college football picks Idaho at Nebraska 9-11-10

September 10, 2010


GAME NOTES: Fresh off a 49-10 thrashing of Western Kentucky in last week’s season opener, the sixth-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers figure to be challenged a bit more this Saturday as they welcome the Idaho Vandals to Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.

The Vandals are also 1-0 on the young season, having disposed of visiting North Dakota last week in a 45-0 final. It was the first time since 1998 that Idaho opened a season at home, and the first time they posted a shutout since 1997. The Vandals are coming off a 2009 campaign (8-5) in which they produced the second-best turnaround in the country — they went just 2-10 in 2008.

As for the hometown Huskers, they scored early and often last week against the Hilltoppers to post their 25th straight season-opening victory — the longest active streak in the nation. All 25 wins have come by double figures. WKU has now lost 21 consecutive games — the nation’s longest current losing streak.

A win here is important for the Cornhuskers, who travel to the Pacific Northwest next week to take on Pac-10 foe Washington. The Big 12 Conference slate, Nebraska’s swan song as it will move to the Big Ten next season, will offer plenty of potential pitfalls, although the Huskers are fortunate to get Texas at home and miss Oklahoma all-together — save for a potential meeting in the Big 12 title game.

This bout marks the first-ever meeting between Idaho and Nebraska on the gridiron.

Idaho started off slowly in last week’s clash with North Dakota, but the floodgates opened soon enough and when the dust had settled the Vandals had piled up 547 yards of total offense and 45 unanswered points. QB Nathan Enderle went 24-of-37 for 311 yards with a pair of TDs and one INT. He hit Daniel Hardy four times for 82 yards and Armauni Johnson three times for a game-high 86 yards and a TD. Princeton McCarty was UI’s leading ground gainer with 89 yards and two scores on 12 carries.

Idaho scored on all four trips to the red zone, while North Dakota came up empty on its two visits.

Defensively, the Vandals got huge games from Tre’Shawn Robinson and Shiloh Keo, the former logging nine tackles and the latter coming up with eight stops, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception.

North Dakota finished with just 270 yards of total offense, with the pass yielding a mere 122 yards on 35 attempts. Five Fighting Sioux turnovers played a huge role in the outcome, as did the fact that the Vandals stood tall on third down, permitting just 3-of-13 chances to be converted successfully.

“As a whole,” said Keo, “offensive and defensively, we were kind of slow in the beginning. But, at the end of the day, we came and did what we wanted to do. The offense moved the ball consistently and our defense held in there and we made some big plays and got the ball back to the offense.”

Nebraska redshirt freshman QB Taylor Martinez made quite an impression in his first collegiate start last week against Western Kentucky, rushing for 127 yards and three TDs to power the Cornhuskers to their 39-point victory. He is the first freshman in school history to start the season opener, and was also effective in the passing game, hitting 9-of-15 attempts for 136 yards without a turnover.

NU head coach Bo Pelini was relatively happy with his rookie signal-caller’s first game, “I thought Taylor did a nice job running the ball. He made some explosive plays and did some really good things. I thought he managed the football team well. I thought he threw it well and was pretty efficient. I thought for his first start he did a nice job.”

Niles Paul was the team’s leading receiver in the game, pulling down five balls for 92 yards and a TD, while the ground assault generated 289 yards and six TDs. In all, the NU offense amassed 536 yards on an average of 9.2 yards per play.

The ‘Blackshirts’, as the Nebraska defense has come to be known, allowed the Hilltoppers a mere 299 yards and just 10 points — all scored in the second half. They were particularly tough against the pass (120 yards, zero TDs).

Lavonte David led all defenders in the game with 13 tackles, while P.J. Smith (INT) and Eric Hagg (fumble recovery) came up with the team’s two turnovers.

Despite dominating the overmatched Hilltoppers, coach Pelini was not pleased with his defense’s performance, “I thought overall defensively, I thought it was an absolute embarrassment. I thought it was coached poorly, that starts with me. I don’t like anything we did defensively. There were a couple of things we did OK, but we did not play up to our standard.”

In Enderle, the Vandals have a field general who is capable of making some plays and leading the team down the field on sustained scoring drives. That said, the Nebraska defense is one that prides itself on disrupting the opposing team’s game plan and that is what Pelini and his staff expect in this contest. Martinez should enjoy another solid outing, giving him valuable experience as he stares down the remaining schedule, which will only get tougher in the coming weeks.


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