Your head coach is gone, or soon to be. Your season has been horrendous, having only won one conference game out of six. It's safe to say that it isn't paradise in Manhattan, Kansas.
It's often the most desperate teams which make the most desperate moves to try and get going back into the right direction. Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini expects just that as they trip down to play the Wildcats this Saturday. “You are playing a desperate foobtall team. You are playing someone with nothing to lose. We are going to get their best shot, I know that (and) the team knows that. We have to approach it accordingly,” Pelini said of Kansas State. “We have to be on point.”
There are a variety of reasons why this game is going to be a challenge for the Huskers. One of the chief reasons will be one-time Nebraska commit, KSU quarterback Josh Freeman. While Nebraska doesn't have a single player ranked in the top 12 in the conference in scoring, Freeman is ranked sixth overall, averaging just under nine points per game. Then there's the game against Oklahoma, which Kansas State lost, but the Sooners saw Freeman torture their defense, throwing for 478 yards on the game.
But even with Freeman being the straw the stirs the drink for the KSU offense, Pelini saw his own team as the biggest opponent for this game. “It's not about our opponent, it's about us. It's been like that all year,” he said. “But we have to be ready to go. I think our kids understand that.”
Just in regard to the circumstances surrounding this game, the situation isn't exactly the same, but you can make some comparisons to Nebraska's win over Colorado in 2006, a game which was dubbed then and seems somewhat ironic now, the “Restore the Order” game. It was a slew of trick plays, Oscar-caliber acting jobs and as the old saying goes, wherever the kitchen sink was, the Huskers found it and threw it at the Buffs in their 37-14 victory. “They could throw the kitchen sink at us. I understand that,” Pelini said. “We always need to be ready (for that), but in a situation like this, you have to be extra ready.”
Nebraska will have to do that without some key plays. Junior linebacker Phillip Dillard continues to be out stemming from an injury three weeks ago. Head Coach Bo Pelini said that he would definitely not be available for the game. The Huskers will also be without starting right tackle, senior Lydon Murtha, who has been out for the last two weeks. Then there is the obvious absence of senior linebacker Cody Glenn, who ranks third on the team in tackles and was indefinitely suspended by Coach Pelini yesterday for a violation of team rules.
With so many questions as to how he'll adjust to what he does with his personnel, Pelin maintained that they will still be able to do what they want to do, depending on what Kansas State's offense shows them. “It depends on what they come out in. It depends on what they are in (offensively),” Pelini said. “We feel OK – really similar to the packages we carried the packages we carried last week, except we aren't going to see as much four-wide.”
One thing that does have the defense charged for this weekend isn't just the showing they had against Kansas, the team playing arguably their best all-around game of the year. But it's due to the fact that yesterday Pelini finally handed out the “blackshirts', the coveted practice jerseys which have been a tradition at Nebraska since 1968.
However, regardless of the perception behind how the team got the jerseys finally awarded, he said that nobody should get comfortable with them being out there, because, just as suddenly as they appeared, they could disappear. “That's a day-to-day thing. That's something you earn it, but then you have to earn to keep it,” he said.
On the positive side of the injury-front, sophomore offensive guard Keith Williams practiced in full pads for the second day in a row and will be ready to go for this game, and senior running back Marlon Lucky, who suffered what has been called a minor turf toe this last weekend, is reportedly back to full speed and has taken reps typical to what he normally takes when he's been physically ready to play.
Senior quarterback Joe Ganz is also feeling no ill-effects from having his ankle rolled up on last week, and he hasn't missed a snap of practice this week.
The Huskers will head back to the field for the Thursday practice, followed by the traditional walk through, which the team will conduct in Lincoln before they had down to Manhattan, Kansas for the game set to kick off at 1:30 p.m. Central time on Saturday, the game to be aired on pay-per-view.
The latest lines from the odds makers have the Huskers anywhere from a six-point to seven and a half point favorite over KSU.