EAST LANSING — We are back with another edition of our weekly Q&A! This time we’re doing something a little different and I think you guys are going to like it.
We asked our usual amount of questions to Corn Nation, only this time we’ve got multiple guys responding.
Let’s give a big shoutout to Andy Ketterson for helping us put it all together!
Let’s start from the top. Nebraska went out and got Scott Frost to be the new head coach of their program. The Huskers started the season 0-6 with no real end in sight. How did the fanbase react to this kind of start? Were they cutting Frost and his staff some slack because they are in year one?
Uglydog56: Overall, everything I saw showed most people coming to grips with the magnitude of the required rebuild as the season progressed. Mostly the record was blamed on changing the Tunnel Walk song, at least by me. It made for some good dark humor, that’s for sure!
Jon: People began to question their neighbors’ loyalty to the program. They began to look for signs of curses, witches, and other nefarious evil-doings. There was a cry of “whom amongst us is not amongst the faithful!”, but no one ever blamed Scott Frost. Just as it appeared there would be a number of witch burnings, we won a game.
Nate M: We all knew it was coming when Scott Frost’s debut was cancelled because of mother nature. It is pretty much a rule. If your first game of the season is against Akron and gets rained out then you will start 0-6. Show me where that has not happened before in the history of college football. So we all knew what was going to happen and how it was going to happen and we never got nervous and didn’t take second mortgages out on our house to pay for goats to be sacrificed or anything like that. Nope.
Andy: The worst were a few Bo Hater/Riley Lover holdouts proclaiming that Frost was garbage and why wasn’t Riley given such rope (Short answer: Riley inherited seven straight 9/9+ win seasons, Frost inherited a dumpster fire) and they’ve mostly slunk away now, but other than some grousing about the record, most knew Hiroshima wasn’t being rebuilt in one day, saw the improvement and hung in there. And yes, Frost is being given lots of slack.
Mike: Even at 0-6, people saw progress in the program. The Huskers weren’t getting boat-raced by the likes of Minnesota anymore. Being Frost gave him time, but people could see that the program was coming out of the ditch.
That being said, they’ve now won three out of the last four games while gaining 450+ yards of offense in their last seven. What’s been the key to making this offense click? What kind of success do you see them having against a very good MSU defense?
Uglydog56: Scott Frost has called a pretty good game all season. The key was the improvements the offensive line made, allowing the plays to execute, which opened the playbook. Nebraska has had playmakers, there just hadn’t been enough time to get the ball to any of them. I think the passing game early is going to open up the field, allowing RB Devine Ozigbo to break loose in the second half.
Jon: Everyone got going in the same direction. Sounds silly, but that’s really what happened. It’s that “buy in” thing where you think you’re working hard and doing the right things and you’re not. Then one day you wake up and say, “holy beans, I’ve not been doing this right”. It helps if you wake up and the rest of your teammates are standing around with you with bars of soap stuffed into their socks, but that’s just a technicality. I expect this offense to have success against any defense. There’s misdirection stacked on misdirection and there are playmakers.
Nate: The improvement of the offensive line is the largest reason why the offense has started clicking. The game against Michigan was atrocious for that offensive line. And it has been a steady improvement from that point on. Also, the immergence of Devine Ozigbo has been huge as well.
Andy: Agree with all of the above - in addition, I think the Northwestern game was a wake-up call for Frost. He tried to back into the first win instead of going for the throat as he had preached. Playcalling has been more aggressive since and the results are speaking for themselves.
Freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez was recently named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week for his performance against Illinois. He gained 345 yards of total offense and has tied a school-record with his sixth straight 300-yard game. What are you expecting out of him Saturday?
Uglydog56: Adrian Martinez will throw for 2 touchdowns, rush for another, and win yet another Freshman of the Week honor. As he runs off the field at halftime he will save a child from choking on too big a bite of Runza. He will answer all questions at his entire postgame presser with Haiku.
Jon: A crap ton of yardage and great plays.
Nate: I think this is going to be a huge test for the true freshman. Even with the improved offensive line play, I think this Michigan State defense is going to really challenged Martinez mentally and physically. He is going to get hit multiple times and we will see how he responds. If Nebraska cannot run the ball against MSU then he will have to win the game for us. That is a lot on his shoulders.
Andy: Nothing to add - Michigan St will provide a stiff test, but along the same lines, they haven’t seen anything like him either. I believe he will squeeze out some big plays, but I’m not cocky about it. I’m looking forward to seeing how this part of it plays out and chewing of some finger meat in the process.
Devine Ozigbo is another name I’d like to throw into the mix. He was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week after he rushed for 162 yards on 11 carries, while scoring a career-high three touchdowns. Mark Dantonio mentioned him during his weekly press conference saying he was one of their “outstanding players” and acknowledged how close he was to rushing for 1,000 yards this season. What have you seen out of Ozigbo and will he be a factor against the stingy Spartan defense, who are only allowing 76.5 yards per contest.
Uglydog56: During the offseason, I wasn’t very high on Ziggy. In fact, on the 5 Heart Podcast, I projected him to spend the season on the bench except for blocker duty on the occasional third and long. He has really made me eat crow! This kid has done nothing but work and get better. It will take some time for him to get rolling on Saturday, but he will get the rest of the yards he needs for his 1000 yard season. If he’s truly the potential Sunday talent people have said he is, he will get yards, even against the effective run defense of Michigan State.
Jon: We won’t run wild on the MSU defense with the exception of Martinez scrambling to save his life. I see Ziggy, not as a decoy necessarily, but as a yard and time eater, a guy to keep the middle of your defense worried or working while other guys make big plays around him. He is a key to misdirection. If you’re misdirecting in the wrong direction, Ziggy will hurt you.
Nate: Ziggy is the best story of the season. We have been counting him out for a long time, and we want to count him out again against the number one rushing defense in the country. This is an opportunity for him to show NFL scouts how good of a running back he can be. I hope he does well. The one thing he has shown this year is an ability to make people miss in the backfield and then make one cut and get up field. He couldn’t make anybody miss over the previous three seasons.
Andy: After the spring game, everyone firmly expected Greg Bell to be the lead back, Mo Washington stepping in after fall camp, and Ziggy sort of being in the mix. Instead Ozigbo showed how he stronger and faster and basically outworked Bell right off campus becoming the lead back in a Ziggy-Mo 1-2 punch and started showing off his new breakaway speed. He has been a revelation and the NU running game vs. MSU’s front 7 might determine who comes out on top.
What are the three keys to victory for Nebraska?
1. Getting Adrian Martinez broke loose on a few good runs so the Spartan defense has to devote a defender to him.
2. Using that hole in the pass defense to open up the passing game.
3. Which will loosen up the defense, allowing the run game to be effective.
4. Keeping the Michigan State QB off balance so they don’t get into a rhythm. That’s four. Sorry.
Jon: Limit the turnovers. Special teams isn’t the steaming pile of crap that it’s been all season. Martinez avoids big hits by Sparty defenders who want to kill him.
Nate: The Nebraska defense doesn’t give up big plays. I hope they change a couple things up and try to keep the ball in front of them and come up and make a tackle. The Michigan State offense will need help and I am nervous that the Nebraska defense will be more than willing to provide that help. Limit turnovers and get some takeaways. If the Blackshirts didn’t get some of those turnovers last week, then that score against Illinois looks a lot different.
1. Nebraska continuing to limit the penalties/turnovers/nonsense that plagued them during the 0-6 start.
2. Adrian Martinez & NU’s running game vs. the MSU D.
3. The resistable force (Spartan O) the moveable object (Husker D). Which of these units wins the battle of the blah?
Prediction time: Final score? Who wins? Why?
Uglydog56: Nebraska 42, Michigan State 31.
Jon: Nebraska 35, Michigan State 21 - I just don’t see the Spartans able to put up many points unless we give them to them (a distinct possibility). You have injuries on top of injuries while our beloved Huskers have only gotten better as the season has progressed.
Nate: I think Michigan State wins this game. Obviously, I’m looking forward to being wrong. But even with an offense that is struggling like Michigan State’s, I just expect that either their defense gets a score or something else altogether happens (SPECIAL TEAMS ANYONE) which gives Michigan State some easy points. Final Score 17-13 MSU.
Andy: The previous three responses shape who I think will win. If the score gets up there, it’s Nebraska’s type of game and if lower, a Michigan State slugfest. And while I realize, he’s not coming at it with Oregon’s offense, I believe Nebraska’s playmakers can compare with some of the best in the country at this point and believe that Frost’s previous success against the Spartan D with Oregon is an advantage albeit a slight one. If everyone’s healthy, it might be enough - Huskers 30 Spartans 27.