Opponents Running Huskers' Defense Into Ground

Wednesday, October 31st 2007, 2:53 pm
By: News On 6

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ Nebraska's defense has been getting the run-around.

The Cornhuskers rank 119th, and last, among major-college teams in rushing defense, giving up 242.6 yards a game.

That's more than twice the number they allowed last year, when they were 37th against the run.

``I know we're not very good. It's pretty obvious,'' defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove said.

It's been 50 years since the Huskers have been so inept against the run. That goes back to the 1957 team that lost nine of 10 games under Bill Jennings.

Under another Bill _ Bill Callahan _ the Huskers have lost four straight for the first time since 1961 and have surrendered more than 300 yards rushing three weeks in a row.

Saturday, they'll face an unbeaten and eighth-ranked Kansas team that is 14th nationally in rushing at 215 yards a game. Nebraska will counter with an injury-depleted defense that lost one of its top players, linebacker Lance Brandenburgh, to a season-ending shoulder injury last week.

Even at full strength, Nebraska has been weak against the run.

``No one is more disappointed than I am about that,'' Callahan said. ``I know our coaches are beside themselves because of the statistical production'' of opponents.

The first sign of trouble came in the second game, at Wake Forest. Receiver Kenny Moore had 116 yards on the ground, most coming on misdirection handoffs out of the shotgun. Moore was the first of the eight players to have run for 100 or more yards against Nebraska.

The next week, Southern California's Stafon Johnson averaged 13.1 yards a carry while totaling 144.

Less-than-imposing running backs MiQuale Lewis of Ball State and Jason Scales of Iowa State followed with 100-yard games.

Then came the really big numbers.

Oklahoma State's Dantrell Savage ran for a career-high 212, Texas A&M's Stephen McGee for 167 and Jorvorskie Lane for 130.

``I could have driven my car through the holes I was given,'' Lane said afterward.

If so, Texas' Jamaal Charles could have driven a semi through the Huskers. He ran for 290 yards last week, the most ever given up by the Huskers. Charles' 216 yards in the fourth quarter were 6 shy of the NCAA record for a single quarter, set by Washington's Corey Dillon in 1996.

Kansas' Brandon McAnderson and Jake Sharp must be happy to see the Huskers coming. Each has three 100-yard games this season, and McAnderson is coming off a career-best 183-yard night against Texas A&M.

The Huskers have allowed 2,183 rushing yards through nine games and are on track to give up a school-record number. They are 604 yards off the 2,787 surrendered by the 1957 team.

Opponents are averaging 5.42 yards per attempt, the most among major colleges and more than the Nebraska record of 5.2 in 1950.

Opponents have scored 25 rushing touchdowns, one off the school record of 26 in 1950.

So, what's the problem?

The Huskers have been downright gullible when opponents have employed misdirection and facets of the triple option. A defensive line that lost NFL draft picks in ends Adam Carriker and Jay Moore has been a disappointment. The linebackers have been caught out of position too many times to count, and they have gotten outrun.

The Huskers blitzed with success against Texas, pressuring Colt McCoy the entire first half. But when the Longhorns went to the run in the second half last week, Nebraska failed to adjust, and Charles took off running.

``Even in the blitz, everyone still had their gaps,'' linebacker Phil Dillard said. ``It just happened to be a play where maybe someone got blocked down, or the offensive line made a good block and a little crease opened for him to get through. It does not take much space because he is not that big to get a crease. He is a fast guy, so when he hits it, he hits it. He just found a crease and got it.''