September 11, 2008

Thursday notebook: Aggies enter Lincoln untested

If experience makes as much of a difference as many think in the game of football, Nebraska will have every advantage in that regard over New Mexico State on Saturday.

With two games under their belts, the Huskers have had two full weeks to work on their weaknesses and discover their strengths. The Aggies, on the other hand, have yet to even play a game.

Because of Hurricane Gustav, NMSU had their season opener against Nicholls State last week postponed, leaving them untested against a live opponent heading into Lincoln this weekend.

Though not playing a game yet has some advantages in less injuries and fresh legs, Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said there's no replacing actually getting your team on the field in a real game situation.

"I think the speed of the game (is the biggest advantage)," Pelini said. "They have some experience on their side too, but there is nothing like having the fastball look. We've had two (games) and they haven't played a game yet. You hope that is somewhat of an advantage, but time will tell."

For the players, being able to face opposing defenses and adjust during games has been extremely beneficial in finding a rhythm, especially offensively.

However, the Huskers have also had to deal with some injury issues during the past two weeks. Senior defensive end Barry Turner was lost for the season last week against San Jose State on just the third play of the game. Junior safety Rickey Thenarse left the season opener against Western Michigan with a shoulder injury and hasn't played since.

"I don't know if it is an advantage for them or for us," Ganz said of NMSU not playing a game yet. "They are going to be real fresh and hyped up, but we have the experience under our belt. I don't know. I don't know who is going to be at the advantage. It doesn't matter once kick-off starts you don't think about stuff like that.

Ganz did note that running an offense during a game is completely different than running one in a game, which should give NU the upper hand as far as composure and nerves go.

"It might be a little harder for them to make adjustments because the first game everybody is going to be a little nervous and anxious," Ganz said. "We have already had that. It might be a little disadvantage for them, but once kick off starts it doesn't even matter."

-Robin Washut

Thursday's Practice Takes
The early adjustments: It will be key for Nebraska to make solid early adjustments in this game on Saturday. This will be New Mexico State's first game, so since there's no film out on them yet, no matter how prepared the Huskers are, more than likely they are going to see something they didn't see from the scout team in practice this week.
677 yards: The last time these two teams met in 1982, Nebraska racked up 677 yards rushing on the ground and 883 yards of total offense on 104 plays. The 677 yards rushing still stands as an NCAA record, while the 883 yards of total offense is a school record at Nebraska. I think if Nebraska can even get one-third of that rushing total on Saturday, they'd be pretty happy with their performance. I don't expect to see another 883 yard offensive day.
Injury update: Sophomore cornerback Anthony West is still listed as day-to-day with an unknown injury, and head coach Bo Pelini said he was still unsure whether West would be available for Saturday's game. Senior fullback Thomas Lawson once again was held out of practice after having his appendix removed earlier in the week. Senior offensive lineman Lydon Murtha did practice for the second day in a row on Thursday.
What's on tap next: The Nebraska football team cut short their 90-minute helmets only workout inside Memorial Stadium on Thursday because of rain. NU will come back on Friday for a short walk-thru practice inside Memorial Stadium.

Early adjustments will be key for NU

When you're playing an opponent that hasn't played a game yet, but you've played twice already, early adjustments will be very important for Nebraska.

The Aggies are expected to run a 3-3-5 defense, but as Pelini said, it's a system or scheme that NU doesn't have much familiarity with.

"I'm not exactly sure what the 3-3-5 defense is, but I like our plan on offense," Pelini said. "We aren't exactly sure what they're going to do. They haven't played a game yet. We just kind of looked into the defensive coordinator's past and kind of based our game plan on that. We'll be ready to react on whatever they decide to do."

Pelini added that there's no guarantee the Huskers will see anything they've prepared for in practice, so that's why adjustments will be important.

"They could come out here and do something totally different, and that can happen any week," Pelini said. "As the season goes on, you have a better idea of what you are preparing for. Our advantage is that we played game speed twice. Their advantage is we don't know what they are going to do. It's going to be whoever executes."

-Sean Callahan

Quick hits

***Pelini said he expected the Huskers to have five official visitors for Saturday's game, though he could not specify who the five would be. As of now, has confirmed that only Gabe Lynn, J.T. Kerr and Rex Burkhead will all be making official visits this weekend.

Two players that were supposed to visit were forced to postpone, as Latu Heimuli is taking his ACT this weekend and Cody Green had to cancel his travel plans because of Hurricane Ike.

***While sophomore Pierre Allen has moved up to replace Turner at defensive end, the question now is who will replace Allen in the back-up role. Senior Clayton Sievers will play both defensive end positions, and Nick Covey has also been mentioned as stepping up to provide depth.

But the biggest question is whether true freshmen Josh Williams and Cameron Meredith[/db] would come out of their redshirts to help fill the void.

"We'll find out on Saturday," Pelini said. "We'll look at the practice tape today. There are a number of candidates."

***Though the defensive line is having some depth issues, the offensive line certainly isn't having any after the returns of Murtha and Andy Christensen to the rotation this week. Pelini said he's been impressed with the progress of both players since they returned to action.

"Lydon's done really well," Pelini said. "Andy's getting better, getting accustomed to the movement, getting the rust off. He's making progress. I think he feels better every day."

***Pelini said Thenarse would be available to play in Saturday's game if needed, but Pelini said he hopes they won't have to use him. Thenarse has worn a green no-contact jersey most of the week, though he has suited up for NU's full-padded practices.

"We think he'll be available," Pelini said. "Hopefully we don't have to use him, but we'll see."

***Just to clear up any potential confusion, freshman receiver Khiry Cooper is still a football player. For the rest of the season, at least.

Pelini was asked about Cooper's name showing up on Nebraska's fall baseball roster, and he quickly reiterated that Cooper was still working solely on football at the moment.

"Now? No," Pelini said. "He's a football player and it's football season."

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