Buffaloes scouting report
Head coach: Mel Tucker, 1st season (1-0)
Last week: Defeated Colorado State, 52-31, in Denver
Key players on offense
RB Alex Fontenot, So., 6-0, 195: 19 att., 125 yards, 3 TD
QB Steven Montez, Sr., 6-5, 230: 13-of-20, 232 yards, 2 TD; rush: 5 att., 39 yards
WR Laviska Shenault, Jr., 6-2, 230: 3 rec., 48 yards, 1 TD; rush: 3 att., 35 yards
Key players on defense
DL Mustafa Johnson, Jr., 6-2, 290: 4 tackles, 1 QB pressure, 1 fumble recovery
ILB Nate Landman, Jr., 6-3, 230: 11 tackles, 1 QB pressure
S Mikial Onu, Sr., 5-11, 205: 5 tackles, 2 INT
CU offense: Last week, the Buffs debuted their new offense, led by coordinator Jay Johnson. They racked up 475 yards and 45 points, while running the ball on 67 percent of their plays (40 of 60). Montez brushed off a slow start and was efficient most of the night in running the offense, while spreading the ball to six receivers. Fontenot and freshman Jaren Mangham (11 att., 42 yards, 1 TD) were a solid 1-2 punch at running back; the Buffs will ride the hot hand between those two. The Buffs will throw multiple looks at the opposition, but rely on the run game and Montez’s experience to produce results against the Cornhuskers.
CU defense: It was mixed-results beginning for the Tyson Summers-led defense last week against CSU. The Buffs gave up 31 points and 505 yards, but produced four turnovers, including a fumble return for touchdown. Players have talked about this being a complicated defense, but CU did keep it vanilla against the Rams, running out of their base 3-4 alignment for a large chunk of the game. They are likely to show more as the season goes along, starting against Nebraska. The Buffs showed some vulnerability on the perimeter and in the secondary, giving up several big plays to the Rams. The perimeter defense will be a key against Nebraska’s offense.
CU special teams: A veteran, experienced group, the Buffs got off to a good start, as expected. Kicker James Stefanou (1-for-1 o
n field goals, 7-for-7 on extra points) was perfect, while Alex Kinney averaged 49 yards on four punts, including a 63-yarder. Receiver KD Nixon handled the limited number of returns (one punt, one kickoff).
CU keys to beating Nebraska
Run the ball: Last year in Lincoln, CU ran for just 44 yards on 35 carries, but still managed a 33-28 win. That was CU’s worst rushing total in a win since 1998. The Buffs can’t count on winning without a rushing attack again. In fact, in the last 37 games in this series, dating back to 1975, the team with the most rushing yards is 35-1-1. The Buffs don’t need to rack up 200-plus yards, but efficient production throughout the day will do.
Hold the edges: The Buffs gave up some big plays on the perimeter to CSU last week and Nebraska has more overall team speed. The Cornhuskers are sure to attack the edges and see if they can bust a few big plays. The Buffs have to limit those plays.
Montez beating Martinez: The two quarterbacks won’t battle each other, obviously, but the quarterback that has the better game is likely to be one celebrating a victory. Montez was great in Lincoln last year (33-of-50, 351 yards, 3 TD) and he’s been named a captain for this game. He has to step up as a senior leader and be at his best.
Stay focused: This is the most anticipated game at Folsom Field in years, and the CU players have been hearing all year about the hatred they are supposed to have for Nebraska. The fans will be loud and the atmosphere should be electric, but the Buffs have to drown that out and focus on the task at hand.
- Montez is 337 passing yards away from passing both Joel Klatt and Cody Hawkins for second on CU’s career list. He comes into the game with 7,073 yards for his career.
- Receiver Laviska Shenault needs just four catches to reach 100 for his career.
- Among skill position players on offense (running backs, receivers, tight ends), sophomore tight end Brady Russell played, by far, the most snaps against CSU. He was on the field for 56 of CU’s 60 offensive snaps, including 56 of the 57 first-team snaps.
- Linebacker/Star Davion Taylor made the most of his playing time last week, with five tackles in 26 plays.
- CU has won 12 consecutive non-conference games played in Colorado (seven in Boulder, five in Denver).
Cornhuskers scouting report
Head coach: Scott Frost, 2nd season (5-8; 23-15 career)
Last week: Defeated South Alabama, 35-21, at home
Key players on offense
QB Adrian Martinez, So., 6-2, 225: 13-of-22, 178 yards, 1 INT; rush: 13 att., 6 yards
RB Dedrick Mills, Jr., 5-11, 220: 15 att., 44 yards, 2 TD; 1 catch, 3 yards
TE Jack Stoll, Jr., 6-4, 260: 3 catches, 66 yards
Key players on defense
LB Mohamed Barry, Sr., 6-1, 245: 12 tackles
S Eric Lee Jr., Sr., 6-0, 215: 4 tackles, 2 INT (1 TD)
CB Cam Taylor-Britt, So., 6-0, 215: 5 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble
Nebraska offense: The Cornhuskers like to play up-tempo and utilize the RPO (run-pass option) game, but they’re coming off a poor performance against South Alabama. Freshman Cameron Jurgens, a former tight end playing center for the first time, struggled with his snaps last week and that threw off the rhythm of quarterback Adrian Martinez. Overall, it was a lackluster game for Martinez and the entire offense, which generated only 14 points and 276 yards against one of the nation’s worst defenses. Despite that, the Huskers have explosive potential. Martinez accounted for 304 yards and three TDs against CU last year. The Huskers also several talented RBs, one of the Big Ten’s best receivers (JD Spielman), big-play potential from tight end Jack Stoll and a dynamic freshman in Wan’Dale Robinson.
Nebraska defense: It was a good start to the season for the defense, which held South Alabama to 314 yards, forced five turnovers and scored as many touchdowns as the offense (two). For a defense that struggled much of last year, it was a positive sign. There are much bigger tests ahead for the defense, but Nebraska has experience up front, and Berry led the team with 112 tackles last year. They also return both corners (Lamar Jackson and Dicaprio Bootle). Eric Lee, a backup corner last year, switched to safety this offseason and had a monster first game with two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
Nebraska special teams: The health of sophomore kicker Barret Pickering is a question mark. He had a good freshman year, and made his final 10 field goals, but missed last week’s opener with an injury. It’s unknown if he’ll play this week. If he can’t play, the Huskers are working on about three different options, including Dylan Jorgensen, who had his only attempt blocked last week. Punter Isaac Armstrong is solid (45.5-yard average last week), and the Huskers have big-play potential in the return game. Spielman returned a punt for a touchdown last week (and had a TD last year), while Robinson is a threat as a kick returner.
Nebraska keys to beating CU
Get the offense rolling: Last week was rough for the Huskers, with Frost calling the offense “anemic.” The offense was shut out in the second half. Nebraska needs Martinez to play better than he did last week. If he does, the Huskers could score a lot of points.
Protect the ball: Turnovers put Nebraska in a bad spot early against Colorado a year ago. The Huskers were minus-3 on turnover margin in that game and that was the difference in the outcome. Last week against South Alabama, they had three turnovers (but five takeaways).
Bottle up Shenault: Easier said than done, but a year ago, Shenault was still coming into the spotlight when he shredded the Huskers for 182 yards and two touchdowns on offense. CU has other weapons, but if Shenault busts loose, it could be a tough day for the Nebraska defense.
Use emotion for good: Nebraska players – and even Frost – have thrown some verbal jabs at the Buffs this week. No question, they want revenge for CU coming into Lincoln last year and handing them a loss in Frost’s debut. The emotions could work in Nebraska’s favor, but they could backfire.
- Quarterback Adrian Martinez averaged a school-record 295.1 yards of total offense per game last year. He had three games (also a school record) over 400 yards.
- Nebraska comes into this season having lost seven in a row away from Lincoln.
- Last week, the Huskers had three non-offensive touchdowns (two on defense, one on special teams) for the first time since 2005.
- There are seven players on the Nebraska roster from Colorado high schools, including walk-on Eli Sullivan from Longmont High School.
- Since the start of the 2018 season, each Nebraska player has had their home area code displayed on the front of their helmets.