Game Day: Nebraska vs. Rutgers

Piecing it back together

Mike Riley likes to talk about a good “picture” for Nebraska football. The Husker coach can see that team in his mind’s eye. A team that’s better than his current 16-13 record in Lincoln. A team that hasn’t shown up with any consistency this season.

READ MORE »

2-Minute Drill by Sam McKewon

Nebraska rush offense vs. Rutgers rush defense

Through three games, Nebraska’s run game has been hot and cold. Although running backs Tre Bryant and Mikale Wilbon have been effective and stout in those games, blocking from NU’s line and tight ends has been inconsistent, especially on zone-blocking plays. Rutgers’ run defense, meanwhile, has been excellent through three games, giving up 2.9 yards per carry, which ranks 20th nationally. Rutgers defensive tackles Kevin Wilkins and Sebastian Joseph are tough to move. Nebraska will face tough sledding here, and it won’t get easier with true freshman Brendan Jaimes starting at right tackle and sophomore Michael Decker potentially starting at center.

Nebraska pass offense vs. Rutgers pass defense

The Huskers can’t get much worse in the passing game than the last two weeks, when quarterback Tanner Lee threw seven interceptions — two of which were returned for touchdowns by Northern Illinois — and was hit over and over by NIU and Oregon’s front seven. Rutgers’ secondary is the weak point of its defense — it is prone to giving up the big play — and, if Lee can settle down and throw a few passes to his backs, Rutgers’ linebackers are so-so tacklers. Lee needs time from the offensive line. If he gets it, he needs to read the defense, not lock in on receivers. It'll help if Stanley Morgan, who's battling neck pain, can play.

Rutgers rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense

The Scarlet Knights have two heavy-legged, tough-running backs in Gus Edwards and Robert Martin. Neither is easy to tackle. Toss in 6-foot-3, 240-pound true freshman quarterback Johnathan Lewis, and Rutgers is clearly building toward a read-option scheme built on bulk and power. But Lewis is more of a spot guy than a full-time player, and Nebraska’s defense is likely to make Rutgers pass the ball to win. RU will run the ball — perhaps a lot — so Nebraska’s defense will be tested here.

Rutgers pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense

Rutgers doesn’t have a lot of weapons at wideout. The leading receiver (Janarion Grant) is more of a return specialist, and the No. 2 receiver is a tight end transfer from Miami. Rutgers quarterback Kyle Bolin — a Louisville transfer — is an accurate short passer, but he’s not a stretch-the-field guy. Look for the Husker corners to challenge Rutgers’ receivers a little bit more than usual and force the Scarlet Knights to win deep.

Special teams

Rutgers has Grant, who has returned eight kicks/punts for touchdowns in his career. He’s pretty special, and Drew Brown/Caleb Lightbourn will have to keep the ball out of his hands. Rutgers gave up a punt return for a touchdown against Washington; NU did the same against Arkansas State. RU’s kickoff coverage unit is one of the nation’s best through three weeks. Nebraska’s punt return game looks like a bit of a mess with De’Mornay Pierson-El, but perhaps he’s close to breaking a big play.

Intangibles

Rutgers hasn’t won a Big Ten game since 2015 and arrives in Lincoln with nothing to lose. RU must know Nebraska is on the ropes and should play without anything to lose. If it does, it just might walk out of Memorial Stadium with a win. Historically, when the Huskers have their backs against the wall, and they’re playing at home, they don’t respond that well. Instead, NU puckers and panics, knowing coach Mike Riley’s future may be at stake, especially since Shawn Eichorst has been fired as athletic director. The Huskers desperately need a good start in this game. If it’s rough, the worrisome Nebraska fans will respond accordingly and the whole stadium will get a shiver.

Key matchup: Nebraska's O-line vs. Rutgers' D-line

The success of the 2017 season always started with the offensive line. It had to improve from mediocrity in 2016. Coaches were confident it would. It hasn’t yet. Rutgers will load up the box and dare Tanner Lee and the Husker receivers to beat them. And those guys should — if the line can protect. It would help, too, if the line can blow open a hole or two in Rutgers’ front seven. Nebraska’s season could go all the way in the tank the next two weeks, but good offensive line play keeps these Huskers alive until early October, when Wisconsin comes to town.

Our take

The state is just about ready to burn after a 21-17 loss to Northern Illinois. Eichorst is out. Riley’s coaching tenure is on the ropes. Football is important in these parts — perhaps too much — and losses to MAC teams just don’t compute. Riley has already had three head-scratching losses in his tenure — Purdue and Illinois in 2015, and NIU this year. He gets no more. Rutgers is really young on offense and is probably the weakest overall team the Huskers will play this season. Can Nebraska get its chin up, find some confidence and play like the better team? We think so. NU staves off disaster for one week. Even if Eichorst couldn’t avoid the ax, Riley will. For a week.

Our prediction: NEBRASKA 28, RUTGERS 16

Live updates

Videos

Extras

Game notes

Check out a PDF of the game notes for the Nebraska-Rutgers 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

Monday rewind: Dedrick Mills may be Husker football's most immediately impactful recruit

Dedrick Mills is not a fancy runner. Nebraska coaches — in need of a powerful, no-nonsense bruiser between the tackles — rather like that about Mills.

Adrian Martinez is Nebraska's starter, but other Big Ten QB battles will continue

The week started with nine of the 14 Big Ten teams coming out of spring practices planning to continue quarterback auditions in August. The number was down to seven by Friday.

Checking in on South Alabama, the Huskers' first opponent of the 2019 season

South Alabama has made a big commitment to its football program, but whether that puts it in position to pull an upset at Nebraska remains to be seen.

Luke Gifford 'blinked' and his Husker career was over. But now he's ready for the NFL draft

Luke Gifford reflects on his Husker career and shares more details about the NFL draft process.

NCAA council allows transfers without waivers in certain situations, defeats grad transfer proposal

The NCAA Division I Council voted Friday to allow athletes in certain situations to transfer without a waiver, while also defeating a proposal that was aimed at curbing the flow of graduate transfers.

Told to 'be ready,' Dedrick Mills is motivated to become Huskers' starting RB

A running back signee from Garden City (Kan.) Community College, Dedrick Mills is in his final weeks of classes before he arrives at NU.

Scott Frost says he expects Nebraska's spring game 'to be sold out for a long time'

Scott Frost and his coaching staff won't negatively recruit or talk poorly about another school. But the Huskers will show recruits pictures of other spring games compared to what a sold-out Memorial Stadium looks like.

Scott Frost, Fred Hoiberg and Bill Moos will visit areas impacted by floods during Big Red Blitz

Nebraska football coach Scott Frost, basketball coach Fred Hoiberg and Athletic Director Bill Moos will visit three areas impacted by the March flooding as part of the Big Red Blitz next month.

Carriker Chronicles: Mario Verduzco on Adrian Martinez, what he looks for in recruits and more

On Thursday's episode, Adam Carriker talks to Nebraska Quarterbacks Coach Mario Verduzco about Adrian Martinez and his improvements in the offseason, what he looks for in potential recruits, and much more.

Carriker Chronicles: What excited me most from the spring game and what NU needs to improve on

On Wednesday's episode, Adam Carriker breaks down Saturday's spring game and looks at which positions he thinks played the best, and which ones need to improve going into 2019.

Cameron Jurgens looks like a lineman, but becoming Huskers' starting center takes more

Now up to 280 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame, Cameron Jurgens knows how much work he has left to do to secure playing time.

TBL: Husker roundtable covers everything Nebraska football

There was a Husker football takeover on Tuesday's episode of The Bottom Line with an in-depth conversation on all things Nebraska.

Pick Six Podcast: Nebraska spring football game wrap up

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

NCAA considers proposal aimed at curbing flow of graduate transfers

Football and basketball coaches may be less likely to add graduate transfers to their teams under a change being considered by the NCAA.

Spring is over for Husker football. Here's what to expect during the offseason

In theory, there is a college football offseason, but in reality, many important things heat up when the weather turns warm.

Once a Husker football recruit, Monte Harrison now one of Marlins' top prospects

Monte Harrison has the tools to be a future star in Miami. And they were all on display at Werner Park recently. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound outfielder has an enticing speed-power combination, fields the ball well and has a big arm.

Recruiting: Nebraska lands defensive tackle Jahkeem Green as a late add for 2019 class

Jahkeem Green committed to NU after his official visit, according to one of his junior college coaches, Judd Remmers.

Recruiting: Three takes on the commitment of Jahkeem Green

Sam McKewon gives his three takes on Jahkeem Green's decision to commit to Nebraska.

'It was heartwarming': Nebraska raises more than $160,000 for state's flood victims

The World-Herald staff writer Sam McKewon compiled his notes on Bill Moos' monthly radio show.

Monday rewind: Huskers haven't had consistent lines in the past. That could change this season

Mostly, Nebraska has not had consistent, healthy lines to get back to Indianapolis. It has had dynamic quarterbacks, exceptional skill talent at running back, wide receiver and tight end, decent linebackers. But the Big Ten is a line league.

Chatelain: Back in Lincoln, the Rex Burkhead effect is still running strong for Husker fans

Saturday’s Husker reunion — AKA The Spring Game — featured Rex Burkhead’s first trip to Lincoln since winning the Super Bowl and, with apologies to Scott Frost and Fred Hoiberg, Rex might have been Memorial Stadium’s main attraction.

McKewon: New Husker commit Turner Corcoran fits the Big Ten to a T

Nebraska received a commitment from Lawrence (Kan.) Free State offensive tackle Turner Corcoran. Three takes on the decision of the 6-foot-6, 280-pound lineman.

Shatel: Defensive line looks good enough to carry Huskers to contention in Big Ten West

There is no favorite in the Big Ten West going into the 2019 season. The division should be wide open. Nebraska’s ticket into the hunt is a rising star quarterback, and a vastly improved defense. Based on what we saw…

Husker quarterbacks showed their skill, but more importantly, they strengthened their bond

The quarterbacks wore green jerseys Saturday, and although that means “hands off” to defenders, it took on a different meaning after the spring game.

Nebraska has the nation’s highest spring football game attendance of 2019 so far

The Huskers' 2019 spring game attendance of 85,946 was only the second-highest in program history — trailing 2018 — but was good enough for top in the nation so far.

Darrion Daniels hopes memorable Nebraska spring game is start of 'something special'

Darrion Daniels looked over his brother, Damion. It had been years since the two had played football on the same field, wearing the same uniform. “Something special,” Darrion said.

Even at 17, Nebraska quarterback Luke McCaffrey is 'like Coach Frost'

Luke McCaffrey, who was 17 years old coming into April, appeared comfortable in front 85,946 at Memorial Stadium and on BTN throughout the afternoon. His numbers on four drives didn't necessarily support a breakout but flashed the considerable physical and…

With Barret Pickering, Nebraska's kicking game appears to be on solid footing

Just as he was by the end of the 2018 season, Nebraska kicker Barret Pickering was the Huskers’ leading scorer during Saturday’s spring game.

Husker spring game: Tracking Nebraska's offense and defense

World-Herald staff writer Evan Bland takes a look at Nebraska's effort on both sides of the ball during the Husker spring game.

Husker running back Brody Belt concludes strong spring with impressive showing in scrimmage

Brody Belt made plays in practice, filling in for a lack of depth, and earned himself more reps with the first- and second-team offense. And on Saturday, he concluded the spring with 53 yards on 13 carries, second highest on…