Nebraska's shaky defense expects test vs. Ark. St

Nebraska's shaky defense expects test vs. Ark. St

Published Sep. 15, 2012 7:03 a.m. ET

Nebraska is coming off an embarrassing loss at UCLA and Arkansas State can pile up points in a hurry.

So the Red Wolves definitely have the Cornhuskers' attention.

''We don't want to overlook anybody,'' Nebraska tight end Kyler Reed said. ''We've done that in the past. We can't do that again.''

Arkansas State is guaranteed $1 million for Saturday's game - the most Nebraska has ever paid an opponent for coming to Lincoln. And the Red Wolves (1-1) bring along a fast-paced offense similar to the UCLA spread that shredded Nebraska (1-1) for 653 yards. Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin is one of the most prolific run-pass threats in the nation.


The Red Wolves' confidence is fueled as much by its come-from-behind win over Memphis as fellow Sun Belt member Louisiana-Monroe's upset of then-No. 8 Arkansas.

''Nobody's invincible,'' Aplin said. ''It definitely gives you more motivation. You go out and give your `A' game and bring everything you've got, anything can happen. That's something we need to look at and make sure we don't leave anything on the field when that last whistle blows at Nebraska.''

The Huskers have been busy this week resetting their defense.

Coaches have said freshmen, if not in the starting lineup, will see significant playing time at linebacker and on the line.

The depth on the line took a hit with the mid-week departure of starting defensive tackle Chase Rome. He didn't play much in the second half against UCLA, and coach Bo Pelini said Rome quit because of a disagreement with coaches over his role.

Defensive coordinator John Papuchis said if the Huskers don't improve their tackling - they missed an estimated two dozen against the Bruins - ''we'll have a repeat of what we saw Saturday night.''

''As a staff, that's not even in the equation,'' Papuchis said. ''The players want to be better, and we're going to be better.''

Part of the Nebraska coaches' job in the aftermath of the UCLA game has been to get the players' minds right.

''I'm more worried about having a lack of confidence right now,'' defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski said. ''We're up for a challenge. (Arkansas State) has a lot of speed. They're good up front, and it's another running quarterback. The one thing I don't worry about with this team is having too much confidence right now.''

Pelini said running back Rex Burkhead is doubtful. He sprained a ligament in his left knee in the opener, and he didn't play in the 36-30 loss to UCLA.

''I want to make sure he's absolutely 100 percent before we put him out there,'' Pelini said. ''He's chomping at the bit to get out there.''

Aplin, who holds 17 school records, averages 367.5 yards in total offense to rank eighth nationally. David Oku is the featured back in a running game that generates 262 yards a game.

The Red Wolves' seventh-ranked offense amassed 619 yards on 97 plays in a 33-28 win over Memphis. The week before they piled up 530 yards on 81 plays in a 57-34 loss at Oregon. Arkansas State outscored the Ducks 24-7 in the second half.

Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn said he hopes the experience of playing in front of 56,000 fans at Oregon prepared his players for the crowd of 85,000 in Lincoln.

''We didn't respond very well to Oregon, so hopefully we learned some lessons and we won't be as big-eyed and we will be able to settle down and play football a little quicker than we did two weeks ago,'' Malzahn said.

This will be Aplin's second visit to Memorial Stadium. He played three snaps as a freshman on the 2009 team that lost 38-9 to the Huskers.

Aplin said the Red Wolves can't afford to play from behind if they hope to pull the upset.

''The big thing is we can't go three-and-out,'' he said. ''We have to give our defense a break. The biggest thing is starting early. We can't wait until the second half to finally get rolling, because then it will be too late, especially against a team like Nebraska.''

Nebraska, a 24-point favorite, is in no position to go through the motions against the Red Wolves, Reed said.

''You might be the favorite, but you never want to fall asleep against teams like this,'' Reed said. ''Coach Bo and the coaches are going to have us ready and have us alert.''