Nebraska / Fresno State Inside Slant

Nebraska / Fresno State Inside Slant

Bo Pelini and the Nebraska Cornhuskers are looking to get over the first game jitters they experienced last week.

Bo Pelini felt his team was nervous going into Saturday's first game of the 2011 season.

"For whatever reason," the fourth-year Nebraska coach said.

Pelini then followed with a legitimate reason: The Huskers had a bunch of players contributing for the first time in meaningful situations.

In all, 20 players saw their first career action in Nebraska's 40-7 victory over Tennessee-Chattanooga.

"We have a unique combination of youth and experience on this team," Pelini said. "I think that showed up a little bit at times."

Especially on offense, where two players on the offensive line were not only taking their first college snaps, but were also starting.

Right tackle Tyler Moore, from Clearwater, Fla., became the first true freshman in Nebraska history to start a season opener on the offensive line. Spencer Long, a sophomore walk-on, started at right guard. While his twin brother, Jake, caught a pass as a tight end last season, Spencer had never seen a game snap until Saturday.

Two more offensive linemen -- tackle Yoshi Hardrick and guard Andrew Rodriguez -- were making their first career starts, as was wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, who led Nebraska with four receptions.

Toss in four more true freshmen on offense -- three running backs and a wide receiver -- and it's easy to see why not everything was clicking on that side of the ball in the season opener.

"I want to see things transfer from the practice field to the playing field," Pelini said. "I just saw some guys revert. When you go into a game, you've got to lean on your technique, lean on fundamentals. That has to be first and foremost, and that wasn't always the case."

Pelini is hoping the newcomers shook out the cobwebs and rid themselves of jitters in the game against an FCS foe. Now, Nebraska prepares to host Fresno State, a program that's not flinched when going on the road to face BCS teams in the past.

"History shows that they give a lot of people problems," Pelini said. "The venue isn't going to bother them. They've played in a lot of different places against a lot of good football teams and held their own and won a lot of football games. We've got to step it up this week, and I think our football team understands that."


NOTES, QUOTES

--K Brett Maher has become the first Nebraska football player to win a weekly Big Ten Conference award. Maher was named co-special teams player of the week after going 4-for-4 on field goals (50, 48, 34, 21 yards) and averaging 52 yards on four punts. That's the best single-game average by a Nebraska punter at home in nine years.

--LB Lavonte David, who set a school record last season with 152 tackles, picked up Saturday where he left off in 2010. The senior outside linebacker led the Huskers with nine tackles, including one for loss.

--Nebraska, a team that set school records for penalties in a season in 2009, and broke that record in 2010, had only three penalties for 33 yards in Saturday's opener. Last season, the Huskers were penalized at least six times in 13 of 14 games, and had at least 45 yards worth of penalties in all but one game.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Nebraska players and coaches know they need to execute better and clean up the general sloppiness they saw in Saturday's first game - the timing on the option, the dropped passes, the missed blocks. But what about the play calling? First-year offensive coordinator Tim Beck said he was calling plays sometimes because the players needed work on that particular play, not because the play was the correct one to run in the game. "Part of what we were trying to do was make an assessment," coach Bo Pelini said. "I'm not trying to knock down our opponent, but we were trying to work on some things, see some things. In retrospect, we didn't necessarily put our guys in the best opportunity to have success." Pelini said there was a certain "method to the madness" in hopes of getting players to execute certain plays.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: All-in-all, not a bad start Saturday for Nebraska's defense, which had three-first time starters, and a walk-on freshman, Trevor Roach, filling in the majority of the game at middle linebacker. The depth and talent along the defensive line has been well-noted, but playing up to eight different linemen can present some communications problems. "If everybody's going to be playing more of a role, we're definitely going to have to be working on our communication better, getting guys on the same page," said senior tackle Jared Crick, entering his third year as a starter. "We rotated a lot of guys in, had a lot of different combinations. Guys were playing with guys out there they're really not used to playing with. As a defensive line, I think we had six or seven combinations alone."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It doesn't surprise me, I'll put it that way. He probably would have been good from further." -- Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, on kicker Brett Maher making his first career field goal attempt, from 50 yards, into a strong wind.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Fresno State at Nebraska, Sept. 10 -- Nebraska is 22-1 all-time against WAC teams, including 3-0 under Bo Pelini. This is the first of a three-game series between the schools, with Nebraska playing at Fresno in 2014, and the Bulldogs coming back to Lincoln in 2016. Fresno has proven to be one of the most dangerous non-BCS, non-conference opponents in recent years, meaning Nebraska will have to be ready.

SERIES HISTORY: First meeting.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Nebraska must set the tone early, especially on offense. The Huskers went three-and-out in 45 seconds in the first series of their first game. Allow a team like Fresno to gain some early confidence and hope, and it's a recipe for a dog fight.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

QB Taylor Martinez -- Fresno State will likely load the box and force Martinez to throw. Will he show more patience in the pocket, and will he get more help from his receivers, who dropped four passes on Saturday? Eyes will also be on Martinez's timing with his running backs in the option game.

DE Cameron Meredith -- He's been generally thought of as a physical, run-stopping end, but the junior showed Saturday he can effectively rush the quarterback, too. Meredith had two sacks against Chattanooga, nearly matching his career total (three) entering the game. Fresno State allowed four sacks in its opener.

OT Yoshi Hardrick -- Hardrick will likely be matched against defensive end Logan Harrell, who had 10.5 sacks last season and contributed with one sack Saturday in the Bulldogs' loss to Cal. Hardrick plays on the left side.

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