Saturday afternoon in Lincoln, the Ducks can expect to see many of the same things that they saw Mike Riley’s team run in Corvallis for all those years. The Cornhuskers like to break out lots of different formations and rotate the run/pass game quite heavily. In the first week we saw Nebraska run the ball much more frequently than week two against Wyoming where they broke out more of a balanced look.
The team is lead by the skill position players in quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. and wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp. Westerkamp already has two touchdowns this season, but actually is not the leading receiver as senior Alonzo Moore holds that with his over 200 receiving yards. Armstrong is a very mobile quarterback who is a very strong runner and can extend plays. The young Ducks defense must be discipline with their coverage as Armstrong will certainly pull a Vernon Adams Jr. and extend plays that should have been a sack.
While Danny Langsdorf is the offensive coordinator, Mike Riley also has his hand in the schemes and calls. Langsdorf and Riley have been working together during a stint from 2005-2013 where Langsdorf was the offensive coordinator in Corvallis. Last year, the Nebraska offense finished in the top three in the Big Ten in scoring and total offense. He of course was in Corvallis during the string of successful offensive campaigns featuring the Rodgers brothers. He has extensive work mentoring quarterbacks, most recently having spent a 2014 stint as the quarterback coach for Eli Manning with the Giants.
Overall the offense is off to a good start while combining for 95 points over Fresno State and Wyoming. To start the season, Nebraska is averaging 263 passing yards per game while racking up 215 yards rushing per game for an average of 478 total offensive yards in the first two weeks. The running game really boosted that average thanks to the performance in the first week where they put up 292 total yards on the ground. As mentioned, last week the offense was a little more balanced as Armstrong Jr. threw for 377.
The Cornhuskers have been very careful with the ball, having turned it over just once on a Tommy Armstrong Jr. interception in the end zone. The interception came as the defense put pressure on Armstrong to make him throw off balance. For the Ducks to be successful, I see pressure being a major key. While it’s important to stay discipline, I think the Ducks need to throw a multitude of looks at Armstrong while bringing five or more on the majority of plays. It’s important to make Armstrong uncomfortable in the pocket and assume the Ducks speed can make up for it if he begins to scramble. If you give him all day in the pocket he will pick out his senior receivers in Westerkamp and Moore all day long.
Three players to watch:
Tommy Armstrong Jr., #4, senior quarterback, 6’ 1”, 220 lbs.
Named to the O’Brien and Maxwell award watch lists to start the season, the senior looks to improve off of the play he had to end the year last season. He is a dual threat who put up over 3,400 total yards last season and 29 touchdowns (seven rushing) last season. His best game last year came against Michigan State with his four total touchdowns. So far this year he has four passing touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns. One thing to note is his 56.8% completion percentage.
Devine Ozigbo, #22, sophomore running back, 5’ 11”, 230 lbs.
Before the season I talked about how senior running back Terrell Newby would be the one to watch out of the backfield. However, in the early going it has been the sophomore who has snagged the role and nearly already matched his total number of rushes from last season. At 5’ 11” and 230 pounds, Ozigbo is a bruising rusher, the Ducks tackling better be on point to bring him down.
Jordan Westerkamp #1, senior wide receiver, 6' 0", 200 lbs.
The senior captain wide receiver will be one guy the Ducks can’t lose sight of. One of the best wide receivers in the conference, Westerkamp had a stellar season last year falling just short of 1,000 yards while reaching the end zone seven times. Only five catches in the first two games this year, but two of those have found the end zone. Teams in the early going have been throwing more coverage his way, which helps explain Moore’s start.
Depth chart takeaways:
· The three way “OR” battle at left guard.
· This game will be won with whoever’s young offensive line performs better