Big Red Report's Michigan at Nebraska Preview

Presented by: www.RedZoneTickets.com


By: Josh Harvey
Oct. 26, 2012

Game Headlines:

* The winner controls the Big Ten Legends Division.

* The first meeting between the two legendary schools in Lincoln since 1911.

* Only the second time ever in college football history will two quarterback with 5,000 career passing yards and 2,000 career rushing yards will square off.


Coach Hoke Video Preview:


Bo Pelini Thursday practice:


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Overview:

Michigan

Head Coach: Brady Hoke (2nd season)
Michigan's record in 2012: 5-2

Opponent Analysis: Sporting the best passing defense in the conference and one of the best in the nation, something will have to give when Nebraska squares off against Michigan on Saturday night at 7 p.m. CT. The Huskers, who lead the Big Ten in passing, haven't seen a defense like this to date, so how effective will Taylor Martinez be through the air?

The biggest story-line on Saturday will likely be can the Huskers shut down senior Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson? Robinson combined for 260 yards and four touchdowns last year in a 45-17 victory over Nebraska in Ann Arbor. His play left a bad taste in the mouth of the Huskers' returners on defense.

“We definitely want to play them again. We have been watching them ever since the first game against Alabama,” said Ankrah. “We haven't let the game last year go. We can't wait until Saturday.”

While through the air Robinson has struggled this season, throwing nine touchdowns to nine interceptions and only a 53.5 percent completion rate, his numbers on the ground have gone up. Currently the senior quarterback has rushed 121 times for 900 yards – an average of 7.4 yards per carry. Four times this season he has gone over the century mark.

As mentioned, the Michigan defense is one of the better in the nation, holding their last five opponents to 13 points or less.

Under Rich Rodriguez, the traditional Wolverine defense was a shadow of itself, but with the hiring of Brady Hoke, it appears things are back on track in Ann Arbor. Hoke hired Greg Mattison as a his defensive coordinator, an assistant coach who has been a DC for over ten years at the college and NFL level.

"They're a really good defense, just like last year," Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez said. "Hopefully this time we can get them."

Big Red Report Prediction:
Nebraska 31...Michigan 24 (Harvey)
*** I think Saturday's contest will be a close one, but ultimately it's hard to win on the road at night - especially in an atmosphere like Nebraska. Denard Robinson has tended to make mistakes when the pressure is on the line. I like the Huskers in a close one.


Burning questions for GoBlueWolverines.com Publisher:
Tom Beaver



Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini presser

On how the team uses momentum from a comeback win the next week:"We've been there before. I don't know quite how you look at the Wisconsin game or how that played out. You just keep working so you don't put yourself in that position. It's about executing for four quarters. That's been a little bit of our M.O. When we don't shoot ourselves in the foot, we're pretty good. We've made enough mistakes to put ourselves in bad situations at times and we're able to overcome it, but we have to keep working to not put ourselves in that situation."

On Cameron Meredith's double duty Saturday, playing defensive tackle and defensive end:"Cam played well. We knew we'd move him in there probably Tuesday or Wednesday of last week. We gave him some reps, and I thought he did well in there."

On knowing that was a plan:"We started planning that midweek probably. He's been a guy that we've slid in there before. And Jason Ankrah has too at times."

On cornerback Josh Mitchell not suiting up last week:"He's been a lot better over the last couple of days. We'll see how it plays out here the next couple days."

On how he got injured:"Practice."

On if this was a game changer for Taylor Martinez:"I don't know. I think Taylor has played at a pretty high level all year. You take away some of the plays that happened to him at Ohio State and I think he's played really well all year. I'm not sure I'd call it a game changer. Even in the fourth quarter there were some things that he'd want back and that he could do better. He can continue to work on his decision making, his checks. What I've seen from Taylor is that the more he plays and the more experience he's had, the better he's played. I hope that will continue."

If those last couple drives give him more confidence to go with the throw:"I've never lacked confidence in Taylor throwing the ball. I think he can throw it. Is he perfect? No. I usually have NFL games on in the background when I'm doing work on Sundays and as great as (Tom) Brady and the rest of those guys are, they still make mistakes. It's part of playing the position. You continually coach them and keep getting them better. We do have confidence in him. We have confidence in our receivers and we can throw the ball where we need to. Hopefully we don't put ourselves in a situation like that again where we have to score twice any time soon."

On what he learned about last year's Michigan game:"We made a lot of mistakes in that game. We talked about dropping the punt and dropping the snap. There were a number of issues that popped up in that game. We're going to need to execute in all three phases in order to win the football game."

On how he'd rate the special teams this season:"Inconsistent in a lot of different ways and a lot of different areas. A lot of different things have popped up at different times. We've lost some field position. The other day we had the two dropped punts. Then we finally get a good kickoff return or we hold somebody. Once again we're going to make some personnel changes in one of our units. Our coverage units were pretty good the other day. I thought they were really good except Brett (Maher) had the one miss on the punt that hurt us. So we'll just continue to work on our execution and that will help us."

On if the kickoff return unit is where the changes will be made:"Yeah we have a couple of personnel changes we are going to look at there. We've started backed up a number of times that's hurt us."

On how much it changes the offense when they are starting inside the 20 instead of the 30:? ?"It makes a big difference. Plus you're talking about having to drive a much longer field. That's hurt us some."

On what it takes to create sound special teams:"Our guys understand what needs to be done. I promise you this; those guys out there weren't trying to drop the ball on punts. You just have to execute when the time comes."

On if the special teams practices have changed at all:"We've actually practiced them more."

On Michigan's defense's development over the last month:"They've done a good job defensively. We're going to have to execute well against them and do a good job."

On if anything in particular stands out that they've been doing better:?"Execution. I don't know how flashy they are at times. They just kind of do what they do and they've done a good job."

On where Denard Robinson stands among the college players he's coached against:"He's a good football player. They use him well. He's a big part of their offense. They do a lot of things to feature him. When a lot of the offense runs through a particular guy, you've got to pay attention to him."

On the best way to tackle him:"(You have to) be disciplined in your gaps. Obviously you've got to wrap him up. First and foremost, you've got to play your responsibility. It's a team thing. It's not one guy. It's not one particular group of guys. Everybody has to handle their responsibilities. They have other guys in their offense and it's well thought out what they do. They stress you in a number of areas. You've got to play as a team and execute well."

On how he's different from Braxton Miller:"They are different offenses."

On if third down is Robinson's down to make plays:"They feature him on early downs. I haven't looked at a ton of their third down stuff. He's a featured guy no matter what the situation is or where they are on the field or what down and distance it is. Like I said, he's going to have the ball in his hands a lot, so you have to account for it."

On what Quincy Enunwa showed him on Saturday:"He played a big-time game. He really stepped up. He made some great plays for us down the stretch."

On how Stanley Jean-Baptiste has handled everything:"Stanley has handled it well. He's competed. He got outside of himself technique-wise for whatever reason. He didn't play with the technique that is going to allow him to have success. For whatever reason he got off-kilter and did some things we don't teach and don't want him to do. It was more of a technique error of how he was playing. I don't want to get caught up in all of the reasons why he was getting caught up and was thinking about the wrong thing at times and was causing him to play with some technique that's going to hurt him. I think he learned a lot from the experience."

On the differences in Ohio State and Michigan's offenses:"There are some similarities in some of the plays they run and how they block it. They run a little bit more two-back football with their running game. Michigan probably goes a little bit more that way and Ohio State goes more of the zone-read way. They create a lot of the same issues for you."

On the implications of this game:?"I haven't thought about that. All I'm worried about is winning the football game."

On what bringing Cameron Meredith and Jason Ankrah give to the defense:"You look for the different combinations that are going to provide different things for you. Rather than go with a young, inexperienced guy, you go with some experience. The guy is able to move in there. He's a veteran guy. If we feel that's the best thing for us, that's what we are going to do. There's a little bit of both. The combinations are going to be a little bit different."

On what he saw from the secondary on Saturday:"I thought we played well at times. I thought we really challenged routes and throws. There are some things we could've done better and we need to do better."

On how much Braylon Heard will impact this week's game plan:"He and Imani (Cross) are both going to factor in. They have up to this point. We have used them numerous times. I feel really good about our backs. You'd love to have Rex in there, but we have capable guys that we have a lot of confidence in if he doesn't make it."

On how he'd like to see the players channel the energy in Saturday's game:"We need to execute. We need to stay focused on what we can control. I know the fans are always going to do what they do. It's going to be loud and it's going to be a great atmosphere. As a football player you have to channel it the right way and just be focused on what you can control and that's your execution. That's always a challenge."

On how the special teams coaching role happens:"It's a team thing. Ross (Els) oversees it. (Rich Fisher) is involved in some aspects; (John Papuchis) is involved in some aspects. Ron Brown (also helps). There are a lot of different hands at times. Ross oversees the whole thing but it's a team effort."

On what Michigan means to the Big Ten:"Michigan is a program that I have a tremendous amount of respect for. It's a class program. It's a tremendous academic institution. They have a lot of the same values and traditions that we have here. I think it's a program with great tradition."

On if playing Michigan was one of the big reasons Nebraska joined the Big Ten:"There are a lot of positives of us being in the Big Ten for a lot of different reasons. Having the opportunity to play the Michigans of the world is a great thing."

On if the change in the kickoff rule has changed the team's approach:"I don't think it's that much of a difference. It's five yards. I don't know. I'll know better when I study at the end of the season to see how it affected us. I don't think it's that big of a deal. You are up five yards, but then you can't make a running start. At the end of the day it comes down to execution and blocking and tackling. Where that's going to be and how many touchbacks that will produce, I'm not exactly sure yet. I'm not sure it affects the return aspect of things, though."

On if he told the team they still need to win out after the Northwestern game:"On to the next one. Enjoy it tonight and it's back to it tomorrow. That's where we are. I don't know how it's all going to play out, but I do know this, we'll be in the game if we win out. We can control that. That hasn't changed. That hasn't changed our process and our daily message to our football team. That hasn't changed and will never change. We have to concentrate on getting better and do what you have to do today. If we do that and we stay on course and work hard in our preparation, we give ourselves a great opportunity."

On if the increased playing time for David Santos and Mohammed Seisay was just for Northwestern or for the season:"We have a lot of guys that can play. There are a lot of guys that can play into it and who we use and how we use them. A lot of it comes down to how guys play during the week and practice during the week. We'll put the guys out there that earn it during the week and the guys who give us the best opportunity to get it done game plan-wise."

On Santos' play Saturday:"I thought Santos played pretty well. He did some good things out there. He had a big mistake but I thought overall he did a good job."

On Santos' play where he caused Kain Colter to lose two yards:"David can run. In that particular defense he was playing a Mike linebacker. We had him lined over on the strong side. He plays fast. He can go. The more we get him out there, the more confident he's going to get as he goes along. He's still a work in progress, but I like the potential."

On the specific advantages of a faster linebacker:"You want to put guys in position to have success and use their talents the right way. It all depends on what the game plan is and what type of challenges the opposing offense presents to you. We get him when he's able to be on the field and it's our job to utilize him to make plays and use his talents the best way."

On what the team is going to work on at practice this week:"Us. Our execution. And having a good understanding of what we are going to do on Saturday. I thought our guys last week were heavily into the details and that's what it takes to really execute well. You have to be confident about what you're going to see and when you are going to see it, so you can play fast and with a lot of confidence and react well to what you're seeing."

On if he still has hate for Michigan because he went to Ohio State:"I don't go there. I'm just concerned with our football team right now."



Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE

Prediction on star of the game?

I'm 4-2 on the season, with my last two predictions not coming through. But it's time to get back on track this week.

That is why I have to go with senior Will Compton, for the second straight week.

Compton didn't talk to reporters this week, when he walked off the field, he looked focused. Last season, he arguably had one of his best games against Michigan.

It will be the Nebraska defensive line's job to try to contain Denard Robinson the best they can this weekend, if they can slow him down, Compton might be in for a good day of tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

- Harvey


Nebraska/Michigan 2011 highlights:


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