Game Day: Nebraska vs. Rutgers

Signs of life

A clean bill of health for Nebraska's defense will be vital for a win against Rutgers on Saturday. home against Iowa. “We’re still not totally there, but we’re close,” coach Mike Riley said this week. “Now we’re still on the edge with a couple guys after this last game of being healthy, but we certainly are in better shape and, yes, I think it does make a difference.”

READ MORE »

2-Minute Drill by Sam McKewon

Nebraska rush offense vs. Rutgers rush defense

Nebraska's run offense has been inconsistent for the entire season, producing surprisingly good numbers against Wisconsin (196 yards) and Michigan State (179), while bottoming out against Northwestern (82) and the worst rush defense in the Big Ten, Purdue (77 yards). NU's lack of consistency can be traced back to average line play, an inability for one back — be it Terrell Newby or Imani Cross — to really own the starting job and a diminished focus on quarterback Tommy Armstrong's wheels. Rutgers defense allows 4.51 yards per rush, sandwiched in between Northwestern and Purdue. Because the Scarlet Knights like to stunt and junk it up a lot, NU will have to communicate well.

Nebraska pass offense vs. Rutgers pass defense

Rutgers is an overmatched team when it comes to pass defense. How overmatched? It has a lower pass efficiency rating than Nebraska's pass defense. So there you go. The Scarlet Knights have only notched 11 sacks this year, may start three freshman in the secondary and have given up nine yards per pass attempt this season. In the Big Ten, this number balloons to 10.1 yards. No Power Five team has been north of ten yards allowed per pass since 2012. Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong and his wideouts are a little beat up, but also hitting their stride.

Rutgers rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense

Rutgers makes a concerted effort to run the ball, averaging 38 carries per game and a serviceable 4.38 yards per carry. Nebraska makes a more concerted effort, however, to stop the run, which serves the Huskers well. Nebraska's front seven is perhaps healthier than it has been at any time since the season opener.

Rutgers pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense

When healthy or not suspended, Leonte Carroo is probably the best wideout in the Big Ten. He has 24 catches in five games — with nine touchdowns. He's a big play guy. He's also missed the last two-and-a-half games because of a high ankle sprain. He's scheduled to return to play against Nebraska, but it's hard to tell how close he'll be to 100 percent. Nebraska's pass defense hasn't stopped anybody in the Big Ten. Not when it counted, and not when the opponent actually tried to pass. Rutgers may have a mediocre quarterback in Chris Laviano, but he'll have some success against Nebraska. Every other quarterback does.

Special teams

If Drew Brown (on kickoffs) and Sam Foltz (on punts) can keep the ball away from the nation's best kick returner, Janarion Grant, then Nebraska should be fine. But Grant has four return touchdowns for a reason. Count on him breaking at least one against the Huskers. NU's own return game is getting better thanks to kick returner Stanley Morgan, but Grant is the real X factor.

Intangibles

Rutgers has to win out to make a bowl — Nebraska, in theory, only has to win five to have a good shot — and Nebraska is the key game in the final stretch. Beat the Huskers, and beating Army and Maryland look pretty easy. Rutgers clearly didn't want to risk Carroo for road games at Wisconsin and Michigan, so the Scarlet Knights have circled this game. Nebraska circled Michigan State and won it. Now the Huskers will be right back where they were against Illinois and Purdue. NU flunked both those tests. There's no particular reason to think they'll learn their motivation lesson at Rutgers.

Key matchup: Nebraska's offensive line vs. Rutgers defensive line

The Huskers pushed Rutgers all over the field last year, racking up 7.12 yards per carry. The Scarlet Knights are ground down to bits by three punishing games in a row. NU needs to come out, establish the ground game and make Rutgers want to quit. It's questionable, however, whether this bunch is capable of that.

Our take

Just like Northwestern and Purdue were traps for Nebraska, so, too, is Rutgers. The Huskers have to manage their emotions and expectations the right way. If they do, they'll be fine, because they'll wear down Rutgers with superior talent and depth. If they get complacent or lazy, they'll lose, blunting all of the good energy they gained from the Michigan State game. We're in a charitable mood.

Our prediction: Nebraska 35, Rutgers 31

Live updates

Photos

World-Herald fan photos »

#Huskers on Instagram

Videos

Extras

Live: TBL pregame, postgame

"The Bottom Line" pregame show with Mike’l Severe will start broadcasting live at 1 p.m. Saturday, then tune in after the game for a complete breakdown and call-in show with Mike'l and Joe Ganz. Click here »

Game notes

Check out a PDF of the game notes for the Nebraska-Rutgers matchup provided by the NU 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 Ten coverage

Look for additional updates on our Big Ten page to get the best coverage of the conference from both The World-Herald and some of the best writers from across the country. Click here »

Big Red Today coverage

Sam McKewon's Big Ten picks: A big test for Michigan and Wisconsin

Just when you think Wisconsin has to rebuild, they’re right back in the center of the ring, fighting off all comers.

Shatel: We may have learned the hard way, but it's time to respect Big Ten football

After a lifetime of mocking this league and eight years of witnessing it, maybe a change of attitude is in order.

Huskers have had turbulent travels during historic road losing streak. Are calmer skies ahead?

The Huskers have dropped eight straight on the road and are 0 for 6 under Scott Frost. A defeat Saturday would mark the longest road losing streak in program history.

Video: Sam McKewon's three keys to a Husker victory against Illinois

World-Herald staff writer Sam McKewon is an expert when it comes to breaking down the Huskers, and each week he'll share what he believes are the keys to victory against their next opponent.

Carriker Chronicles: Can a young offensive line restore the Nebraska pipeline?

On Friday's episode, Adam Carriker talks about one of the major questions facing the Huskers: how much and how soon will Nebraska's offensive line improve?

McKewon: New Husker commit Henry Gray plays defensive back with skill beyond his years

Nebraska received a commitment Thursday from Miami (Fla.) Central defensive back Henry Gray. Three takes on the decision of the 6-foot, 175-pounder.

Kanawai Noa isn't like Nebraska's other receivers. But that's exactly what the Huskers need

“A lot of receivers are kind of, flamboyant, flashy,” offensive coordinator Troy Walters said. Not Kanawai Noa.

Official visit and presence of Husker assistant Travis Fisher sell four-star Henry Gray on Nebraska

Henry Gray, a four-star prospect from Florida who visited Nebraska last weekend, announced his commitment to the Huskers on Thursday.

Husker coach Scott Frost sees room for growth across the board after three games

In about five minutes, Greg Sharpe and Scott Frost hit nearly every position group on the roster during Sports Nightly. Just about every answer was the same from the head coach.

Husker practice report, Sept. 19: Nebraska's defense has been on the field a lot. That's good and bad

Nebraska's total defensive snaps seen (238) are the fourth most among all FBS schools.

Nebraska adds walk-on kicker from club soccer team to football roster

A walk-on kicker from Geneva, Illinois, has been added to Nebraska's football roster.

Carriker Chronicles: Can Nebraska's offense keep improving against Illinois? Plus, Adam's prediction

On Thursday's episode, Adam Carriker discusses Nebraska's improving offense, strong defense and its inconsistent special teams unit. Carriker also gives his predictions for Nebraska's matchup with Illinois, his keys to victory and more.

Video: Troy Walters on what it will take to earn Scott Frost's first road win as Husker head coach

Assistant coach Greg Austin discussed which Husker offensive lineman has progressed the most so far this season, and offensive coordinator Troy Walters talked about what the team needs to do to earn Scott Frost's first road win as NU's head…

Husker notes: Adrian Martinez improved each game, coach says; Illini boast disruptive pass rush

Mario Verduzco has seen improvement from Adrian Martinez in each game, he said. “He’s just so much smoother, so much more comfortable."

How do the Huskers decide who to redshirt? They start by looking at special teams

If Ryan Held has his way, Rahmir Johnson won't be redshirting this season.

Husker opponent preview: Everything you need to know about the Illinois Fighting Illini

More known for his lavish beard than his coaching pedigree these days, Lovie Smith remains at Illinois after being hired in 2016.

Husker practice report, Sept. 18: Brenden Jaimes practices, coaches confident in Broc Bando

One of the longest-tenured and most important starters on Nebraska's football team, left tackle Brenden Jaimes, practiced Wednesday as the Huskers continued preparation for Illinois.

Carriker Chronicles: Darrion Daniels on the Blackshirts' success, playing for Mike Gundy and Scott Frost

On Tuesday's episode, Adam Carriker previews Nebraska volleyball's upcoming matchup against Stanford. The Huskers jumped the No. 2 Cardinal in the polls this week, and will look to avenge their loss in last year's national championship game. Carriker also shares…

Jack Hoffman, 13, plays in first school football game, 6 years after his Huskers touchdown run

"Overwhelming is the best way to explain it," Andy Hoffman said. "We're just so thankful that God gave Jack this opportunity."

When Brenden Jaimes went down, Broc Bando stepped up for the Huskers at left tackle

Once spring camp rolled around, Broc Bando had transformed his physique and his approach. “I was going full effort every play instead of worrying about mistakes,” Bando said just before the start of NU’s season. He did not talk this…

Pick Six Podcast: Husker injury updates and revised Big Ten predictions for 2019

World-Herald staff writers Sam McKewon, Evan Bland and Chris Heady tackle the hottest Husker headlines in the latest episode of the Pick Six Podcast.

Kearney grad, Husker walk-on Isaiah Stalbird has already 'made some huge steps' for Nebraska

The old acquaintances have come flooding back for Isaiah Stalbird. Former teachers. Friends he lost touch with. People he grew up around. Everyone, it seems, noticed his breakout football game Saturday night.

Husker notes: Garrett Nelson says his role has been 'a blast'; Blackshirt turnovers way ahead of 2018 pace

Garrett Nelson's eyes sparkle. His breathing gets heavy and a grin creeps across his face. All this in response to a question about how it feels to be earning a larger role as a Husker.

Who is the fastest player on the Husker football team? Rahmir Johnson says he's in the running

Nebraska running back Rahmir Johnson puts himself in the top two fastest Huskers on the team. Maybe top three. Pretty good for a true freshman.

Sam McKewon's Big Ten football power rankings, Sept. 17

The World-Herald's Sam McKewon compiled his Big Ten football power rankings, published in The World-Herald on Sept. 18.

Husker practice report, Sept. 17: Illinois RB Reggie Corbin has the NU defense's full attention

The Illini lost 34-31 to Eastern Michigan on Saturday. But Erik Chinander and the defensive staff have an eye on Illinois running back Reggie Corbin, who is averaging 7.5 yards per carry so far this season.

The Husker defense is embracing its heavy workload

Give the Nebraska defense more snaps. Give it all the snaps.

Husker running back Dedrick Mills' big performance was 'just a matter of time'

Dedrick Mills ran like a loose horse in an open field Saturday night. The usually-bruising back stretched his legs on a 60-yard gallop down the west sideline.

Despite adversity early in his career, Braxton Clark stuck with the Huskers. Now it's paying off

Braxton Clark's support system got him through the tough moments.

Noah Vedral was 'ready to go' when his number was called against Northern Illinois

Sophomore Noah Vedral saw action in two different positions Saturday.