Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf says the 15th ranked Huskers need to avoid third and long when they host Illinois on Saturday. The Illini have a pair of standout defense ends in Dewuane Smoot and Carroll Phillips. They were part of a defensive line that the Huskers had difficulty blocking in last year’s 14-13 loss. Smoot garnered preseason All-American honors and Phillips currently leads in the Big Ten in sacks per game.
The Huskers hope to use a run game that averages 242 yards to slow down the pass rush. The Illini have been vulnerable to the run in their 1-2 start to the season.
“The are really good against you on third and long and that’s where we have to avoid that situation”, said Langsdorf. “We need to be able to earn some yards on first and second down to stay out of third and long and limit those speed rushers.”
It was offensive miscues a year ago, especially late in the game, that gave the Illini a chance to put together a game winning drive.
“Last year we kept those guys fighting and kept giving them chances”, said Husker quarterback Tommy Armstrong. “We just need to make sure we take care of the ball and put ourselves in the right situation to win the game.”