Nebraska visits Washington with a high-powered offense
Nebraska comes visiting Washington with an offense led by a quarterback who stirs unpleasant memories in the minds of the Huskies.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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Statistically, the Nebraska team coming to Husky Stadium Saturday looks like the ones of yesteryear.
After two games, the Cornhuskers rank third in the nation in rushing with 324.5 yards per game.
In the aftermath of Washington's 41-20 victory over Syracuse on Saturday, as attention quickly turned to Nebraska, Husky defensive coordinator Nick Holt came up with a more timely — if just as worrisome — comparison.
"They are a lot like Oregon now," he said. "They are putting in a lot of their stuff."
That means lots of zone-read option plays in which the quarterback can hand it off or keep it.
If the Huskies are worried, it might be because they have had little luck stopping anything Oregon has done the past few years, losing six in a row to the Ducks, all by 20 points or more.
Nebraska has found its own version of a Jeremiah Masoli-Dennis Dixon-style quarterback that has given UW fits with the zone-read. Nebraska redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez, who ranks seventh in the nation in rushing with 142 yards a game, fits that mold well.
"We have our work cut out for us," Holt said.
The UW defense, however, continued to take positive steps in the victory over Syracuse, although it came after a shaky start (a description appropriate for the play of the entire team).
After not getting a sack against Brigham Young — a stat that reinforced pass rushing would be an area of concern for the Huskies this season — UW recorded three against the Orange. And after not getting any turnovers against BYU, UW got two.
"I think we're playing at a better level than last year because we know our defense better," Holt said.
That means the Huskies are in the proper position more often than a year ago, and that the coaches also feel more confident to call more varied defenses. UW had success Saturday, for instance, bringing cornerback Desmond Trufant on blitzes.
Dating to last season, UW has held its past four opponents to 23 points or fewer, the first time the Huskies have done that since 1996.
Syracuse's two touchdowns Saturday were each set up by UW miscues in other areas. The opening TD was on a drive kept alive by a penalty on a punt. The second set up by a fumble by UW's Chris Polk.
The Cornhuskers, though, will obviously present a different challenge than an Orange team generally projected to finish near the bottom of the Big East.
After facing Nebraska, the Huskies will have a bye before getting into Pac-10 play at USC, and any questions about where UW stands heading into conference will be answered Saturday.
"It'll be good for us," Holt said. "We need to play somebody like them. It's just good for us, it gets us ready. It's good, it's big-time football. Thank god we have them at home and hopefully we can put everything together. There's some times we can look really, really good out there and we've just got to keep getting better."
Nebraska was installed as a 4 ½-point favorite in the opening line. ... UW WR Jermaine Kearse is third in the nation in receiving yards a game at 143.5.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com.
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