On August 31, Matt Rhule and the Cornhuskers will take on PJ Fleck and the Minnesota Golden Gophers for their first away game of the season. It’s not looking good for the program at the moment, because ESPN has predicted Minnesota to win by a resounding 70%. But the team shouldn’t lose hope yet. In fact, there are three things that they can do to come out with a week one victory.
How Nebraska’s Offense Will Quell Minnesota
Establish The Run Game Early With Gabe Ervin And Anthony Grant
Since the beginning of Fall camp, sophomore running back Gabe Ervin has looked the part of an elite player in the Big Ten. And it was easy to see why he got the starting nod to suit up against the Gophers. Not only has he added 10 pounds to his body, but he also fits the offense that the Huskers will run. According to WOWT News in Omaha, Rhule says that he is effective in running “inside zone, outside zone, power or counter.”Because of this versatility, it is possible that the Gopher defense could have a problem with calling playcalls to stop him. And then they have to prepare for Anthony Grant. In his previous matchup against Minnesota, he ran for 115 yards against the Gophers. But this may be harder to accomplish this time. This is because the team ranked eighth in total defense and fourth in scoring last season. But without a star like Mohamed Ibrahim to compete against, things may be better for them this time.
Read more about Grant and Ervin here: Which of Nebraska’s Running Backs Make An Impact This Spring?
The Offensive Line Needs To Be Consistent
Under offensive line coach Donovan Raiola last season, Nebraska’s offensive line was one of the low points of the team. They averaged 3.5 yards per rush and had quarterback Casey Thompson sacked 33 times. But it’s not all dire at the position. It’s Raiola’s second year at the helm, and the Huskers return most of their offensive linemen from last season. The two most prominent members include a rehabbed Teddy Prochazka and a mainstay at right guard, Ethan Piper. They also have the experience of Nouredin Nouilli and former Arizona State center Ben Scott to help solidify the unit. But the biggest question is how will they handle an actual pass rush from the Gopher’s D-linemen. They had an aggressive mindset throughout Fall camp and protected Sims well in the Spring game. So this might help their case. But it’s still hard to predict that it is an absolute certainty that the unit will wear down the Golden Gophers front four.
Thomas Fidone Needs To Live Up To The Hype
As we turn the corner into 2023, Nebraska has a lot of talented freshmen that offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield could use. This includes Malachi Coleman, Jaidyn Doss, and Jalen Lloyd. The program’s starting core is rejuvenated with the addition of transfer Billy Kemp. As well as Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda and Marcus Washington. But the tight end position is even murkier. The university is still figuring out if Arik Gilbert can his transfer waiver approved, and Nate Boerkircher only has limited production. Throughout last season, he only had six catches for 52 yards and one touchdown. But he is starting, so that’s something. A better option that tight ends coach Josh Martin can use is sophomore Thomas Fidone. Not only did he receive top billing as one of the highest-rated 4-stars in the 2021 class, but he also has been excellent in Fall camp so far. In fact, according to KOLN’s 1011 Now, Jeff Sims claims that he will have an “explosive year” as one of the main targets of the offense. Having this come from the starting quarterback’s mouth is reassuring, but we have yet to see how he performs this week.