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Nebraska defense should not be underestimated

BY MIKE BALDWIN, Staff Writer, mbaldwin@opubco.com Modified: December 3, 2010 at 8:27 am •  Published: December 2, 2010

Oklahoma fans shouldn't place too much stock in Nebraska's shootout win over Oklahoma State.

Ranked fifth nationally in total defense, a unit best known by its nickname, the Blackshirts must play well against Oklahoma's high-powered offense if the Cornhuskers are to post an upset Saturday night in the Big 12 title game.

“They play with a lot of confidence and swagger, but they also play with a lot of knowledge,” said OU offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. “If they get worked on any play, the next time you come back to that, they make an adjustment and get it fixed.”

Because the Cowboys compiled 495 yards in a 51-41 loss to Nebraska in Stillwater, there's a misperception Nebraska's defense is overrated.

In the Cornhuskers' other 11 games, opponents have averaged 273.3 yards and 14.5 points.

“The impressive thing is every play is challenged,” Wilson said. “Every play is competitive across the board.”

Nebraska runs a unique scheme, often times using seven defensive backs/hybrid players. The Blackshirts play man coverage. Receivers have trouble getting open.

The Cornhuskers, who are one of only three teams in the country to hold opponents to less than 50 percent completion percentage, will try to take way bubble screens and quick slant passes the Sooners have thrived on. Nebraska, though, can be vulnerable against the run (OSU's Kendall Hunter rushed for 201 yards).

“Every week you emphasize one thing more than something else,” said OU offensive tackle Eric Mensik. “We've got to be able to pound the ball and also give Landry (Jones) time to take some shots over the top. But their secondary is really good.”

Cornerback Prince Amukamara was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year by coaches. Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard and safety Eric Hagg have combined for nine interceptions. Lavonte David, the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year, has 128 tackles.

Up front, Nebraska plays physical. Defensive tackle Jared Crick (71/2 sacks) might be a first-round NFL pick.

“Every play, their guys up front are fighting with the offensive line, very competitive,” Wilson said. “Guys are locking up receivers. They're grabbing, mugging, hanging on to you, make you work. You're not going to get an easy pass. It will be an interesting challenge."

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