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Mailbag: Prepping for Ohio State

November 01, 2016

The time has finally come for Nebraska to hit the road and face the Ohio State Buckeyes. It’s in primetime with the ABC/ESPN No. 1 crew and there’s a lot on the line for both teams. Exciting, huh? That’s why we weren’t too surprised when most of this week’s mailbag questions focused heavily on the Huskers’ preparation for Ohio State. A Halloween candy question made its way in too, though. You can’t say no to candy questions.

Brandon Vogel, Jacob Padilla, Jake Jensen and Erin Sorensen answer your questions in this week’s Hail Varsity mailbag.

Q: Do you think Tommy helps or hurts the team more over the whole course of a game? – P.C., Neb.

JJ: I’d say if you were looking at just the tangible stats, then you would have to say that Armstrong has hurt Nebraska during Big Ten play; 73-for-140 (52.1 percent), four touchdowns and six interceptions in Big Ten play is hard to explain away. But I do think he brings a lot to the table in terms of intangibles. Not a lot of quarterbacks can lead a team to 10 fourth-quarter points against Wisconsin’s defense, but Armstrong made it happen even if it didn’t always look pretty.

JP: Well, in comparison to who else would be taking snaps, I’d say Armstrong is a net positive for this team as we saw against Purdue last year. That being said, and despite the toughness and heroics Armstrong has demonstrated, there’s no denying that his inefficient play is a big part in why those heroics are necessary. At the start of the year, it didn’t seem like Armstrong was the best quarterback to maximize the talented skill players he has around him under Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf’s scheme. However, with the deterioration of the offensive line, I’m not sure a pocket passer would be able to survive. Either way, Armstrong is the team’s quarterback for the rest of this season and it’s up to him and the coaches to try to get the most out of this offense.

Q: What plans does Mark Banker have to slow Samuel, Barrett? – C., Worthington, Ohio

JJ: I hope they come out guns blazing and really try to heat up this Ohio State offense. Ohio State’s wide receivers have struggled since the start of Big Ten play, as they haven’t been able to consistently get separation against tight man coverage. I’d trust Jones and Kalu, put Aaron Williams on Samuel and devote the rest of the defense to shutting down Weber and Barrett.

Q: What is your opinion on our lack of getting the screen game going against Wisconsin? – K.L.

That’s a question I’m still pondering. Wisconsin didn’t blitz nearly as
much as I thought they would, but they were still the aggressive. I
think the time was perfect for a screen after Nebraska got to midfield
on their final drive, but they went with a toss over the middle to Sam

BV: I think the Badgers spying Armstrong often on Saturday may have scared Nebraska off it a little bit.

Q: Is QB play going to be good enough for Nebraska to get the win this week? – S.E., Neb.

I’m going to say yes. Armstrong has a tendency to bounce back from bad
games, see UCLA last year. Nebraska also needs to keep pounding the rock
with the run game to keep taking pressure off of him.

BV: I have
my concerns on that front. Things are not trending in the right
direction for Armstrong at the moment, either with the run or the pass.
The offensive line injuries certainly have something to do with that,
but that’s not getting fixed. So somehow Armstrong has to basically
reverse the trends of the last month against the best team Nebraska has
faced thus far on the road. It’s a big ask and one I can’t reasonably
project will happen this week.

ES: Armstrong would have to have
the game of his life. Not saying that can’t happen, but it’s going to
require a tough offensive line to help.

Q: Have you ever seen a bigger year-to-year improvement bigger than our secondary at any position? – J.T., Hickman, Neb.

JJ: The defensive line from 2007 to 2008 is probably my biggest year-to-year improvement, just because Nebraska’s D-line was so embarrassingly bad in ‘07. Nebraska’s secondary was bad in 2015, but it had some good moments. The 2007 defensive line never had any good moments; it was just bad all around.

JP: That being said, the improvement across the board in the secondary has been remarkable. Part of that has been simply replacing some of last year’s starters (Daniel Davie, Jonathan Rose, Byerson Cockrell) with better players (Chris Jones, Aaron Williams, Kieron Williams). But guys like Nathan Gerry and Joshua Kalu (as well as Jones and the Williamses) have improved greatly as well. Both Mark Banker and Brian Stewart have done a tremendous job with that secondary.

Q: What Blackshirt vs. tOSU matchups should we keep an eye on? – M.G., Olathe, Kans.

Aaron Williams versus Curtis Samuel is the matchup of the entire game.
It should be fascinating to watch. If Williams can win this matchup, I
don’t think Ohio State will be able to top 20 points against Nebraska’s
defense. (Also, I’ll have more key matchups to watch in our forums in a couple days. Make sure you tune in!)

Q: Any thoughts on possible NY6 bowl game matchups? Colorado in the Rose or Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl? – D.D., Omaha, Neb.

Nebraska’s best bet is probably the Rose Bowl, where I’m guessing the
Huskers will end up facing Colorado. You have no idea how strange it was
for me to type “Colorado” and “Rose Bowl” in the same sentence.

Have seen a few Cotton Bowl projections trickle out, too. Nebraska
still has a hard road ahead to get to that point, but if the Huskers
were to get there, my heart would want Oklahoma in Texas, but maybe the
Rose Bowl has more prestige and it’s in California, the most valuable
recruiting area for Nebraska right now. If the latter comes to be, I’d
just as soon see Colorado there than any other Pac-12 team, though a
Washington State matchup could be fun.

ES: I’d take Colorado in
the Rose Bowl. Had you asked me that ten years ago, I’d have rolled my
eyes at playing Colorado. Now that the two have parted ways from the Big
12? Bring it on.

Q: What’s with NFL quarterbacks putting on a hat when then come to the sideline? – K.B., Omaha, Neb.

BV: I assume this is mostly a branding thing. Companies pay huge money to be the official on-field supplier for things like that and while I wasn’t able to find any mention of a mandate that quarterbacks must be wearing a hat when on the sidelines, would we really put it past the NFL to have such a rule (and big fines for breaking it) in place? It also wouldn’t surprise me if it were only quarterbacks, either. Who does the camera find in 95 percent of non-coach camera shots?

ES: I’m with Brandon. I’d bet it’s some sort of endorsement deal.

Q: Why do you think Mike Riley didn’t let Drew Brown kick a field goal at the end of the fouth quarter? – M.

JJ: You mean at the very end of the game? That would have been a 68-yard field goal attempt. Chances of that even reaching the goal line are pretty slim.

Q: More timeless Huskers costume: @FauxPelini or Kenny Bell? – D.F., Lincoln, Neb.

JJ: My favorite is still the full body ear of corn with a red N on it. Simple and effective.

ES: I saw a Kenny Bell costume last night. It was great. I think either are timeless, as long as you do it right.

Q: What’s your go to Halloween treat? – T.K., Omaha, Neb.

JJ: Sixlets. For whatever reason I only eat those thing around Halloween, but I inhale those things.

JP: Skittles. And Twix. And Milky Way. And… I may have a problem.

ES: I really like Snickers and Twix. I ate a few of those last night.

BV: Not sure what this says about me, but I’ve always found joy in Milk Duds. They’re an unruly candy. Hard to chew, get stuck in your teeth and the Halloween version only introduces packaging problems. Those little boxes eat up a lot of candy-bucket real estate, they’re pretty wasteful and we’ve all had the one-or-none experience before where you pry open that little, yellow chamber of chocolate and caramel only to find you’re way short of the typical three Duds. Maybe the Milk Duds name should be taken literally, but that would only make me love one of Halloween’s most unlovable candies even more. I guess what I like the most about Milk Duds is their unpredictability. You can’t count on Milk Duds, but those days when you get a pillowy-soft batch? Tough to beat.

Q: If we have to replace our Libero, is there a better time to face Penn
State without Justine Wong-Orantes than now, with the Nittany Lions’
second three-match losing streak of the year? Or is this the worst time
because after their first losing streak PSU popped off 15 straight wins?
– K.

JP: Regardless of how the Nittany Lions have been playing
lately, they are still one of the best teams in the country with one of
the greatest home court advantages in college volleyball. Kenzie Maloney
is a very good player and Cook has high hopes for her as the libero
next season, but Justine Wong-Orantes is one of the best players in the
country. Her status is still up in the air, but whether she can play or
not the Huskers will have to be on top of their game to come out with a

Q: Can we make a national push to start calling coin flips “Heads” and “Foltzy”? It needs to be done, right? – C.S.

BV: That’s so much better than tails. So much better.

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