The buzz among the players and coaches on Monday was that Michigan may have been the most physical team Nebraska has played to date. Until this week, that is.
“It’s going to be a bloodbath,” offensive coordinator Tim Beck said of how physical a game he expects on Saturday. Michigan State enters the game with the top-ranked defense in a number of categories.
“They do a lot of things well,” Beck said. “They are a physical football team, they are good up front and they have two of the best cover corners in the league. They are a good football team. They are well coached, physical and they play hard.”
Michigan State currently leads the Big Ten in scoring, rushing and total defense and is stocked with a slew of potential NFL talent on the defensive line. Nebraska enters the game with the top-ranked rushing offense in the league, averaging 264.13 yards per game, but the Spartans have allowed more than 175 yards rushing only once this season and just held Wisconsin to 19 yards last Saturday. That will make first down a key proving ground on Saturday.
“We’ve got to get yards early, got to stay out of bad situations, and got to stay on the field,” Beck said.
Coach Bo Pelini said running back Rex Burkhead remains day-to-day, but the senior was in street clothes after practice on Monday. If he can’t go, that might mean another game where the Huskers lean heavily on Ameer Abdullah, but Beck said Abdullah responded well to the increased load last week.
“Ameer can handle a lot,” Beck said. “He’s proven it to me, and he’s been durable for us. He wants the football and he gets stronger as the game goes on. He kept us on the field and made some really good runs.”
As for the headline-grabbing match-up of Nebraska’s high-flying offense versus Michigan State’s hard-nosed defense, Beck wasn’t assigning it any additional importance.
“I just want to win,” Beck said.
A few additional notes from Monday’s practice:
–Justin Blatchford so his most snaps of the year last Saturday at dime back. Defensive backs coach Terry Joseph talked what earned Blatchford the playing time.
“You’re playing a team like Michigan who has all the motions and different shifts, you want a guy who’s consistent,” Joseph said. “That’s what Blatch showed. He really can fit the run well and he did a good job all week. He deserved to get the playing time and he did a good job.”
–Michigan State has struggled offensively overall, but linebacker Will Compton came away from film study impressed with Spartans’ quarterback Andrew Maxwell.
“He throws the ball well,” Compton said. “He’s a smart guy. Every receiver they have, including their tight end, has between 21 and 32 catches so he spreads the ball out well. He makes his read and he’s good with his arm.”
–Nebraska is in control of the Legends division at the moment, but it’s a slim lead meaning every game will still have meaning in November. Compton said that, particularly as a senior, he’s embracing it.
“It’s a lot more fun, especially when you’re playing well,” he said. “That’s what our team’s doing, especially defensively. We’re starting to execute a lot better.”