Against masters of the running game, Nebraska, Washington’s gap discipline will be important — and something the Huskies can control.
SAN DIEGO — Stopping Nebraska on the ground has been a point of discussion since this bowl matchup was announced. As it should be. The Huskers ran for more than 200 yards 10 times this season, not coincidentally all wins. So, let’s take a look at Nebraska’s best offensive option:
What they did on Sept. 18: Three Huskers ran for more than 100 yards, including backs Roy Helu Jr. and Rex Burkhead. If Washington wanted to find one of the largest embarrassments of this season, that would be a candidate.
What they’ve done since: The dropoff in play for quarterback Taylor Martinez has meant that the Huskers featured Helu and Co. even more. Nebraska has also added the Wildcat as the season progressed. Helu ran for 307 yards against then-No. 6 Missouri. That’s right, 307 yards. He’s averaging 6.8 yards per carry. Burkhead ran for more than 100 yards twice more after the Washington game. He’s been stout the last four games.
What can be expected Thursday: More and more and more. No reason for Nebraska to change from its running plan against a Washington defense that allowed almost 200 rushing yards per game in Pac-10 play. Washington’s gap discipline will be important and is something they can control. The main issue is the size and continuity of Nebraska’s offensive line. The Washington defensive line is missing three players, leaving a couple of current starters out of position or forced to play more than the Huskies coaches would like. Nebraska has four starters more than 300 pounds. Those five also started every game this year. In turn, Washington is likely to again lose the fight upfront, allowing Nebraska a good chance at another big offensive day.