No. 16 Nebraska looks to start faster vs. Rutgers
The No. 16 Cornhuskers (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten) got off to a slow start against the Wildcats just as they did the week before at Michigan State. Unlike against the Spartans, the Huskers came back to win, outgaining the Wildcats 244-28 in the second half while overcoming a three-point deficit.
The Huskers, a half-game behind Minnesota in the West Division, are in the softest part of their conference schedule and can ill-afford a letdown with four straight West opponents lined up after Rutgers.
''When we got off our bye week last week, we talked about how we have six games left with a bye week in between, and we just have to finish strong,'' offensive lineman Alex Lewis said. ''It's something that you're harped on about all winter and all summer, just finishing.''
Rutgers (5-2, 1-2) is coming off a 56-17 loss at Ohio State and is tied for fourth in the East.
''What I want to see is these guys turn the page,'' Scarlet Knights coach Kyle Flood said. ''I want to see guys own their mistakes, understand that we all need to get better, coaches and players alike, and then I want to see guys move forward.''
Things to watch as Rutgers and Nebraska meet for the first time since the Huskers won 28-0 at the Polo Grounds in 1920:
AWAITING AMEER: Rutgers will face the nation's top three running backs over the next three games. Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah is third in rushing (146.3 yards per game), behind Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon (174.3) and Indiana's Tevin Coleman (170.3).
Abdullah went over 1,000 yards for the third straight season last week and joined Mike Rozier as the only Nebraska players to rush for 4,000 in a career.
''Our job is to make sure we do a good job getting him on the ground,'' Flood said. ''He's as good a running back as we've ever faced, so this is a tremendous challenge for our defense to minimize his impact on the game. To think that you're going to eliminate him from the game, I don't know if that's a realistic expectation, but we're going to do everything we can to minimize his impact and control the big plays.''
ANOTHER ICONIC VENUE: A week after contending with almost 107,000 fans at Ohio State's ''Horseshoe,'' the Scarlet Knights go into a 90,000-seat Memorial Stadium where all 337 games since 1962 have sold out. Rutgers did a good job dealing with crowd noise in Columbus, committing no penalties.
''It'll be a very hostile environment when we kick it off there,'' Flood said. ''But it's something that we've handled in the past. I think we have got a good system of nonverbal communication in place to handle it.''
Rutgers defensive lineman David Milewski relishes playing in places like Columbus and Lincoln.
''As a player it's a lot of fun to play in a packed house with people being excited, enthusiastic,'' he said. ''Week in and week out I wish the environment was the same every time.''
BELL RECORD WATCH: Nebraska four-year starter Kenny Bell is poised to break two school career receiving records. Bell needs six catches to move past Nate Swift's record of 166 and 70 yards to eclipse Johnny Rodgers' record of 2,479.
BOWL ELIGIBLE: With its win at Northwestern last week, Nebraska clinched bowl-eligibility for the seventh straight season. Rutgers will be bowl-eligible for the ninth time in 10 seasons with its next win.
A GOOD TIME: The 11 a.m. CDT kickoff is a welcome change to Nebraska coach Bo Pelini. The Huskers are coming off five straight night games, with three of them on the road.
''It wears on you,'' Pelini said. ''I'm glad that we have that part of the schedule behind us. It was a tough stretch. It's going to be good to get home for these next couple weeks.''