GAME NOTES: The 24th-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers will try to celebrate their
return to the national ranks at Memorial Stadium on Saturday night when they
play host to the Miami-Florida Hurricanes in a non-conference tilt.
Miami had to open the season with a difficult ACC road matchup against
Louisville and fell on the wrong end of a 31-13 decision, but since then it
has rebounded with two straight victories, both at home. The Hurricanes made
easy work Florida A&M on Sept. 6 (41-7) before downing Arkansas State last
“We’ve been trying to make it 12 one-game missions, and I think we did that
(last week),” Miami head coach Al Golden said.
Nebraska began the season as the 22nd-ranked team and improved to No. 19
following a dominant opening win over Florida Atlantic (55-7), but after just
barely squeaking by FCS opponent McNeese State (31-24), it was dropped from
the ranks. The hiatus only lasted a week, however, as the Cornhuskers were
reintroduced to the poll after beating up on Fresno State last week on the
“We don’t approach (preparation) any differently no matter who we play,”
Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said. “Playing a team with the tradition that
Miami has and the talent that they have on their football team, I’m sure it
will get our guys’ attention.”
While the series between Miami and Nebraska may be brief – each side has
beaten the other five times – it is rich with history. Three of the
Hurricanes’ five national titles came over the Cornhuskers, including their
latest in 2001. Nebraska’s national championship in 1994 came by defeating
Miami in the Orange Bowl.
The Hurricanes’ offense has stepped up with back-to-back 41-point efforts
after disappointing in the opener, bringing their season averages to 31.7 ppg
and 382.7 ypg.
The focus of Miami’s offense is in the backfield. Duke Johnson is a bell cow
with 43 carries for 277 yards and two touchdowns, and he’s shown great
consistency with at least 90 yards in every game.
Freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya had his best outing last week against Arkansas
State, completing 16-of-24 passes for 342 yards and four touchdowns. He’s
completing 60 percent of his throws for 693 yards and seven touchdowns, but
he’s also been turnover prone with five interceptions.
Philip Dorsett exploded for 201 receiving yards and two scores last week,
bringing his season totals to 284 yards and four scores on just eight catches.
While Dorsett is an outstanding deep threat, Herb Waters (10 receptions, 112
yards) and Braxton Berrios (10 receptions, 106 yards, TD) are solid possession
Miami’s defense has been impressive in the early going, allowing 19.3 ppg and
259.7 ypg, while creating six takeaways.
Denzel Perryman is one of the ACC’s best linebackers with 25 tackles, 4.0 TFL
and a sack. Anthony Chickillo (17 tackles) has been active in the turnover
battle with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Thurston Armbrister (4.0
sacks, two FF, FR) and Ufomba Kamalu (3.0 sacks) are also off to great starts.
Nebraska’s offensive production has been top notch through three games with
47.0 ppg and 594.0 ypg, and much like Miami, it is led by a star in the
Ameer Abdullah is a bona fide Heisman Trophy contender at tailback and has
gotten off to a predictably fast start to the season with 396 yards (6.9 ypc)
and three touchdowns. He’s also a factor in the passing game with four
receptions for 105 yards, including a highlight-reel worthy 58-yard game-
winning touchdown against McNeese State.
Tommy Armstrong Jr. hasn’t been the most efficient passer, as he’s completing
just 53.1 percent of his throws, but he’s made the most of his completions
by amassing 773 yards and seven touchdowns paired with just one interception.
His passing ability is definitely aided by his gifts as a rusher (258 yards,
“I think he’s doing some good things,” Pelini said of his signal caller. “I
think he’s getting better. He’s not perfect…but I’m seeing good progress.”
Jordan Westerkamp (13 receptions, 271 yards, three TDs) and Kenny Bell (10
receptions, 214 yards) both provide plenty of big play potential out wide.
Defensively, the Cornhuskers have feasted on lesser competition, yielding just
16.7 ppg and 294.7 ypg, while holding opponents to just a 27-percent
conversion rate on third down.
Nate Gerry is the unit’s leading tackler with 19 stops, while Greg McMullen
(5.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks) and Vincent Valentine (3.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks) have both made
their presence felt behind the line of scrimmage.
This matchup is sure to be a hard fought one from start to finish with a pair
of run-oriented squads with stellar defenses squaring off, but in the end
Nebraska’s all-important homefield advantage will be the deciding factor.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nebraska 30, Miami-Florida 24