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SS Looks at the Sooners' Weekend Battle
How They Match Up is a regular feature in Sooner Spectator magazine each week of the football season....
Oklahoma running game vs. Nebraska run defense
As long as Adrian Petersonâ€™s sprained right ankle restricts his ability to slalom, the Sooners will continue getting creative in the run game. Although, it looks as if he will start on Saturday. Too many hits took a toll on Rhett Bomar and the coaching staff scrapped the zone-read for the Kansas game, but heâ€™ll still be a threat at times. Donta Hickson and Kejuan Jones still need to make valuable contributions, and watch out for Jacob Gutierrez and Allen Patrick, both of whom made significant contributions in the win over Baylor.
Through six games, Nebraska LB Corey McKeon led the team with 50 tackles, 11 of which were in the backfield. The Cornhusker front four excels at penetrating gaps and holding the point of attack, allowing their linebackers to clean up ballcarriers. In its first six contests, Nebraska led the nation in rushing defense, allowing just 65 yards per game and 1.9 yards per carry.
Oklahoma passing game vs. Nebraska pass defense
Against Kansas, OUâ€™s Rhett Bomar finally showed signs of the skills that made him the top prep QB in the nation. He hooked up twice with Malcolm Kelly on downfield throws, executed a slick play-action fake and 35-yard pass to Kejuan Jones and minimized his bad plays. Then, he followed up with a game-winning toss to Juaquin Iglesias against Baylor. A healthy Travis Wilson will add another threat to the mix. TE Joe Jon Finley should become a priority.
Huskers CB Daniel Bullocks is one of the Big 12â€™s top playmakers. He started the year second on the team with 40 tackles, led the club with eight passes defended and had an interception and a fumble return. The scariest thing about Nebraska, however, is its pass rush. The Huskers have led the Big 12 all season in sacks (their 34 after six games was almost twice as many as OU and Kansasâ€™ second-place total).
Oklahoma offensive line vs. Nebraska defensive line
OU center Chris Chester (knee) remains iffy. C Chris Bush (305 pounds), RG J.D. Quinn (305) and LG Kelvin Chaisson (304) graded well against Kansas. LT Brett Rayl subbed for Davin Joseph (312) against KU, but Joseph should be OK after a neck sprain. Jon Cooper (278), Branndon Braxton (318), Chris Messner (280) and Duke Robinson (360) are helping develop depth.
NUâ€™s top six linemen â€” DE Adam Carriker (280), DE Jay Moore (270), DT LeKevin Smith (305), DT Titus Adams (305), DE Wali Muhammad (255) and DT Ola Dagundro (288) â€” donâ€™t have overwhelming size, but they did combine for 18.5 quarterback sacks in the Huskers' first six games. Carriker is one of the best all-around linemen in the Big 12.
Oklahoma special teams vs. Nebraska special teams
After hitting a 52-yard FG against Texas, Sooner PK Garrett Hartley missed two field goals and an extra point against Kansas. But the sophomore rebounded by nailing a clutch 39-yarder to force a second OT vs. Baylor. P Cody Freeby is gaining better consistency and kept KU backed up. Freeby led the Big 12 with 37 punts through six games, averaging 41.7 yards per kick. OUâ€™s punt and kickoff coverage teams remain the best in the Big 12,despite allowing a TD to Baylor.
Nebraskaâ€™s punt return unit ranked second in the Big 12 through six games, with Cortney Grixby (10.7 yards per return) the safe man and Terrence Nunn (27.6) the dangerous one. P Sam Koch averages nearly 44 yards per kick, including a Big 12-best 84-yarder. PK Jordan Congdon is among the Big 12 leaders with 11 FGs (on 14 attempts), but his longest in NUâ€™s first six contests was 41 yards.
Nebraska running game vs. Oklahoma run defense
Husker RB Cory Ross has two 100-yard games this season and averaged 91 in NUâ€™s first six games, but he averaged just 4.3 yards per carry. The Huskers ranked 74th nationally with just 128 yards per game. Freshman RB Marlon Lucky (84 yards, 3.2 average in games 1-6) is being brought along slowly. QB Zac Taylor of Norman isnâ€™t a threat to run.
The Sooner defense (79.2 yards per game, sixth nationally) has devoured every teamâ€™s run game but one, and still held Texas 100 yards below its season average. DT Dusty Dvoracek draws a double-team on every snap, coaches say, but still is the co-leader with 10 tackles for loss. WLB Rufus Alexander (53 tackles through six games) and MLB Zach Latimer (46) are finishers.
Nebraska passing game vs. Oklahoma pass defense
Nebraska QB Zac Taylor averaged 204.5 yards in his first six starts and has a good handle on the West Coast offense, although he completes just 54 percent of his throws and started out with seven TDs and five INTs. WR Terrence Nunn had the team lead with 22 catches, and RB Cory Ross was second with 21. No one averages more than 15 yards per catch.
At times, it seems as if the Sooner DBs are peas in a shell game. SS Reggie Smith is maturing into an All-Big 12 talent. Lewis Baker replaced Nic Harris at FS after Harris replaced Darien Williams, who moved to CB to back up Chijioke Onyenegecha, who was replaced by Eric Bassey, who got hurt. Marcus Walker is still hobbled. D.J. Wolfe is set at CB.
Nebraska offensive line vs. Oklahoma defensive line
Three starters are back, but just six lettermen returned. That has led to slow-developing consistency in both the run game (3.3 yards per carry) and the pass game (11 sacks allowed) in NUâ€™s first six contests. C Kurt Mann (290 pounds), RG Brandon Koch (310) and RT Seppo Evwaraye (320) have been consistent, but LG Greg Austin (290) and RT Cornealius Fuamatu-Thomas (315) are still coming.
DEs C.J. Ah You (265) and Calvin Thibodeaux (251) played every snap against Kansas and were excellent. The duo was just as good against Baylor. In OUâ€™s first half-dozen games, they combined for 42 tackles, 13 for loss, and five QB sacks. DTs Dusty Dvoracek (298), DT Carl Pendleton (277) and Remi Ayodele (300) have played well in the middle, but could use some help from Cory Bennett and Steven Coleman.
Oklahoma coaching staff vs. Nebraska coaching staff
Bill Callahan has a long way to go to win over fans who have chilled to him in Lincoln, but a win here would give him a big push. John Blakeâ€™s defensive linemen are one of the few real strengths in this Husker team. The Nebraska staff is starting to develop good chemistry. Only one assistant â€” WRs coach Ted Gilmore â€” is new this season.
This series isnâ€™t what it once was, but Bob Stoops continues to embrace its tradition and heritage. Nebraskaâ€™s powerful defense and curious offense will provide a good test of whether all the tinkering in the offensive line by Kevin Wilson and in the secondary by Bobby Jack Wright have paid off or not. Watch for more effective adjustments by Chuck Long and Brent Venables.