Washington and Nebraska meet for the second time this season in the Holiday Bowl. The Huskers dominated the Huskies 56-21 back in September in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated. Washington is looking for a little bit of redemption in the rematch while Nebraska is trying to overcome being bored and disinterested after missing out on a BCS berth.
When Washington has the ball
Jake Locker has to play the game of his career or at least this season if Washington has any hopes of beating or at least competing with Nebraska. The Huskers out gained the Huskies 535-246 in September and Locker was only 4-for-20 for 71 yards with two interceptions. I expect a different type of Jake in this game.
I think Jake was way too tight during the first game and I don't think that Sark was calling plays that ideally tilted toward Jake and the teams strengths. It is his last game and I expect Sark to pull out all the stops in this one. Look for a mobile Jake to run the ball around a dozen times during the game. That mobility just may give him the time to make some plays that he failed to make in the last game.
Chris Polk finished the year with 1,238 yards and 8 TD's. Jesse Callier did a great job complimenting him and providing a change up. Polk didn't have a great game the last time these two teams played but UW fell behind so fast that they had to go to the pass. Washington needs to establish the run early and get good yardage on first and second downs so they aren't forced into constant passing situations on third down.
If Washington can develop some rhythm running the ball it may open up things a bit for our receivers. Kearse, Aguilar, and Goodwin need to get off the line quickly. They need to play physical and give as good as they are going to get. Nebraska is going to attempt to mug these guys at the line of scrimmage and Washington needs to find a way to neutralize that.
Jermaine Kearse has been Washington's go to man through the air all season. I hope he has been watching tape of Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon because he is going to have to turn in a similar performance on Thursday for the Huskies if they want to stay in this game. Blackmon was the only receiver who was able to burn the black shirt defense this season. He needs to get separation at the line of scrimmage an also be able to come back to the ball and make some plays.
When Nebraska has the ball
In the last meeting the Cornhuskers had three different rushers top 100 yards. QB Taylor Martinez was one of them and he had a great game in a contest that was basically over by halftime. Nebraska has one of the nation's best rushing attacks. Roy Helu Jr. (1211), Taylor Martinez (942), and Rex Burkhead (912 yards) comprise the three headed Hydra which racked up 383 yards in the first meeting.
The Huskies are short handed up front going into this game and Nebraska is going to try to exploit from the get go. It will be tough for Washington to keep this trio under 300 yards in this game. Even though we saw improvement over the last three games the honest truth is the Huskies don't defend the run or this type of offense very well.
Washington made QB Taylor Martinez look like a Heisman candidate in the last game but I think we are going to see some improvement defending him this time. He is a little banged up so he won't be as much a threat to run. He can pass the ball when needed but I think the UW secondary has improved enough to neutralize him.
Washington needs to find some way to slow the Husker offense down. One way would be to deprive Nebraska of possession with a little ball control of their own on offense and taking advantage of Husker turnovers. Nebraska can be prone to turning over the ball even though we didn't see much of that back in September. The field could be sloppy so perhaps some gifts will come Washington's way.
Quarterback : Washington
Running Backs : Even
Receivers : Washington
Offensive Line : Nebraska
Defensive Line : Nebraska
Linebackers : Nebraska
Special Teams : Nebraska
Washington will be missing three key defensive lineman. Cameron Elisara, Semisi Tokolahi, and Talia Chrichton will all miss the game due to injury.
The losses of Tokolahi and Chrichton are huge. Both of the second year players were beginning to come into their own when they were injured. The Huskies really don't have any depth behind them to make up for their absence.
Nebraska S Rickey Thenarse and DT Baker Steinkuhler have been suspended for the game for being picked up for DUI's.
WR Niles Paul is going to play but he won't be close to 100%.
QB Taylor Martinez is being described as beaten up and he shouldn't be the type of running threat he was in the first game. That being said he has had nearly a month to recover from a high ankle sprain. If he is as mobile as he was in the first meeting that will spell trouble with a capital "T".
The Bulletin Board
Niles Paul - "This team (Washington) likes to talk so I'm pretty sure they will motivate us out there on the field.They talked a lot of trash, a lot of trash. Before the game, during the game, after we led, after we were leading. They were non-stop. They kept going way more than most teams, more than any team I've been around. It has to be like a mental thing or something. But we held our mental composure and did what we were supposed to do."
Jake Locker - "We knew they (Nebraska) were good and really talented. We just across the board didn't play as well as we needed to on offense. We know it's a great defense and we know what we are going to get out of them this time around and it's up to us to go out and compete a little bit harder and make things happen.''
PJ Smith - "It's really exciting, because now we can go out there and shut him (Locker) down one more time, let him know that we're still the best secondary in the country."
Steve Sarkisian Quotes
"I don't really concern myself with whether we are a favorite or an underdog. That part doesn't really matter, you have to go play the game. I think the big key for us in this game is that it's really not about our opponent. We've really tried to embrace this idea that this is about us and our ability to prepare as best we can mentally and physically to get ourselves to a point to where we believe in ourselves that we are worthy of winning the game. So to use that as motivation when everybody else is telling us we are supposed to be, I don't know if it works like that.''
"Well, I think the biggest thing we'd like to do is at least put our best foot forward. The press conference after that game (56-21 loss), my major disappointment was the fact we just didn't play very well. I can live with the fact they played a very good football game against us, but I'd just like to think we can play better than we did. To have that opportunity again is one that I think we're embracing.''
Bo Pellini Quotes
"I've never done it before (playing the same non conference team twice in a season), so I'll tell you after the game. It actually makes it a little bit easier, probably on both (teams') accounts, for both staffs. You have a little bit of familiarity. It's kind of like being in the NFL again."
All five of Nebraska's offensive linemen started 13 games this season. Four weigh more than 305 pounds.
The Huskies allowed an average of just 136.3 yards rushing in the last three games, compared to a season average of 198.8.
Washington and Nebraska will meet three times in less than 12 months.
Washington is on a three game winning streak.
Nebraska started the season on fire averaging 458 yards and 38 points over the first eight games. The Cornhuskers averaged 343 yards and only 25 points over the last five games.
Nebraska blanked Arizona 33-0 in the 2009 Holiday Bowl.