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October 4, 2008If last week's game against Virginia Tech was supposed to be Nebraska's first test of the season, you might as well consider Saturday's match-up with No. 4 Missouri its final exam.
The Huskers learned a lot about their team in a 35-30 loss to the Hokies, and the results weren't quite as promising as many had hoped. Unable to establish any kind of running game or overall offensive consistency, Nebraska struggled to get points on the board until almost the fourth quarter.
Against quarterback Chase Daniel and the Tigers, the Huskers will need all the points they can get. Missouri comes to Lincoln boasting one of the best offenses in college football, averaging more than 50 points and nearly 500 total yards per game.
While NU's defense was able to keep the game close against the Hokies, the challenge gets 10 times more difficult this weekend.
"It's going to be a big test for us, and I feel like really our first true challenge," senior linebacker Cody Glenn said. "It's going to be a big test in the Big 12 with the offenses that we're going to see What we saw the (first) four weeks is nothing like Missouri. It's them down here, Missouri up here. They don't really come close to Missouri, so the preparation for this game is going to be intense.
"We're just going to be a lot more focused on our part because we know what's at hand. Those games before, they were good teams, but they're not Missouri."
Defensively, the top priority will be trying to keep Missouri's passing game in check, which none of the Tigers' first four opponents have been able to do. Led by Daniel, who ranks in the top-5 nationally in a number of passing statistics, the Tigers use a fast-paced no-huddle offense geared by a spread-out passing game.
By not letting defenses huddle up, Missouri is able to tire out secondaries and capitalize on coverage breakdowns. On Saturday, the Huskers know they'll have to play a near flawless game as a defense if they want to have any chance at keeping the Tigers within reach on scoreboard.
"It's a well thought out scheme, they're well coached and they have a lot of good playmakers doing it," head coach Bo Pelini said. "It'll be a nice challenge for us."
Offensively, the key will be establishing long, time-consuming drives to keep Missouri's offense off the field. To do that, the Huskers must find a way to run the football. Outside of their win over New Mexico State, the Huskers have averaged just 97 rushing yards per game, and have broken the 100-yard mark just twice all season.
Last week, Nebraska finished with a season-low 55 yards on the ground.
"We have to be efficient in the run and pass," Pelini said. "We need to run the football better than we did last week. That's always an issue and always something we want to establish. It's a big part of the game. I've said from day one, you've got to stop the run and be able to run the ball on people to win championships."