Game Day: Nebraska vs. Arkansas State

Time for a reaction

All that chemistry is about to have some heat applied to it. Arkansas State’s defense pressures a quarterback like few other FBS teams. Its spread offense wants to move quickly and stress a defense. A Husker team with youth and inexperience everywhere has to transform all those good camp feelings into production.

READ MORE »

2-Minute Drill by Sam McKewon

Nebraska rush offense vs. Arkansas State rush defense

The Huskers’ run game is making a major transition. Gone are the quarterback read-option runs that marked coach Mike Riley’s two seasons with quarterback Tommy Armstrong at the helm. NU quarterback Tanner Lee will hand off to a trio of backs — Tre Bryant, Mikale Wilbon and Devine Ozigbo — and perhaps a few receivers, too. The Huskers’ offensive line is seasoned, but its last game out — vs. Tennessee in the Music City Bowl — wasn’t pretty. Just 61 yards, the lowest total in more than two full seasons. Arkansas State’s defense only gave up 3.57 yards per carry last season. ASU will try to use the quickness of its front seven against NU’s size.

Nebraska pass offense vs. Arkansas State pass defense

With risks come rewards — and busts. Arkansas State defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen, probably hasn’t met a pressure, blitz or twist he doesn’t like, so ASU will come after Husker quarterback Tanner Lee. Expect Lee — and NU’s offensive line — to be ready, and the Husker wideouts to be the beneficiaries. ASU may give up some chunk plays by taking too many chances. Watch Red Wolves defensive end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, though. He had 13.5 sacks last season, and he’s probably hungry for more in Lincoln.

Arkansas State rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense

ASU ran for a measly 3.45 yards per carry last season and has close to a brand-new offensive line. While new players may not be a bad thing, Nebraska’s front seven — full of strong, hard-hitting guys like nose tackle Mick Stoltenberg and defensive end Carlos Davis — should get the job done. The Red Wolves like to run a little read option, but they’re more fond of quick toss plays that try to get backs to the edge of the field. Arkansas State may find itself having a tough night running the ball.

Arkansas State pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense

The Red Wolves run a spread offense that tries to get its athletes in space and stress a defense vertically and horizontally. Here, quarterback Justice Hansen — at 6-foot-4 — should help. He has the Sun Belt’s preseason all-conference tight end in Blake Mack — watch for ASU to send him up the seam of NU’s defense — and some decent outside receivers. Nebraska’s corners are as green as new tree buds. Eric Lee and Dicaprio Bootle — likely to play a lot in the Huskers’ nickel defense — have never played significant snaps in a college game. Lamar Jackson played a lot in two games last season; he took his lumps in both. Safeties Joshua Kalu and Aaron Williams are solid, though. Can NU get a pass rush? Can new defensive coordinator Bob Diaco manufacture one?

Special teams

Outside of kicker Drew Brown and snapper Jordan Ober, it’s a big question mark for Nebraska. What schemes has new special teams coordinator Scott Booker cooked up? Reporters weren’t privy to them. De’Mornay Pierson-El was the nation’s most prolific punt returner as a freshman, but injuries have slowed him since. DPE looks and says he’s as healthy as he’s ever been. At kick returner, Nebraska will use redshirt freshman JD Spielman. The Red Wolves had the Sun Belt’s best coverage units — No. 1 in kickoff and No. 2 in punt coverage — and ASU blocked five kicks/punts, too.

Intangibles

Big advantage to Nebraska here. The Huskers haven’t lost a night game at home since 2008, and, other than a Hail Mary win for BYU in 2015, NU hasn’t lost a home opener since 1985. Both teams are young, which probably works against Arkansas State, being the road underdog. While ASU quarterback Hansen has experience, the offensive line protecting him doesn’t have a ton. The Huskers usually know how to leverage an opening-night crowd.

Key matchup: NU's offensive line vs. ASU's front seven

If Nebraska wins this matchup convincingly, the Huskers could roll by four touchdowns. Arkansas State relies on the aggression and toughness of its front seven to stuff the run and get after the quarterback. If NU’s line can protect Lee and crack open a few rushing lanes, Nebraska could get big plays off of ASU’s defense. If not? An upset may be brewing.

Our take

This season opener sits between the difficulty of BYU and the relative ease of an overmatched Fresno State team. Arkansas State has the athletes, quarterback and aggressive style to keep the score close. But ASU hasn’t beaten a Power Five conference team since Texas A&M in 2008. Other than BYU, Nebraska hasn’t lost to a non-Power Five team since Southern Mississippi in 2004. Lee handles the pressure OK, the defense flexes its muscle, but the jury will remain out on NU’s running game.

Our prediction: Nebraska 27, Arkansas State 13

Live updates

#Huskers on Instagram

Videos

Extras

Game notes

Check out a PDF of the game notes for the Nebraska-Arkansas State matchup provided by the Husker Athletic Department. Click here »

Husker History

Find information on every win, loss and tie in Husker history. With historical World-Herald front pages, photos, stories, key stats and more, our ever-growing Husker History Database is your new home for archiving one of the nation's most tradition-rich programs. Click here »

On social media

Check out the Big Red Today page on Facebook to discuss the latest news with the top Husker fans, and follow us on Twitter to get instant updates and analysis whenever news breaks. Plus, look back at historical moments in Nebraska football by following @HuskerHistory on Twitter.

BRT app

IPhone and Android users, get your Husker updates on the go by downloading our free Big Red Today app from the App Store and the Google Play store. Omaha.com/BRTapp and Omaha.com/android

Recruiting updates

Visit the Big Red Today recruiting page to find the latest updates on potential future Huskers, including player cards for those athletes already committed. Click here »

Email alerts

Sign up for the Big Red Today email newsletter to get the Husker news, analysis, daily headlines and more delivered to your inbox. Click here »

Big Red Today coverage

Huskers have options at center after Michael Decker announces retirement from football

Nebraska offensive lineman Michael Decker announced Saturday he has decided to retire from playing football. He started five games at center last year before a season-ending knee injury.

Shatel: Frank Solich's Husker homecoming would be necessary part of Nebraska's unified future

The timing does, indeed, seem right. Scott Frost is leading a revival to not only honor Nebraska football past but turn toward the future in a unified front. Having Frank Solich, Tom Osborne and Frost in the same sold-out ballroom…

Linebacker Andrew Ward announces departure from Huskers

Linebacker Andrew Ward announced on Twitter Saturday evening he was leaving the Nebraska football program after one season.

Recruiting: Nebraska quickly shoots into final two for junior college nose tackle Tony Fair

Pima (Arizona) Community College defensive tackle Tony Fair is ready make a decision on his next college. Until Friday it appeared Indiana, not far from Fair’s hometown of South Bend, would cruise to landing his commitment. Then Nebraska offered a…

Chatelain: 25 years later, Cam Jurgens outthrows his future Husker coach Scott Frost

25 years ago Scott Frost won a state title in the shot put, one of the final moments of his spectacular high school career. On Friday, one of his top recruits, Cam Jurgens, bested the mark set by his future…

Carriker Chronicles: Dream nonconference showdowns for Scott Frost and the Huskers

All year round, former Husker and NFL veteran Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. In Friday's episode, Carriker debates dream nonconference matchups for Nebraska and why he wants the Huskers to face off against Alabama.

Scott Frost says Unity Council return is likely, Huskers will stand by Maurice Washington

Buy-in is high. Progress is being made. But Nebraska football's journey to excellence remains a marathon, not a sprint, coach Scott Frost reiterated Thursday in a World-Herald interview.

Recruiting: Huskers making another junior college push, looking to score in Georgia

Nebraska coaches keep gushing about the city of Lincoln, so Lakia Henry, one of the nation’s top junior college recruits, is excited to see it this weekend.

Tom Osborne says now would be 'great time' for Frank Solich to return to Nebraska

It might finally be time for Frank Solich to return to Nebraska.

Video: Husker coach Scott Frost shows off his arm, throws out first pitch at Lincoln Saltdogs game

New Husker football coach Scott Frost threw for over 2,600 yards and 18 touchdowns in his NU career. On Thursday, Frost showed off his signature arm strength once again in Lincoln.

Former Husker Mo Seisay signs with Winnipeg Blue Bombers of Canadian Football League

Mo Seisay will make his return to football in Canada. The former Husker cornerback signed a contract Wednesday with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. Seisay hasn't played in a professional football game since 2014.

After yearlong suspension, ex-Husker Randy Gregory will reportedly file for NFL reinstatement

Former Husker Randy Gregory, who was given a one-year suspension in January 2017 for repeated substance abuse violations, will file for reinstatement to the NFL on Thursday, according to the NFL Network.

Carriker Chronicles: Faux Pelini on sharing a cat with Bo Pelini, Twitter tales and more

All year round, former Husker and NFL veteran Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. In Wednesday's episode, Carriker talks to Faux Pelini about sharing a cat with Bo Pelini, the spring game moment, Carl Pelini, adventures of…

Tom Osborne says 1982, 1993 Huskers were best Nebraska teams to not win national title

Which was the best Nebraska football team to not win a national championship? World-Herald staff writer Sam McKewon first posed the question on Twitter with four options — 1982, 1983, 1993 or 1999. Then Tuesday afternoon Tom Osborne was asked…

Huskers look for leader at quarterback; Scott Frost expects no problems meeting scholarship limit

Nebraska coach Scott Frost said Wednesday it’d be “foolish to anticipate” which player he’ll pick as starting quarterback next fall. The four signal-callers left on campus — sophomores Andrew Bunch and Noah Vedral and freshmen Tristan Gebbia and Adrian Martinez…

Recruiting: Four-star QB Michael Johnson has family connections with Huskers, will visit soon

Michael Johnson is getting close to wrapping up his recruitment. The four-star quarterback from Eugene, Oregon, told The World-Herald that he plans on visiting a handful of schools over the next few weeks and committing after that.

Husker signee Maurice Washington's academic status in question; NU has requested NCAA waiver

High-profile Nebraska signee Maurice Washington is set to graduate from a California high school soon, but his academic status as a Husker football player could be up in the air after that.

Husker wide receiver Keyan Williams will transfer from Nebraska

Keyan Williams, a senior wide receiver and son of former Nebraska wide receivers coach Keith Williams, is leaving the Husker football program.

Carriker Chronicles: Will Scott Frost or Jim Harbaugh reach the Big Ten title game first?

All year round, former Husker and NFL veteran Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. In Monday's episode, Carriker breaks down the differences between Nebraska and Michigan and gives his take on who will lead their team to…

Sam's Extra Points: Sitting down with two top Husker targets, Nebraska baseball struggles, and sports gambling

The World-Herald spent some time with Chris Hickman and Nick Henrich on Friday — more to come on both down the road — but the general gist is this: They've been known college prospects long enough they’re sincerely weighing their…

Shatel: Sports betting coming to a state near you, for better or worse, over or under

Will I partake in a legal sports bet? Hold on. Let me ask my wife for some money.

The Hawkeyes were in Tate Wildeman's blood, but the Huskers are his future

Tate Wildeman shares a lot of similarities to his dad, who played for the Hawkeyes in the 1990s. But the defensive end recruit won't be following his dad's path to Iowa. He's forging his own with Nebraska.

McKewon: Winning formula for Huskers — big-city speed, Midlands beef

The edges of the Huskers’ offense and defense will be built in Florida, Texas and California. The trenches have been built, at least for now, in the heartland.

Barfknecht: Michigan's Jim Harbaugh — "King Khaki Pants" — needs to fix offense to turn corner

Jim Harbaugh — touted by most fans, some media and himself as the ideal candidate to make Michigan football relevant again — has produced seasons of 10-3, 10-3 and 8-5 while going 0-3 against rival Ohio State and 1-2 in…

Former Husker Maliek Collins suffers another foot injury with Dallas Cowboys

Maliek Collins broke the fifth metatarsal in his left foot Thursday during Dallas Cowboys offseason strength and conditioning workouts. He will undergo surgery, and Cowboys coach Jason Garrett told reporters Collins is expected to miss three months.

Carriker Chronicles: No more fullbacks at Nebraska? Thoughts on the Huskers eliminating the position

All year round, former Husker and NFL veteran Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. In Friday's episode, Carriker gives his quick takeaways on the Huskers likely eliminating the fullback position and the effect it could have on…

McKewon: Three takes on transfer Breon Dixon earning immediate eligibility for Huskers

Nebraska received good news Thursday that Breon Dixon, a transfer from Ole Miss, was granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA.

Former Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee signs with Jacksonville Jaguars

Former Nebraska quarterback officially signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday. The sixth-round draft pick signed after arriving in Jacksonville for rookie minicamp, which will be held through this weekend.

Recruiting: Top junior college pass-rusher Jermaine Johnson visiting Nebraska

Nebraska's repeated struggles to generate a pass rush in recent years have led them to a top junior college pass-rushing prospect who was once the high school teammate of Husker receiver JD Spielman.

Recruiting: Top-100 wide receiver Mycah Pittman has Huskers in top five, plans to visit soon

Mycah Pittman — 6-foot, 195 pounds — holds 31 scholarship offers. He recently named his final five schools: Alabama, Ohio State, Florida, Oregon and Nebraska. Pittman is the No. 64 overall prospect in the 2019 class and No. 11 wide…