Friday, December 13, 2002
Huskers ready to prove their inclusion
By Tim Brant
Special to ABC Sports Online
The controversy surrounding the BCS this year is a good thing. Without the controversy, without the conversation, college football wouldn't be what it is today. As long as we don't have a playoff system -- and there is not going to be one for at least another four years -- this is still the best system we have.
The controversy is good, and because of that, people are going to watch the Oregon-Colorado game closely, and they are going to watch the Rose Bowl Presented by AT&T between Miami and Nebraska on Jan. 3 (ABC, 8 p.m. ET).
These are all good things, and Nebraska enters this game not apologizing to anybody. The Huskers are thrilled to be in the championship game, and they believe they deserve to be there. They feel they are as talented as anybody. They are excited to be in Pasadena, and they see this as a chance to redeem themselves for what they call an aberration against Colorado.
When Nebraska has the ball:
|Dahrran Diedrick will be tested by a defense that allowed just 9.4 points per game.|
A lot of people think that Nebraska is one-dimensional. Indeed, the run-pass ratio is 3-1. So there's no question that the Huskers believe they can run on anybody. That's what they are going into this game wanting to do.
They want Eric Crouch and Dahrran Diedrick to run the ball. They want their big guys up front blocking. If they execute, they feel they can get the yards even if Miami knows what's coming. And if they are able to run the ball effectively, they can score some points, eat up the clock and keep Miami's offense off the field.
The Miami coaching staff doesn't think that Nebraska runs the true option like it used to. They consider it more of a power sweep. It's pre-designed to go to Crouch or to Diedrick. When the Huskers do run the option, Crouch executes it very well. He reads the defensive end fast, and he makes good decisions.
Virginia Tech's two biggest plays against Miami came on the option, and Miami didn't cover it well. Nebraska thinks it will be able to find some cutback lanes because the 'Canes' defenders may overpursue. When Virginia Tech ran the option, defensive end Jamaal Green did not hit the tight end, the tight end got down on the linebacker, and because of that, the play went for 47 yards.
The Hurricanes' coaches said those problems have been corrected. They didn't expect the Hokies to run the option that much, and weren't prepared for it. They say they are now prepared for it, and they believe they can stop Nebraska. They also know that they need to carry out their assignments first and then run to the football. The Hurricanes think that if they carry out their assignments, they will be able to stop Nebraska cold.
Nebraska is going to run the ball. That won't change. But one thing that Crouch said before the season he needed to do was improve his passing. He completed 48 percent of his passes in 2000. He did improve that this year to 56 percent. When the Huskers do have to pass, they can be effective. When you run the option, it forces a lot of man-to-man coverage, and they believe they can exploit that. When they have needed a big play, he has gotten it.
When Miami has the ball:
Miami has so many different formations and formation groups, it causes problems for the defense. It's definitely the most complete offense that Nebraska has seen all year.
The Hurricanes love to go to tight end Jeremy Shockey, but he is an atypical tight end. Like a wide receiver, they run him on hitches and out patterns. Then there is Andre Johnson and Daryl Jones, who are speed guys on the track team. They can flat-out fly. You have speed outside and a big body inside, and then you have a guy like Ken Dorsey, who is effective at getting them the ball on time and in rhythm.
The Hurricanes counter that with a great running attack behind an offensive line that is probably the biggest strength of the offense. Clinton Portis runs behind them, and the running game is there.
Boston College and Virginia Tech had success getting some pressure on Dorsey. BC forced four interceptions, while Tech got a couple of sacks on him. Both teams outnumbered Miami up front and took away the run, and took their chances in the passing game. In both instances that was successful.
Nebraska has to outnumber Miami up front. The Huskers are big and strong inside. They are going to force their cornerbacks to play man coverage. If they can't cover them man-to-man, they will have some problems. But they believe Keyuo Craver and DeJuan Groce can do that.
They will try to get them some help over top. Rover Dion Booker was the second leading tackler on the team. Free safety Willie Amos is also going to have to help.
The Huskers are mentally prepared. They expect Miami to get some big plays against them, like everyone else. Frank Solich tells them they need to play, and that if a big play hits, they just need to regroup and shut them down. Nebraska thinks the Colorado game was an aberration. Linebackers were over pursuing, running themselves out of the play. Safeties played soft. They come into this game with a new resolve. It can help them emotionally.
Tim Brant will do the analysis of the Rose Bowl on ABC with Keith Jackson, Lynn Swann and Todd Harris. He is a regular contributor to ABC Sports Online.
|Jermy Shockey leads the Hurricanes with 40 receptions, and scored seven TDs this season.|