World-Herald staff writer Jon Nyatawa breaks down the Huskers’ play on both sides of the ball during NU’s 17-13 win over Michigan.
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TRACKING THE OFFENSE
The game plan: Establish the ground game. There was plenty of option mixed in, but Nebraska seemed committed to running the ball right at the Michigan defense. Most of Tommy Armstrong’s throws were short and high-percentage, seemingly called just to remind the Wolverines of a possible pass threat. NU did not appear highly confident attacking Michigan through the air.
The adjustments: Michigan slowly started stuffing the box, trying its best to stop Nebraska’s ground attack. It worked well enough to stall drives out. The Huskers still seemed tentative on most pass plays as the game progressed, but ultimately capitalized on some openings downfield late in the game. Michigan did bring extra pressure every now and then, but NU never panicked.
NU Stars: Ameer Abdullah. Nothing came easy, but junior running back ran for 105 yards on 27 attempts.
Stat of the game: Armstrong went 5-of-7 for 59 passing yards during NU’s game-winning drive.
Final word: It wasn’t pretty, but a beat-up offensive line and a hobbled receiving corps did just enough when they had to.
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TRACKING THE DEFENSE
The game plan: Nebraska chose to blitz, blitz, blitz. Anything to get pressure in the face of Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner, who struggled to make quick decisions early. The Husker defensive controlled the line of scrimmage, confident that its preparation would keep it from getting surprised. That allowed the linebackers and safeties to stuff running plays. The Nebraska secondary played as physically as it could with the Wolverine receivers.
The adjustments: Michigan began the second half by challenging Nebraska’s defensive backs, bunching its receivers to force the Huskers to be precise in their communication. There was a throwback screen and a misdirection-based inside screen, too. But the Wolverines’ success lasted only for a drive. And Nebraska never lost its edge and tenacity.
NU Stars: The defensive line. The front four owned the point of attack for four quarters.
Stats of the game: Nebraska finished with 15 tackles for loss and seven sacks, both season highs.
Final word: It’s been a midseason transformation for a young group that suddenly seems to have poise and mental fortitude.