Lincoln, NE (Sports Network) - Back in the top-25, the Nebraska Cornhuskers
step out of FBS play this weekend, when they play host to FCS foe Idaho State
at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.
Nebraska got a scare last weekend when head coach Bo Pelini was rushed to the
hospital at halftime with an undisclosed illness. The now 25th-ranked
Cornhuskers took care of business on the field nonetheless, knocking off
Arkansas State, 42-13 to move to 2-1 on the young season. The win improved
Nebraska to 2-1 on the season after knocking off Southern Miss in the opener
(49-20) and losing at UCLA a week later (36-30).
The Bengals play in the Big Sky Conference and enter this contest off a bye
week. Mike Kramer's squad has split the first two games of the 2012 campaign,
losing at Air Force, 49-21 in the opener and routing Black Hills State the
next week, 38-5.
Kramer is preparing his team for this game, but has also stressed that the
outcome isn't nearly as important as the effort.
"It's a great opportunity for us to play in a great environment. The point is
we are trying to prepare ourselves the best we can to win the Big Sky
Conference Championship and that does not go through Lincoln, Nebraska. For us
that begins against Sacramento State. Our immediate goal is to get out of the
game a better football team then when we went into it regardless of if we are
playing Black Hills State or the University of Nebraska."
This marks the first-ever meeting between these two teams on the gridiron.
The Bengals are a team that thrives on the pass this season. Idaho State is
averaging an impressive 541.0 yards through two games, with most of that
coming in the air (443.5 ypg).
Quarterback Kevin Yost has gotten off to a fast start, including going 40-
of-57 passing, for 448 yards and two TDs in the last game against Black Hills
State. Thus far, Yost has completed 74.3 percent of his throws (81-of-109),
for 803 yards, with four TDs and just one INT.
Wideout David Graves also had a productive game last time out, catching 15
balls, for 151 yards and one TD. He now leads the team with 30 catches and 269
yards. Cam Richard has been a favorite target as well, hauling in 20 balls in
the first two games, for 217 yards and one score.
The ground game is the second option on offense and the results are indicative
of that, with ISU averaging a modest 97.5 ypg.
It is tough to judge the Idaho State defense off of two games with vastly
different results. Air Force is a prolific rushing team that has obviously
skewed the numbers against the Bengals, who are yielding 292.5 yards per game
on the ground. The pass defense has been much better (121.5 ypg), but that
again has to be put in proper context.
Sophomore linebacker Mike Beckstead currently leads the team in tackles with
19 and is responsible for the team's only turnover, a fumble recovery. Fellow
sophomore LB Demetrius Allen and junior strong safety Tanner Davis are next
in line in terms of tackles with 15 apiece.
The Cornhuskers have had to deal with the loss of talented tailback Rex
Burkhead in the season-opener to injury, but the depth Pelini has in the
backfield has not missed a beat.
It helps to have a premier dual-threat quarterback in the form of Taylor
Martinez running the show. The sophomore signal-caller is an integral part of
a rushing attack that is putting up a whopping 295.0 yards per game. tailback
Ameer Abdullah has been phenomenal in Burkhead's absence and is averaging
122.3 yards per game on 6.0 yards per carry with four TDs. Martinez adds 58.7
yards per game with his legs, but it is his passing that is gaining praise
lately. Martinez is completing 70.9 percent of his passes thus far, for 713
yards, with seven TDs against just one INT.
Quincy Enunwa (13 receptions, 125 yards) leads the team in catches, but after
a big game against Arkansas State, Kenny Bell (two TDs) is starting to get
more attention. Bell has 10 catches on the season for 205 yards and three
Burkhead is expected back this week, but offensive coordinator Tim Beck was
quick to note that the gameplan will still include his other talented
"They are all deserving. Just because Rex is back doesn't mean we are going to
push those guys away Saturday. They are a big part of our offense and they
always have been, and they will continue to be a part of our offense."
Nebraska's defense has been a bit of a disappointment in the early going,
especially against the run, where foes are netting 225.7 yards per game on
nearly five yards per carry. The pass defense has been much better however,
thanks in part to a pass rush that has already generated nine sacks.
Senior middle linebacker Will Compton is tops on the defense in tackles with
31, with 3.0 TFls and two sacks. Senior safety Daimon Stafford is next with 23
stops, with one fumble recovery, followed by fellow senior safety P.J. Smith
(22 tackles, 3.0 TFLs, 1.5 sacks, one INT).
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