Big Red Report's Idaho State at Nebraska PreviewPresented by: www.RedZoneTickets.com
By: Josh Harvey and Bryan Munson
AP Preview: CLICK HERE
* Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead returns to the field after sitting out the last two weeks.
* Nebraska looks to finish the non-conference portion of the schedule 3-1.
* Nebraska defensive tackle Chase Rome is available after returning to the team this week.
* Husker quarterback Taylor Martinez looks to keep his passing percentage above 70 percent.
Head Coach: Mike Kramer (2nd year)
Nebraska has struggled with the spread, but seemed to get back on track last week with a very pesky Arkansas State offense, that was quick and didn't like to run.
Expect the same from the Huskers this week, in a game that leaves many scratching their heads on why it should be played? Idaho State has lost 17 straight to BCS opponents and are 3-10 in their last 13 games. This can't be compared to wins against South Dakota State (2010) and Chattanooga (2011), because at least those teams were competitive in their leagues.
"You try and do what you can to schedule the games. I'm not big on playing these games. I'd rather play all I-A opponents," said Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini. "I'm not sitting here trying to talk bad about Idaho State. I'm just talking about the things we would like to do as a football program. You look across the country and a lot of coaches aren't really fond of playing these games, but there are a lot of scheduling conflicts and issues. You find times where it's hard to find an opponent. There are a lot of issues of how that all works out and you hope to keep them to a minimum and eliminate them altogether, but it's not always possible."
I expect Burkhead to get six to eight carries to get back into rhythm and I don't expect to see the first-team offense much in the second half. Maybe a drive or two in the third quarter.
No matter what happens in this game, you can't even take it with a grain of salt. Just throw it out of your minds after Saturday.
Big Red Report Prediction:
Getting to know Idaho State
On if senior I-back Rex Burkhead will play this week: "Rex will play. He'll be out there practicing this week, so we are anticipating that he is going to play. We'll see how he progresses during the week. He probably could've played last week, but I really like how we've handled it. I've leaned on the trainers and the doctors. I think he's ready to play. He's anxious and nipping at us to try and get him in there. Right now I think is the right time. I think he will be a heck of a lot more ready this Saturday than he was this last Saturday. I think he'll be pretty much 100 percent."
On how they will manage his carries with Ameer Abdullah: "We ran the ball a lot the other day. I thought in Rex's absence, Ameer has run well. Braylon (Heard) has done a heck of a job and Imani (Cross) showed what his potential is down the road. I'll add Rex to that mix. It's a pretty good tandem of backs. I like what we have going forward and we'll manage Rex, especially this week. We'll want to get his feet wet. A lot of that depends on how the week goes for him."
On if Burkhead has been practicing since the injury: "No, he hasn't been practicing. You know how Rex Burkhead is. It's been a pretty aggressive rehab. He's been doing most of his stuff on the side, just keeping him out of piles. We didn't want to do that. He's been doing things, running back-type drills and things for now a good week or 10 days or so."
On how he's been handling that scenario: "Like you would anticipate Rex handling it. He's handled it with fire. I had a pro scout who was at practice last week and he was talking with me about how Rex was working out and he was commenting on how hard he was working. That's just who he is. He's listened to the trainers, listened to the doctors and he's attacked the rehab the way he does everything else. That enables you to get back in a hurry."
On how important a game like this is forBurkhead so he can be ready for Big Ten play down the road: "I think it's good to maybe shake a little rust off. Practice will give you that. Rex has played a lot of high quality football for a long time. It's not like he all of a sudden forgot how to run the ball. He knows what he's doing, and first and foremost we wanted to make sure he was feeling healthy enough."
On why he called a timeout after the first play of the Arkansas State game: "I thought the officials did a great job on Saturday. We talked about it at length before the game how that was going to be handled when they change personnels and they were going to get up on the ball in a hurry. They screwed that one up. The one guy said it was his fault because we had talked about it. The ball was getting ready to be snapped and we were changing personnel and they weren't up on the football. As you noticed as the game went on, when they changed personnel, they walked up there and we were able to get our guys on and lined up. There were really no issues after that. It was just the first one. From an officiating standpoint, like I said to the guy, I understand that happens. They are not sure what the tempo of the game is going to be, either. It happens and it happens fast. We're setting up on personnel up there and the guy is walking up to the ball and I wasn't going to let them snap the football. I wasn't sure what was going to happen at that point. You are better off calling a timeout and talking to the referees to make sure we were on the same page and see how it's going to be going forward. You hate to use a timeout, but it's better that than you turn somebody loose going down the middle or whatever could happen in that situation."
On the differences he saw in his defense on Saturday compared to the UCLA game: "I thought we tackled better on the perimeter. I thought as fast as they were going and the things they gave us personnel-wise and alignment-wise, I thought our guys' communication improved. I thought our guys just settled in and played football. They didn't have a lot of busts. I just saw a lot of progress. I thought we were able to get off blocks pretty well up front. There were a lot of positives, but believe me, we're not anywhere near where we want to be yet." n-conference season: "I see the scores, but I don't have much of a chance. I try to stay on track and I'll glance at a game here and there on Saturday night. Sometimes it's good to get away from it, too."
On what he's thought of Abdullah so far "We thought he was special when we recruited him. Obviously he's gotten in there and played quickly. We had confidence to play him as a true freshman and he's a hard guy to tackle. He runs low to the ground. He's a powerful guy for a guy his size with tremendous balance. He's a heck of a weapon and a terrific football player."
On what the rationale is behind having a three-man line: "We've always done that. We're really prepared to go three-man or four-man all the time. We mixed it in throughout the game the other day, and I think it creates issues for the offense. It enables us to use different packages in different places and you kind of figure out as you move along that we need to put our guys in the best positions to have success. It just adds to your versatility. We've always had it and mixed it in and out and will continue to do that."
On how he gets the team to focus on Saturday as opposed to the Big Ten opener: "Believe me, the last thing we are worried about right now is the Big Ten opener. It's about what we have to do today to progress as a football team. That's our only concern and we'll pound that into our guys' heads this afternoon until Saturday. The worst thing you can do is start looking ahead. That's for other people to talk about. All we are concerned with ourselves is Idaho State and today's preparation and what we can do today to make ourselves feel better. We have a long, long way to go as a football team right now. We've got to stay hungry and we have to put in the work each and every day. It's a long haul. We have nine regular-season games ahead of us and it's a long haul. What you're going to see around the country from teams in week nine and 10 will be remarkably different. For us, it needs to be remarkably different. We need to make progress each and every week."
On what type of a football team Idaho State is: "Offensively you're going to see a spread-type offense. A different one than we've seen the last couple weeks. There will be some similarities but some differences. They like to throw the football. It's going to be flying through the air for them. On the defensive side of the ball, they are aggressive. They've played Air Force and played another school I can't remember, but they play an option offense and a more conventional offense. We've seen a lot of different things from Idaho State as far as what they could possibly give us and how they are going to see our offense. It is a little bit unconventional defensively and we are just going to have to kind of wait and see what they see in us and their game plan and try to react to whatever they do."
On what they can learn from playing South Dakota State a couple years ago: "It's a little bit what we talked a little while ago about. It's first things first. To be where we want to be down the road, we have to get better this week. You look at it Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and your test is on Saturday. You have to make progress. Your approach can't change. If we approach it that way, we'll play the way we want to. We can't just roll the ball out there and say it's going to happen. It doesn't work that way. You have to stay on edge. That means bringing it every day, every week."
On how difficult it will be with the playoff trying to schedule teams like Idaho State: "It's an interesting dynamic that's going on. Unfortunately a lot of our scheduling is scheduled out. A lot of times Jeff Jamrog or Coach Osborne asks me about a game in 2020. It's like goodness; I'm trying to get through today. There are issues that are going to come up. I think it's across the nation-type of issue. It's something that once they start instituting the playoff and they start changing the roles and such, that's part of the role of the scheduling ramifications with it all. There are a lot of issues besides the playoff. I really don't know the answer to it. I haven't really wanted to play these games. Every now and then, you're going to have to."
On how badly the team needs to play seven home games: "I think you do need seven. It's an interesting thing. I think it depends on how the landscape of college football goes. I don't think Coach Osborne and our university officials would ever be happy with six. Our fans deserve more than that. At the end of the day, you'd like to have eight. But at the minimum seven. Our fans wait all year for football season to come all year and to give them six, I don't know if that's fair either. I don't think it will ever come to that. You hope that if you get some contracts in place and the further out you go, youcan avoid some of these things in the future. I would be shocked if we ever went less than seven at home."
I'm 3-0 on the season, after picking Abdullah last week, but this week it might all come crumbling down on me. I'm going to go with Jamal Turner, who's been very quiet over the last weeks. I'm banking on his lack of production and a less than ready game plan for the sophomore from Idaho State.
According to various social media and Jamal Turner's Facebook page, Turner became a father on Thursday. Why not go out and have the best statistical game of your career to this point?
I think the sophomore wide receiver hauls in two touchdowns this week.
Quote of the week:
"J.P. is an emotional guy. He's probably the one who needs to see the doctors."
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