Alright, enough joking around. Time for business. The Ralphie Report sat down with the fantastic Nebraska blog, Corn Nation, for a quick Q&A on Friday's upcoming game. We got to answers for the price of one question. This is just part one of the Q&A so make sure to check back later for part two. Go Buffs!
I look at this game as two teams going in the opposite directions. Nebraska has shown improvement especially in on the offensive side of the ball as the Buffs have really regressed since the '07 campaign and early in the season. What do you attribute the Huskers growth to this year?
Husker Mike: In the second half of the Missouri beat-down, Shawn Watson started to experiment with the offense and tweaked it around. They found that more of a spread look, with 3 wide receivers spread wide, was more effective, as it loosened up the defense enough to unclog things in the middle. It freed Joe Ganz to move around a little bit, and opened up both the passing and running games.
Corn Blight: The biggest change is the fact that our coaching staff knows what they're doing defensively. The previous coaching staff (particularly DC Kevin Cosgrove) had not a clue about how to defend against the spread offense. It also appears that this coaching staff knows how to handle player development - how to "coach them up" and get more from the players.
It has taken a while to cleanse the team of the previous staff's mistakes, but as the year has progressed more players have bought into what Bo Pelini is doing. As they have, they've become a better defense, and a better overall team.
continue reading the Q&A after the jump...
Husker Mike: Two words: overhype and injury. Lucky suffered a turf toe a few weeks ago, and has been hobbling ever since. But even if he was healthy, he wasn't going to match the hype of his all-Big XII or 5-star predictions. He's a tweener, a hybrid running back/wide receiver. He's versatile; catches, blocks, runs well in space. Even does a nice job at quarterback with some zone-read plays out of the "Wildcat" formation. But he's not a good inside runner. Some NFL team will make him a 3rd down back and punt/kickoff returner, and he could excel in that role.
Corn Blight: There are two reasons for Lucky's lack of production. He's been injured, and therefore hasn't been full speed. The second reason is Roy Helu. Helu is our leading rusher, but hasn't started a single game. He's been explosive and elusive everywhere on the field, averaging 6.7 yards per carry. The third reason is Quentin Castille, another part of the threesome, who also hasn't started a single game but has played quite well at times..... when he isn't fumbling.
Husker Mike: On offense, they spread the ball around the field pretty well. But with Joe Ganz and Nate Swift graduating, we'll need to figure out a direction at quarterback. There's very little experience there, and that's very concerning. On defense, the front four has become quite the force. The Pelini brothers got these guys in shape and improved their techniques. I'm anxious to see Barry Turner back next season, as well as hopefully seeing Ndamakong Suh return for his senior season. At linebacker, hopefully some of the young recruits will take over. No doubt we're really thin there this year.
On defense, we do well up front. We didn't do this real well earlier in the season but as it's progressed, we've become much better.
Improvement next year will come as the players learn more about Pelini's defensive philosophy. We're one of the worst teams in the nation at generating turnovers. Normally you wouldn't expect that from a team with a winning record, so if it improves next season (and it will as generating turnovers is an integral part of Pelini's philosophy) we should be fine.
Mike mentions lack of an experienced quarterback and while that is a big issue, it can be resolved somewhat by establishing a better running game. We will graduate some senior linemen who are not capable of drive blocking and I have to believe that their replacement will make us better in this area.
From an outsiders perspective, the Huskers are 7 - 4 and the fanbase seems pretty content right now. It looks like Pelini had an impact and won the games he should of (Western Michigan, San Jose State, New Mexico State, Iowa State, Baylor, Kansas State) with his signature win being Kansas this year. Is all well in Lincoln?
Husker Mike: I don't know if all is well, but so far, so good. With the graduation of seniors Joe Ganz and Nate Swift, we're going to have some huge holes to fill on offense next season. Charlie Weis looked like a genius when he had Brady Quinn, but now looks like a lost soul with five-star Jimmy Clausen under center. We're encouraged by the progress of the defense and anxious to see how things evolve.
Corn Blight: I'd say things are pretty well. We're about where I'd thought we'd be this year. Our non-conference schedule next season is embarrassing due to our jackass ex-athletic director wanting easy wins, so we'll have time to get in shape for conference play.
Check back later for part two which has a great new section of word association that is pretty hilarious.