Game Day: Nebraska vs. Wyoming

A ride into the sunset

Nebraska and Wyoming complete a three-game series Saturday, and it’s possibly the last game between the neighbors for a while. This series was scheduled when the Huskers were still in the Big 12, before Nebraska was a gleam in the Big Ten’s eye.

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2-Minute Drill by Rich Kaipust

Nebraska rush offense vs. Wyoming rush defense

The Huskers likely don’t run it 51 times again, but they maybe sent a message last week against Fresno State about what they can do. Nebraska will try to win again up front, but Wyoming does have experience in its back seven and hoped to be improved here after giving up 225.2 rushing yards a game last season. Hard to tell how much NU uses Tommy Armstrong again, but Wyoming will have its hands full if the Huskers choose to do it often.

Nebraska pass offense vs. Wyoming pass defense

NU would like to tune things up at least some, especially with Oregon on deck. Getting Brandon Reilly back should supply a boost, both with the addition of his speed and everybody going back to focusing on their usual roles. Wyoming has some work to do after allowing 329 yards last week against Northern Illinois. The Cowboys allowed 8.5 yards per attempt with just five interceptions a year ago, when opponents completed 66.7 percent of their throws.

Wyoming rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense

Good test coming for Nebraska, with Cowboys senior Brian Hill one of the toughest and most productive runners it will see this season. The 6-foot-1, 219-pounder already is over 2,500 yards for his career, and topped 200 four times last season. The Huskers’ pursuit was good last week against Fresno State (31 rushing yards), which will be important as they try to get Hill to the ground.

Wyoming pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense

Wyoming isn’t the same offense that scorched Nebraska for 383 passing yards and 20 passing first downs three years ago, but the Cowboys believe they have found the right quarterback with Josh Allen. The sophomore has a good arm and good size, and his game-winning scramble against Northern Illinois showed his run threat. Tanner Gentry and Jake Maulhardt both had 100-plus receiving yards last week, and will challenge the NU secondary. Can the Husker pass rush be a difference-maker?

Special teams

One red flag for Nebraska last week was its punt return team, which failed to handle some kicks and is still waiting on De’Mornay Pierson-El. Freshman punter Caleb Lightbourn got his first kicks out of the way — and the emotions of the Sam Foltz tribute — and should settle in. Wyoming freshman Cooper Rothe missed two of four field goals last week, and both could have put away Northern Illinois sooner.

Intangibles

Incentive won’t be lacking for Wyoming, starting with head coach Craig Bohl returning to the school that fired him after the 2002 season. The Cowboys have some other players and coaches with Nebraska ties that would love to create the memory of a lifetime. Nebraska needs to be focused here despite having Oregon and its Big Ten opener on deck, while Wyoming will be all in (with UC Davis and Eastern Michigan up next). Hard to say where both teams are just yet with things like turnovers and penalties, although NU took some bad ones of the latter last week.

Key matchup: Nebraska offensive line vs. Wyoming defensive line

Led by sophomore left tackle Nick Gates and senior center Dylan Utter, the Nebraska offensive line got off to a good start against Fresno State despite having three first-time starters. If they can add some progress between week one and two, a rebuilt Wyoming defensive line might find this a tough task over 60 minutes.

Our take

After two rough seasons, Wyoming might be ready to show some results of its work under Bohl. The Cowboys just quite aren’t there yet, and Nebraska has just a little too much firepower to go with its home advantage. The Huskers had a fairly solid second half and put away Fresno State last week, one of their shortcomings last season when they watched several games get snatched from them late.

Our prediction: Nebraska 37, Wyoming 17

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Game notes

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