Huskers' Offense 'Very Excited' to Test Mettle Against MSU Defense
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Huskers’ Offense ‘Very Excited’ to Test Mettle Against MSU Defense

November 14, 2018

With Nebraska at 3-7 and Michigan State at 6-4, Saturday's game between the two in Lincoln may not have the classic buzz of an "unstoppable force, immovable object" game, but that's the basic setup. The Huskers enter the game averaging 6.61 yards per play (15th nationally) and has been over 7 yards per play in five of their last seven games.

The Spartans are giving up 4.75 yards per play (18th)and have held half their opponents under 5, including Ohio State, the Big Ten's top-ranked offense, a week ago. That makes for the kind of conflict football fans love.

Nebraska's offense is looking forward to it, too.

"Very excited," offensive coordinator Troy Walters said. "We're playing at a high level, their defense is playing at a high level. It's probably the best defense we've played since Michigan, so a great challenge ahead of us and the guys have embraced that."

The Wolverines held Nebraska to 10 points on 2.44 yards per play when the teams met at Ann Arbor in the third game of the season. It was Adrian Martinez's first game back after being injured against Colorado, and the Huskers offense has been a different beast since then, averaging 7.27 yards per play over its last seven games.

The primary conflict on Saturday will be when the Huskers look to lean on their run game. Michigan State ranks second nationally, to Clemson, at 2.55 yards per rush allowed. Walters said the Huskers will have to be able to run the ball to win.

"It's very important. If you don't and you drop back 40 or 50 times they've got a great front four and they get after you. We've got to be smart and we've got to run the football. There's times where we're going to spread 'em out to try and soften them up, [but the run game is] a priority."

Michigan State is 3-2 this season when its opponent has attempted 40 passes or more, but the real key has been accuracy in the passing game. The two losses with 40-plus passing attempts this season were Arizona State and Northwestern. The Sun Devils completed 62.5 percent, the Wildcats 66.0.

Martinez enters the game fourth in the Big Ten in completion percentage (66.9) and 17th nationally.

On to some other news and notes from Wednesday.

>>Walters didn't hold back when discussing what senior wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. has meant to the program this season.

"He's meant everything," Walters said. "He's kind of the standard of how we do things around here. He's awesome. He loves football. Every time he steps on the field he's passionate. He plays to the whistle. He sets the standard and we want all the younger guys in that receiver room to watch him and to be like him. Because if you're like him, you're going to be successful."

Morgan, who is playing his final game at Memorial Stadium, is four catches and 91 yards away from the career receptions and receiving yards records at Nebraska. Both are currently held by Kenny Bell.

"I'm proud to be a small part of it," Walters said, noting all of the coaches who have contributed to Morgan's career at Nebraska. "Wish I had two, three more years with him. He's been awesome."

>>Morgan needs just 144 yards to become the first official 1,000-yard receiver in school history. Wide receiver JD Spielman is 182 yards away and senior running back Devine Ozigbo needs 42 rushing yards to become the Huskers' first 1,000-yard rusher since Ameer Abdullah in 2014.

While the records are nice, they're also something of a health check for this Husker offense.

"We're going to call the game to win, but we know those guys have to get touches, we know those guys have to make plays," Walters said. "We know if we're doing what we're supposed to do those records will come because those guys are going to have to make plays and our offense goes through those three guys."

Spielman left the Illinois game last week with a minor injury. Walters said he’s “day-to-day” on Wednesday.

>>Sophomore right guard Boe Wilson was Nebraska's player of the game on the offensive line position coach Greg Austin said. Wilson graded out the highest of the Husker linemen.

"Boe’s been playing at a high level for a few weeks now and I’m just really excited about who he is, just a good kid, hard, tough-nosed kid, as all the guys are in the room," Austin said. "Just a really good football player."

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