

 

Baylor enters the contest with a 3-4 overall record, including an 0-3 record in Big 12 play after a 34-7 loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday in Waco. The Bears have been an injury-riddled team in 2009, including the loss of game-breaking quarterback Robert Griffin. The Bears opened the year with a 3-1 record, but have dropped three straight to open Big 12 play with losses at the hands of Oklahoma, Iowa State and Oklahoma State.

 

The Series

Saturday’s game will be the 12th meeting between Nebraska and Baylor and the eighth as members of the Big 12 Conference. Nebraska has won each of the first seven games as conference foes and has a nine-game overall winning streak against the Bears, including a 32-20 win in Lincoln last fall. Nebraska is 3-0 at Baylor’s Floyd Casey Stadium.

 

The Coaches

Nebraska: Bo Pelini (Ohio State, ‘90) owns a 14-7 record in his second season with the Huskers. Pelini guided Nebraska to nine wins in his first season as head coach, joining Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne and Frank Solich as the only Nebraska coaches to win nine games in their first season leading the Cornhuskers. Prior to taking over as the Huskers’ head coach, Pelini served as defensive coordinator at NU, Oklahoma and LSU. Previously, he had stints as an NFL assistant with San Francisco, New England and Green Bay.

 

Baylor: Art Briles (Texas Tech, ‘79) is in his second season as Baylor’s head coach and owns a 7-12 record with the Bears. Briles is in his seventh season overall as a head coach, previously guiding the Houston program, and has a 41-40 overall record.

 

Huskers Look to Continue Success in Waco

Nebraska will be making its fourth trip to Waco in school history, and owns a 3-0 record in its first three trips to Floyd Casey Stadium. Nebraska has outscored the Bears 120-42 in its three trips to Waco.

 

·         A victory would extend Nebraska’s record at Baylor to a perfect 4-0. Among opponents Nebraska has played at least three road games against, the Huskers have a perfect road mark against only one other foe–a 4-0 record at Hawaii.

·         Nebraska owns a 9-6 record on the road against the four Texas schools in the Big 12 Conference.

·         Nebraska will be looking to end a three-game losing streak in the state of Texas, dating back to a win at Texas A&M in 2006. The Huskers lost at Texas Tech in overtime in 2008, lost at Texas in 2007 and lost to Auburn in the 2007 Cotton Bowl in Dallas. NU has lost its last three games in the state by a total of 12 points.

·         Each of Nebraska’s past six games in the state of Texas have been decided by nine or fewer points, including a 23-14 win at Baylor in 2005.

 

Points Hard to Come By Against Nebraska Defense

Nebraska has allowed 80 points in seven games, and the 11.4 points per game average ranks second in the Big 12 and fifth in the nation. Since 1990, NU has allowed fewer than 80 points in the first seven games just three times.

 

·         The Nebraska defense has surrendered eight touchdowns this season (one opponent defensive TD), including just three passing touchdowns. The Blackshirts did not allow a touchdown until the second quarter of the second game, as the Huskers held their opponents out of the end zone for the first five quarters of the year, the longest season-opening streak since 1994. The 2009 Blackshirts became just the third NU team in the past 40 seasons to not allow a touchdown in the season opener.

·         Nebraska held its first five opponents under 20 points for the first time since a streak of five games to open the 2003 season and has held six of seven opponents to fewer than 20 points.

·         The Huskers’ 55-0 shutout of Louisiana-Lafayette marked Nebraska’s first whitewashing of an opponent since a 56-0 win over Troy on Sept. 23, 2006.

 

Huskers Putting Together Strong Defensive Stretch

After surrendering 358 yards of total offense to Florida Atlantic in the season opener, the Husker defense has held each of its past six opponents to fewer than 280 total yards. The six-game streak of holding opposing offenses under 300 total yards is the longest at Nebraska in 13 seasons. Nebraska is allowing an average 266.4 yards per game to rank third in the Big 12 and eighth nationally.

 

·         The last time a Husker squad allowed fewer than 300 total yards in more than six straight games came in 1996, when NU held its final eight regular-season opponents under 300 yards of total offense.

·         Included in the current streak is three Big 12 games. The Huskers have held three straight Big 12 opponents to fewer than 300 yards of total offense for the first time since the eight-game streak in 1996.

·         Nebraska’s current average of 266.4 yards per game would be the best by a Blackshirt defense since the 1999 defense allowed an average of 252.3 yards per game to rank fourth in the nation. Nebraska has finished in the top 15 nationally in total defense just twice since 1999 (8th, 2001; 11th, 2003).

 

Huskers Stack up the Run

Nebraska’s three Big 12 foes have averaged just 84.3 rushing yards, and the Huskers have allowed no rush of longer than 23 yards in conference play. Each of NU’s last five opponents has averaged fewer than 3.0 yards per rush. The Husker run defense has been strong since the middle of last season, helping key Nebraska’s overall defensive transformation.

 

·         For the season, NU is allowing 102.3 rushing yards per game to rank sixth in the Big 12 and 22nd nationally.

·         The Huskers’ strong play against the run began at Virginia Tech. The NU run defense held the Hokies to just 86 rushing yards, after VT entered the game 13th nationally in rushing at 254.0 yards per game.

·         NU has limited six of its last nine opponents to 102 or fewer rushing yards.

·         Texas Tech managed just 25 rushing yards and the Nebraska defense had five sacks and 13 tackles for loss against the Red Raiders.

·         During Nebraska’s past 11 games its run defense has played a key role in the success. The Huskers have allowed an average of just 85.4 rushing yards in those contests.

 

2009 Nebraska Defense Building on 2008 Improvements

A year after making huge strides in nearly every defensive category, the Nebraska Blackshirt defense is taking another giant step in 2009. Nebraska returned seven defensive starters this fall to a unit that finished second in the league in total defense in 2008 at 349.9 yards per game and was one of the most improved defenses in the nation last season. The Huskers’ 2008 defensive numbers came just one season after Nebraska finished last in the Big 12 and 112th nationally in total defense at 476.8 yards per contest in 2007.

 

This season is no different as Nebraska ranks in the top 25 nationally in all five major defensive statistical categories. The Huskers are allowing just 11.4 points per game to rank fifth in the nation and second in the Big 12. Nebraska made a large jump in scoring defense in 2008, allowing 28.5 points per game, a 9.1 point-per-game improvement over the 2007 campaign, but is making even larger strides this fall.

 

This fall, Nebraska also ranks eighth nationally in total defense at 266.4 yards per game, 11th in pass efficiency defense (97.3 rating), 22nd in run defense (102.3 ypg) and 13th in pass defense (164.1 ypg). In Big 12 Conference games, Nebraska ranks first in the Big 12 in total defense at 241.0 yards per game.

 

Nebraska’s average of 164.1 yards per game allowed through the air not only ranks among the national leaders, but is on a strong pace in the Husker record books. NU last allowed fewer than 170 passing yards per game in 1993, when Nebraska allowed 163.9 passing yards per game.

 

The Blackshirts have held four opponents below 50 percent passing and have limited four foes to less than 150 passing yards.

 

In 2008, Nebraska was the national leader in improvement in rushing defense and team sacks. The Huskers improved their rush defense by 115.7 yards per game and 95 spots in the national rankings. NU’s 22-sack improvement tied with Minnesota for the greatest gain in the country. Nebraska’s total defense average was an improvement of 126.9 yards per game, the fourth-best improvement nationally. The Huskers’ ranking in total defense also improved 57 spots in 2008.

 

·         NU led the conference in third-down defense in 2008. In Big 12 games only, NU ranked second in the league in total defense and first in pass defense. This year’s opponents have converted 34 percent on third down.

·         NU had 35 sacks in 2008, nearly tripling its 2007 total. Among those sacks, 19 came in the final four games. Nebraska has 18 sacks through seven games and has at least three sacks in seven of 11 games dating back to last fall.

·         Nebraska has held up well defensively in its biggest tests in 2009. Despite coming out on the losing end of a 16-15 decision at Virginia Tech, Nebraska limited the Hokies to fewer than 30 yards on 11 of their 13 drives, including six Hokie drives of two or fewer yards. The Huskers held Missouri to just 134 passing yards and 225 total yards in a 27-12 victory, then limited Texas Tech to less than half of its total offensive average. Iowa State passed for just 102 yards against the Blackshirts, the fewest passing yards by an NU opponent in 25 games (Texas A&M, 100 in 2007).

·         In non-conference play, Nebraska allowed 4.4 yards per play, an improvement of 1.3 yards over its 2008 average of 5.7 yards per play by the opposition. The Huskers took it to another level against Missouri, limiting the Tigers to an average of 2.9 yards on 78 offensive snaps. For the season, Nebraska is allowing 4.0 yards per play to rank third in the conference. In three league games, NU is allowing a Big 12-best 3.6 yards per play.

 

Suh Continuing Award-Winning Play Every Week

Nebraska senior defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has regularly shown why he is a contender for numerous conference and national honors this fall. He was named to several preseason All-America teams, and watch lists and was voted as the Big 12’s Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.

 

Suh had a remarkably dominant performance at Missouri that included a sack, an interception, a fumble caused, three hurries, a pass breakup and six total tackles. The effort has earned him Heisman Trophy mention by several national pundits. Here is a sampling of the rave reviews Suh has received for his banner play in 2009.

 

“A defensive tackle who leads his team in tackles, drops into coverage and picks off passes is every bit as outstanding as a 4,000-yard passer or an 1,800- yard back. The problem is that the average Heisman voter doesn’t understand how much a dominant defensive tackle can change a game. Voters often counter that quarterbacks receive an inordinate amount of votes because the ball is in their hands every play. What they fail to consider is that a player like Suh affects every play in which he participates. Opposing offensive coordinators must design game plans around him. Quarterbacks must always know where he is. Offensive linemen must double-team him, lest their quarterback suffer. So, please, Heisman committee, give me a vote. I’ll do exactly as you ask and select the nation’s most outstanding player. Right now, that’s Ndamukong Suh.”

Andy Staples-SI.com, following Suh’s

effort against Missouri

 

“Suh is virtually unblockable and he does things no other DT can. He leads his team in tackles, again. That’s shocking. That simply doesn’t happen these days. You might as well see a 2,500-yard rusher. Last season, he was the first DT to lead Nebraska in tackles in 35 years. To have this kind of production again – after knowing how he is the focal point of a rival’s game plan -- is enough to get him on the Heisman radar. Maybe he can get in the race. I know this -- he’ll be in my top five this week because I doubt there are five better players in college football.”

Bruce Feldman, ESPN.com

 

The effort at Missouri also earned Suh numerous honors. He was chosen as the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week for the second time in his career and also earned Walter Camp National Defensive Player-of-the-Week honors. Suh was also named one of 12 semifinalists for the Rotary Lombardi Award on Oct. 14.

 

Suh came up huge at crucial times against Mizzou. He set the tone early with a sack and fumble forced in the first quarter, then registered his fourth career interception with Nebraska trailing 12-7 early in the fourth quarter. NU scored two plays later and went on to a 15-point victory.

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