After dropping out of Top-25 following last week’s loss, the Nebraska Cornhuskers try to bounce back with a home bout against the Arkansas State Red Wolves on Saturday afternoon.
Arkansas State opened its season on the road at Oregon, and although it was down big, managed to make the final score somewhat respectable (57-34). The Red Wolves followed that up with their home opener last week, mounting a fourth-quarter comeback to take down Memphis, 33-28.
The Cornhuskers started the year with a No. 17 ranking in the AP Poll and solidified that spot in their opening game at home, defeating Southern Miss in a 49-20 final. Last week, they hit the road to take on upstart UCLA. The game was tied 24-24 at the half, but Nebraska managed to score just two more field goals after halftime and ultimately fell, 36-30. The loss caused it to plummet out of the top-25, ending a streak of 37 consecutive weeks of being ranked.
These two teams have met just once before, with Nebraska claiming a 38-9 victory in 2009.
The Red Wolves had the most prolific offense in the Sun Belt Conference in 2011, and they have picked up right where they left off this season, accumulating 1,149 yards over their first two games — fourth-most in the country.
As he has been throughout his career, Ryan Aplin has started off the 2012 season very well, completing 52-of-87 passes for 606 yards, tossing four touchdowns against only one interception. The QB also makes plenty of plays on the ground, rushing for 110 yards and a score as well.
David Oku is Arkansas State’s primary tailback and he leads the team in rushing with 211 yards. Oku was a workhorse in the win over Memphis, carrying the ball 25 times for 130 yards, which included the game-winning touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Frankie Jackson (21 carries, 110 yards, two TDs) also see plenty of work out of the backfield.
Josh Jarboe has been Aplin’s go-to guy in the passing game. He has 167 yards and two touchdowns to lead the team, and his 19 catches are tied for fifth in the nation. J.D. McKissic is also heavily used, compiling 12 grabs for 127 yards so far, and Julian Jones is a dangerous deep threat (four catches, 107 yards, TD).
Arkansas State’s defense is lagging behind its offensive counterparts, allowing 449 ypg and 42.5 ppg. Having to play the electrifying Oregon Ducks certainly had an impact on those numbers.
The unit has only recorded two sacks in two games, with Tim Starson making one and Nick Nelms and Shervarius Jackson splitting the other. Chaz Scales has the unit’s lone interception. Nathan Herrold leads the defense with 20 tackles.
Matching Arkansas State nearly yard-for-yard so far on offense, Nebraska has also been able to move the ball with relative ease through two contests, averaging 535.5 yards per game.
Taylor Martinez has been spectacular under center, completing more than 66 percent of his passes (43-of-65) for 533 yards, although just 179 of those came against UCLA. He also has five touchdowns to just one interception.
Ameer Abdullah carried the Cornhuskers in last week’s loss, gaining 119 yards on 16 carries while crossing the goal line twice. He now has an even 200 yards and two scores on the season. Martinez (122 yards, TD) is also a factor to take off out of the pocket at any time.
Martinez has spread the ball out to 11 different receivers, with Quincy Enunwa (10 receptions, 92 yards) and Kenny Bell (seven receptions, 134 yards, TD) serving as the top performers thus far.
The defense has struggled to hold up its end of the bargain to this point, allowing 456.5 yards per game. The unit has held up well in the red zone however, allowing opponents to score just two touchdowns in nine trips there.
Will Compton has been the most active member of the defense, racking up a team-high 24 tackles and two sacks. Plenty of players are capable of making plays in the backfield as the team has already compiled six sacks and 18 tackles for loss.