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Behind Enemy Lines: Previews the NIU/Nebraska game with Corn Nation

Corn Nation, Nebraska’s SBN blog, chats with us about the upcoming match up with the Huskies

Northern Illinois v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

We reached out to Corn Nation, the Nebraska Cornhuskers blog, about tomorrow’s game between Nebraska and the Northern Illinois Huskies. And, rather than get one opinion, we were lucky enough to get a committee of Husker faithful to weigh in on the game.

Hustle Belt: Nebraska and NIU met two seasons ago with the Huskies pulling off the upset. Do you think, between the loss last week and the Huskie win a few years ago, the Cornhuskers will be looking for a bit of revenge here and come out even stronger than normal?

Greg: One can only hope. Honestly, it’d be nice to see them put together a solid 60-minute game. Probably more of a chip on their shoulder after last week’s loss than the game two years ago, as few of the key players on this team were big factors in 2017.

Jon: Revenge? HAHAHAHAHA That’s an emotion reserved for those that can afford it. Right now, Nebraska just needs to focus on playing good football and figuring out how to win games. I don’t mean to poo-poo my beloved Huskers but it’s clear this team is a work in progress. Take each game as it comes, and try not to drink so much I end up in rehab.

Jill: I’m not sure the Huskers have room for revenge thoughts. They need to focus on redemption.

Andy: There’s a part of me that’s grateful to NIU for that upset. It was the impetus for Shawn Eichorst finally getting a butt first exit for his nonsense and officially put Mike “Ever-body’s Buddy!” Riley on life support. It also set the table for gallows humor about Tanner Lee’s passel o’ Pick-6’s which culminated with Jerry Jones calling one at the Senior Bowl. So, no - no revenge factor. There was plenty of redass that day, but none directed at the Huskies.

Nate M: I think redemption is right. However it won’t be from losing to Northern Illinois a couple years ago. It will be because Colorado scored 34 points in a little over a quarter. Also, there has been a huge roster turnover since Frost has arrived so there aren’t many who were on the team when Northern Illinois came in a beat the crap out of the Huskers.

HB: The Huskers have struggled some in the early going so far this year, needing three non-offensive touchdowns to beat South Alabama and giving up 31 second half points to Colorado in their overtime loss. What adjustments do you think they’ll be making/have made already for this game?

Greg: Well if there’s one thing Nebraska has shown early in 2019, it’s their ability to make adjustments. (Sarcasm) I think it’s more of a mentality than anything specific. It looked like Nebraska went white bread in the third quarter against Colorado, trying “not to lose the game,” which as we all know, almost 100% assures a loss. I’d like to see them get a big lead and keep the foot on the gas pedal.

Jon: They could try scoring a lot. That’d be a hella adjustment. I keep expecting some guys, like running back Dedrick Mills, to break out and get seven yards a carry, or one of our receivers, like Wan’Dale Robinson, to explode like Purdue’s Rondale Moore...but nooooooooooo. Did I mention this is a work in progress?

Jill: The conservative and safe play calling and lack of adjustments to opponents has been a bit baffling. WE WERE PROMISED FAST AND FURIOUS, DAMMIT. We want flying cars and jet-packs. Right now, Coach Frost is acting like he’s driving a Buick (which is really easy for me to say from my couch many miles away from Lincoln).

Andy: I’d expect to see things open up a little more. Northwestern last year and now Colorado this year - Frost likes to talk about keeping your foot on the gas & playing without fear. Well, he coached with fear at the end of both those games. He had a chance to win in Boulder, ran twice and said he didn’t want “to risk an interception” in the presser. Not exactly coaching without fear there.

Nate M: I think the adjustments that need to be made are between the ears of the coaching staff. Their motto is “desire to excel and no fear of failure.” The coaching staff needs to live by this motto if they want the players to do as well. They appear to be calling plays to not make a mistake.

HB: Adrian Martinez can hurt teams both with his arms and his legs. How does the Huskie defense slow him, and the rest of Nebraska offense, down?

Greg: A fair question. I’m glad you brought it up. Forcing Martinez to become a quick decision-maker will almost assuredly lead to mistakes from the Huskers’ sophomore QB. I think he is more in his element when he stays on script and doesn’t improvise.

Jill: Right now, his own offensive line seems to be slowing him down. Establish some confusion on the part of the OL and get them guessing and Martinez’s performance will follow.

Andy: Put the pressure on until they burn you with regularity. So far, the burning has been sporadic enough to make it worth it.

Nate M: Get pressure and you can win.

HB: Ross Bowers, NIU’s new quarterback, has actually giving the Huskies a solid passing attack. How will the Husker defense attack him and this new look NIU offense?

Greg: Well I’m not one to brag, but the Huskers have a lofty +1 turnover margin, so we have that going for us. Actually, not to answer a question with another question, but how does your pass protection hold up? It seems we’ve been blitzing a bit more in the first two games than I remember us doing last year.

Jill: Thus far, the strength of the Blackshirts has been the rush defense - which was expected. Our pass defense seems to be predicated on forcing some turnovers - which they have. The middle of our defense has been suspect and a true pass rush is almost non-existent. Well-timed blitzes and pressuring the QB has been needed to force some bad decisions. Expect more of the same (at least the attempt to do the same).

Andy: Shockingly, points against aside, the defense has been the bright spot. They were owning the Buffs until the offense pooped the bed and left them on the field for about 14:23 vs 0:37 for Colorado in the 3rd quarter. (Maybe that’s an exaggeration, I don’t know.) They can carp that it wasn’t conditioning but c’mon. The Blackshirts still sucked it up for huge stop in OT. And, if it wasn’t for the flea flicker and an absolutely perfect toss into tight coverage for the tying score, they still escape. Look for them to mix their looks, put constant pressure on, get hurries & hits, and grab a couple picks.

Nate M: I think Northern Illinois will have problems scoring on Saturday. Unfortunately, I could probably say the same for Nebraska.

HB: Nebraska plays two Illinois teams in row, heading to Champaign to take on the Fighting Illini next week. Obviously, I know this week’s game is against the better Illinois team...but who do you guys think will be the bigger challenge?

Greg: Well, I don’t think anyone saw The Fightin’ Lovie Smith Santa Beards at 2-0 at this point and, playing them on the road, in prime time, in the Big Ten opener for both...I think that September 21 matchup is going to be tougher than we thought. But I’ll be in the stands for it, and with the 7pm kickoff, I’ll be plenty drunk and belligerent. GBR!

Andy: Welllll, the Illini may be 2-0 but as Sgt Hartman told Joker after he gave him his best war face, “You don’t impress me! Work on it!” The Huskies are the tougher matchup. There’s a reason the Fighting Illini have opted not to fight with Northern Illinois since 2010.

Nate M: Northern Illinois makes me nervous merely because they are coming into Memorial Stadium with zero fear and probably a ton of confidence. I probably could not say the same for Illinois.

HB: Finally, what do you see happening on Saturday night and what’s the final score going to be?

Greg: Well, I see two teams competing on the football field and the winner will be the team whose mascot begins with HUSK. I think NIU, while losing last week, did so to a fine Utah team and will carry that momentum into Lincoln. But I don’t see this one ending in a similar fashion as it did two years ago. I’ll take Nebraska to win but...NIU covers.

Jill: I expect Husker fans to feel uncomfortable through significant stretches of the game with the offense just playing well enough to pull off the W. I hope we get to see that breakout game we’ve been expecting from Wan’Dale Robinson or Dedrick Mills, but I won’t hold my breath.

Andy: I don’t think we’re in a place where we should expect this game to be anything except what Negan would call pants-pissin’ time. Huskers jump to an early lead, find a way to squander it in the second half but keep the composure, get big plays from JD Spielman, Wan’Dale Robinson and Mo Washington to pull away late. And put us +2 in wins through three games over this time last season. NU 38 NIU 28

Nate M: I think Nebraska will do just enough to win and barely cover. 24-7.

Thanks again to the guys over at Corn Nation and don’t forget you can catch the game this Saturday night at 7 p.m. (CST) on FS1.