A Must Win Game? Maybe for Husker Fans

The sky certainly didn’t fall last weekend and everything in life seems better after a win, but the win didn’t come without some losses. The Huskers are down their top two running backs, Rahmir Johnson and Gabe Ervin, for the rest of the season. The quarterback controversy will likely linger this entire season barring injury. Matt Rhule’s squad has a chance to tie his best-ever record in year one at a program this weekend. The Blackshirt defense appears to be stout, and the offense showed some signs of life, albeit, against a weak opponent. Another strong effort against Louisiana Tech will bring life back to the team, and maybe more importantly the fanbase, before a huge showdown with Michigan the week after.

Haarberg ended his first start on a hot steak. Can that continue this week?

Nebraska officially has a QB competition on its hands. Heinrich Haarberg and Jeff Sims are similar players. Both are big, physical, and fast. Neither is particularly arm-talented, but with their size and strength, they’ll have the ability to make some impressive throws. The Husker’s quarterbacks are running at a level we haven’t seen since Jammal Lord. While I’ve advocated for trying to limit the number of hits the quarterbacks take, the lack of depth at the other skill positions may require that Rhule take a lesson from Frank Solich and play both players like Bobby Newcombe and Eric Crouch.

Similar to Northern Illinois, Louisiana Tech has an experienced signal caller at quarterback. Hank Bachmeier is in his fifth year of playing college football. He’s posted a solid overall stat line this season completing 66% of his passes but as a lack of a rushing threat, his total EPA for the season is negative. Hopefully, the Husker’s pass rush can continue to get to the quarterback and keep pushing up its great season along the line.

Anthony Grant was a workhorse in 2022 and will need to be again in 2023

The Huskers lost their top two running backs against Northern Illinois. Normally, this would result in an unproven guy winning the job. Instead, the Huskers turn to an experienced runner in Anthony Grant. The last Husker to be a larger part of the team’s running game than Grant in 2022 was Cory Ross in 2005. While his fumble against Minnesota proved costly, he showcased explosive rushing in 2022. He needs to focus on being a downhill runner this season to reach his full potential.

QBs may continue to be a big part of the run game with the Husker’s injuries

The Blackshirts are one of the top rushing defenses in the country. These Bulldogs pose the toughest challenge yet. Louisiana Tech has two rushers averaging over 7 yards per carry this season – Tyre Shelton and Keith Willis Jr. Shelton, a veteran fifth-year back, has over half of his carries go for 5+ yards. Willis, a true freshman, also could break off some big runs but the bulk of his production came against an FCS opponent.

These Bulldogs can run once they hit the open field

No game in a Rhule year one is a “must-win”. He’s proven he can turn programs around after a rough first year. However, a win this weekend will be huge for the fan base. Memorial Stadium will be packed when Michigan visits if the Huskers are unbeaten at home under Matt Rhule. A win will also do wonders for the confidence of the quarterback room no matter who gets the start. With the Huskers as a multiple-touchdown favorite, I hope to see both quarterbacks get some reps this weekend.

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