OU-Nebraska: Three Keys to the Game

Run the ball, or don't ... Keep Rattler clean ... Tail Martinez
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Eric Gray

Eric Gray

Either run the ball … or don’t

Nebraska’s run defense hasn’t been anything to text home about. Through three games, the Huskers rank 78th in the nation, allowing 143.7 yards per game.

But the Oklahoma run offense wasn’t any better against Tulane, averaging just 3.3 yards per rush.

Things looked much better last week against Western Carolina, but that’s hardly a good barometer to prep for Nebraska’s massive front four.

If the OU offensive line isn’t being efficient in the run game, Riley will bend his playbook and come at things with a different approach.

With only two scholarship running backs, if the Sooners can’t run the ball, look for Spencer Rattler to utilize the short passing game a little more, with throws to Eric Gray, Mario Williams and Marvin Mims.

Spencer Rattler, Jeremiah Hall

Spencer Rattler

Keep Rattler clean

Pass protection hasn’t been a huge problem in the Sooners’ first two games. Spencer Rattler has been sacked twice, each for a one-yard loss and each a product of Rattler choosing to move on his own.

Compared to Nebraska’s defensive line, Tulane and Western Carolina hardly look like they’re playing the same sport.

The Huskers’ starting four goes 6-5/290, 6-3/325, 6-6/305, 6-3/245, and the four backups are 6-2/285, 6-6/310, 6-5/295, and 6-2/270.

Is Oklahoma’s offensive line — maligned for an inability to run the football but untested so far in pass pro — ready for that kind of beef?

Nik Bonitto

Nik Bonitto

Tail Martinez

Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez is the perfect candidate for Nik Bonitto to break out the spy gear.

Bonitto last season emerged as the Sooner defenses most effective “spy” on defense, tailing dual-threat quarterbacks and minimizing their ability to hurt OU on the ground.

Sam Ehlinger ran for 112 yards and four touchdowns in last year’s game, but he also suffered 34 yards in losses. Bonitto had three sacks and two hurries as Kansas’ Jalon Daniels finished with minus-47 yards rushing. Brock Purdy’s mobility in the Big 12 title game was neutralized partly by Bonitto’s spy tactics.

Martinez not only has thrown for 728 yards in three games this season, but he also leads the Cornhuskers in rushing — by a lot. He’s averaging 85.3 yards per game and 7.5 yards per carry, and his speed has produced 75- and 71-yard runs.

Keeping Martinez contained is paramount for the Oklahoma defense, and Bonitto is the right man for the job.

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