Nebraska Preview: #19 Cornhuskers Host Maryland
It's been 'Home Sweet Home' for the Nebraska Cornhuskers so far in 2016; six starts at Memorial Stadium, and six victories, heading into the final home game of the season Saturday.
The Huskers will look to cap a perfect season at home when they host Maryland for the first time in program history.
Nebraska is still in the thick of the hunt for the West Division title in the Big Ten Conference, and the spot in the league championship game, December 3, in Indianapolis.
The Huskers need to win their final two games, and hope Wisconsin loses at least once, to leap past the Badgers at the top of the standings. Wisconsin plays at Purdue this week and hosts Minnesota to close out the regular season, next Saturday. After hosting Maryland, the Huskers go to Iowa to close out the regular season next Friday.
Against the Terrapins (5-5/2-5) Saturday, Nebraska will be catching a team in the midst of a three-game losing streak, the last two defeats - against Michigan and Ohio State - coming by a combined 121-6. Maryland is minus-ten in turnovers during that three-game stretch.
The Terrapins have some question marks at quarterback. Starter Perry Hills, the most efficient passer in the Big Ten this season, has been hurt, leaving Caleb Rowe or Tyrell Pigrome as his possible replacements.
The one bright spot for Maryland has been their running game, which is third best in the league. Sophomore Ty Johnson and freshman Lorenzo Harrison have both gone over 600 yards this season, but Harrison was suspended this week and will miss the game in Lincoln.
The Terrapin defense is next-to-last in the Big Ten and has allowed 31 points or more in all of their five losses in 2016. Linebacker Shane Cockerille is the fourth leading tackler in the league.
Maryland's special teams have blocked two punts this season.
The Huskers (8-2/5-2) have a couple of key players battling injuries heading into this game. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong has been very limited in practice this week because of a hamstring issue and is doubtful for the game. Backup Ryker Fyfe has taken most of the snaps with the first team offense this week and, according to the Nebraska coaches, has looked good.
Center Dillon Utter is probable. Cole Conrad, Corey Whittaker, and Michael Decker have all taken snaps at center this week.
The good news for the Big Red offense? Running back Devine Ozigbo is expected to play after missing the Minnesota game with an injury.
Kickoff is 11:00 AM, Saturday, in Lincoln. You can hear the game live on ESPN 99.1, your home for Husker Football in the Sioux Empire.
The Huskers kept their West Division title hopes alive with a 24-17 win at home over Minnesota last weekend.
Nebraska played from behind much of first half, after giving up a 14-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to start the game. It was a drive kept alive by a 12-men-on-the-field penalty on the Big Red punt return team.
The Huskers did grab the lead at the start of the second quarter on a drive that began with a big Armstrong run and finished with a Tre Bryant 35-yard touchdown catch.
But the Gophers ran off the final ten points of the half to lead 17-10 at the break. Those would be the final points of the night allowed by the Blackshirt defense.
Nebraska's first drive of the second half featured the running and receiving of Terrell Newby, who was featured on five of the drive's 11 plays, including a nifty run after catch on a screen pass that ended up going 31 yards to draw the Huskers even at 17.
In the fourth quarter, an already banged up Armstrong orchestrated a 13-play, 91-yard drive, going 5-for-7 through the air for 62 yards, adding in a 13-yard scamper to the end zone to put Nebraska up for good. The scoring run would be Armstrong's final play of the night as he was helped off the field with a hamstring injury.
In the final two minutes, the Husker defense sealed the victory as Aaron Williams tipped a pass into the hands of Kieron Williams for an interception at the Nebraska two yard line.
I talked with the 'Voice of the Huskers', Greg Sharpe, about the Minnesota win and week's match-up with Maryland: