Idaho St.-Nebraska Preview
Nebraska is glad that coach Bo Pelini is back following a health scare last week.
The Cornhuskers are also getting senior running back Rex Burkhead back from injury, and he should provide a nice boost for an already potent ground attack.
The 25th-ranked Huskers go for a 12th consecutive non-conference home win when they face FCS opponent Idaho State for the first time Saturday.
After being taken to a hospital at halftime of a 42-13 home win over Arkansas State last Saturday, Pelini said Monday that he is feeling fine. Team doctors were concerned that his heartburn and dizziness could have been a sign of a more serious issue.
"One thing I don't want is anybody to make this out to be like I'm over-stressed,'' Pelini said. "It was an isolated incident and there were a number of factors that probably contributed to it. I am healthy and there are no issues there whatsoever. Otherwise, to be honest with you, I wouldn't be sitting here today.''
With his team back in the Top 25 after falling out Sept. 9, Pelini will likely have his full complement of backs for the first time. Burkhead is set to return from a sprained knee ligament he suffered in the opener versus Southern Mississippi.
The Huskers (2-1) have not missed him to this point, rushing for 607 yards in the two games without Burkhead, an All-Big Ten pick last season. Sophomore Ameer Abdullah has led the way with 286 yards on the ground.
Abdullah, Imani Cross and Braylon Heard will likely get fewer carries with Burkhead back, but the group's focus is on piling up wins, not yards.
"It's not about trying to get this guy this many amount of carries or this guy a certain amount of touches," said Abdullah, who scored twice last week while setting career highs with 30 carries and 167 yards. "It's about just running our offense and letting the statistics come."
Nebraska, eighth in the FBS with 295.0 rushing yards per game, will try to run for 250 or more in a fourth consecutive contest for the first time since a six-game stretch Oct. 5-Nov. 9, 2002. The Huskers also had a four-game stretch with at least 250 that bridged the 2002 and 2003 seasons.
Idaho State (1-1) could struggle to prevent Nebraska from achieving that feat, as the Bengals gave up 484 rushing yards to run-heavy Air Force in a 49-21 loss Sept. 1.
Idaho State has also been unable to generate much of a pass rush, as it's among nine FCS teams without a sack.
"We go out there like a whole bunch of kittens sometimes and we play like it but we are getting a lot better and well be getting more aggressive but we are greatly concerned about our pass rush," coach Mike Kramer told the school's official website. "Our pass rush has got to improve dramatically."
The Bengals are coming off a 38-5 victory over Black Hills State on Sept. 8.
"This is like their Super Bowl game," Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez said. "They're going to throw everything out there at us. They'll give us their best shot."
Idaho State does boast a potent offense, as senior Kevin Yost has completed 74.5 percent of his passes for 779 yards and four TDs, leading a team that's third in the FCS with 541.0 yards per game.
That unit will go up against a Nebraska defense that's still stinging from allowing 653 yards in a 36-30 loss to UCLA on Sept. 8. The Huskers rebounded by limiting Arkansas State to 286 yards - 89 in the second half.
"We were embarrassed,'' said senior linebacker Will Compton, the team leader with 31 tackles. "We said we'd bounce back and it would be on us to get that corrected. We have to keep doing that moving forward. We can't take a break now and say we're good tacklers. We have to keep building off that.''