Nebraska finished a 5-7 regular season heading into the 2015 Foster Farms Bowl versus UCLA. Despite injuries to several key Bruins, the Huskers still had to scheme properly against a team that could handle them all the same. Here we are in 2016, and the Big Red has a 2-0 record, ready to face another a Pac-12 team with a big name on offense.
UCLA had quarterback Josh Rosen. Oregon has running back Royce Freeman.
If you’ve taken the time to watch the Ducks’ games against UC-Davis and Virginia, you’ll notice something seems off about the Quack Attack. The offense is still fast, but nowhere near as consistent. That said, there still is the home run-hitter, Mr. Freeman.
Quarterback Dakota Prukop is a question mark. He started two years at Montana State and now has two games under his belt as a Duck. Those Oregon starts were against an FCS team and a Virginia squad that was roughed up by another one (Richmond). This is Prukop’s first road start of the year and just the second road start of his career against an FBS team.
His first was against Arkansas State in 2014 in front of 26,413 observers. Memorial Stadium was crammed with 91,585 people to watch the Huskers take on Miami (FL) only two years ago, and that game didn’t have anywhere near the implications this one does.
Couple the X-factor signal-caller with an offensive line that boasts three redshirt freshmen, and there’s a recipe for Nebraska to cause a very potent offense to sputter – just as it did against Rosen and UCLA.
However, the best course of action is to keep Freeman on the sideline while Prukop slings practice throws. Against the Bruins, Nebraska ran 62 times for 326 yards, which gobbled up over 38 minutes of game clock. The Huskers had a similar output during 2016’s opener against Fresno State. They racked up 292 yards on 52 attempts and kept the ball for nearly 32 minutes.
It should also be noted that Tommy Armstrong was utilized very well against UCLA. He went 12-for-19, throwing for 174 yards and one touchdown, while also running 10 times for 76 yards and a score.
Why all this talk about the running game? Oregon’s defensive line averages all of 283 pounds, and that’s just what Nebraska’s offensive linemen want to hear.
The Duck defense did a solid job slowing down UC-Davis, allowing only 89 yards, but that number is skewed. The Aggies were launching the ball over Oregon’s defensive eleven to the tune of 303 yards and ended three drives with rushing scores under 10 yards (two were from one yard out).
Against Virginia, Oregon gave up 193 yards on 40 attempts (4.8 yards per run). Keep in mind Richmond held that same Cavalier team to 32 yards on 21 attempts in Virginia’s own stadium.
What do we take away from all this?
Yes, Oregon has a fast offense and can put up points, but much like Rosen and UCLA in 2015, the Ducks can’t score if they don’t have the chance to. Watch for the Huskers to make Run The Ball Guy® a happy camper with long drawn-out drives. When Prukop and Freeman do take the field, they both pose threats. However, if Oregon tries to ride Freeman all day, Nebraska will sell out to stop him and has the talent to do so.
This is a Husker team that is currently tied for No. 1 in the nation in turnover margin (+7) and interceptions (7). Freeman will get his yards and I anticipate Prukop will, too. Of course, so did Rosen — and his team lost by eight, never breaking the 30-point barrier.
Play keep-away with the Oregon offense and a win is the Huskers’ likely reward.