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September 13, 2008As the Nebraska football team puts the finishing touches and final preparations in for tonight's New Mexico State game, there are several storylines and keys to keep your eyes on.
Yes the Huskers are 2-0, but in order to feel good about where things are at heading into the bye week, a few things need to happen that didn't in last week's 35-12 win over San Jose State. Here are this week's keys to victory.
The early adjustments
Nebraska has prepared all week in practice for things they might see from New Mexico State, but in all reality the Huskers have no idea for sure what they'll see from the Aggies. Today's game is almost another version of a season opener and the early adjustments will be very important for Nebraska.
The NU coaching staff expects to see a 3-3-5 defense from NMSU defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn, but since there is no film out on the Aggies this season, don't be surprised if they come out with a few surprise looks.
Getting pressure on Holbrook
Aggie quarterback Chase Holbrook will be in four and five wide receiver sets for almost the entire game today. It will be very important for Nebraska to get pressure on Holbrook and hit him throughout the game to rattle his comfort level.
If the Huskers let Holbrook stand in the pocket and make throws without being touched it could be a very long day for the secondary. The Aggies won't run the ball very much at all on Saturday, so that's why open field tackling will also be important when New Mexico State throws their short to intermediate passing routes.
Matching New Mexico State's speed at wide-out
Earlier this week, secondary coach Marvin Sanders said the Aggies have maybe the fastest group of wide receivers the Huskers will see this year and yes even potentially faster than Texas Tech and Missouri's wide-outs. Sanders said New Mexico State has basically gone out and "recruited the track team" to play receiver for them.
With the speed and breakaway ability each one of their wide-outs have, open field tackling becomes even more important because of the big play threat each one of their receivers possesses.
Make a decision at running back
The running game has been missing the last first two weeks in Nebraska's offense, and a lot of that has to do with the fact not one of NU's three talented running backs has broken out.
Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson and running backs coach Tim Beck need to find the hot hand early and stick with it throughout the game. The early money is on sophomore Roy Helu to see the most carries in today's game. Helu has proven his worth by easily performing the best out of all the backs each of the last two weeks.
Regaining a confidence on offense
If the running game can get going today, that should go a long way in reestablishing the confidence of the offense. A solid running game will take the pressure off quarterback Joe Ganz and it will also open things up for the entire offense.
Ganz has had to do too much the last two weeks, and NU can't count on that type of effort each week. The offensive line also needs to improve their protection and eliminate the mental errors. Penalties have been major drive killers for the Huskers and they played a huge part in the struggles last week against San Jose State.
PREDICTION: Nebraska 48 New Mexico State 23