The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The ninth-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers continue their quest for a Big 12 title, as they invade Ames this weekend for a conference showdown with the Iowa State Cyclones.
Bo Pelini's Cornhuskers are an impressive 7-1 on the season, including a 3-1 mark in conference play. Nebraska put some distance between itself and its lone loss of the season, with last weekend's 31-17 victory over previously unbeaten Missouri. The Cornhuskers are currently tied for the top spot in the Big 12 North with Missouri.
Paul Rhoads' Cyclones are one win away from being bowl eligible at 5-4, but have struggled with consistency in 2010, splitting the last eight games. However, the team has won two in a row coming into this contest with a stunning win on the road at Texas (28-21) followed by a 28-16 victory over Kansas last weekend. The consecutive wins leave ISU very much in the hunt in the Big 12 North, just a half game off the lead at 3-2.
Nebraska holds a huge advantage in the all-time series with Iowa State at 85-17-2, including a 35-10-2 edge in Ames. However, it was ISU that got the upper hand in last year's matchup in Lincoln, posting a 9-7 victory.
Nebraska rode the rushing exploits of tailback Roy Helu Jr. to a victory over Missouri last weekend, as the talented RB set the school record for rushing yards in a game, rumbling for 307 yards and three TDs.
Pelini had high praise for Helu and the rest of the team following the win over Missouri.
"Roy played well. Obviously, I just said to the team, you break a school record for single-game rushing at this place, with all the tradition around here, it's a pretty big deal. He played a heck of a football game, but it's a team game. The guys up front blocked well. I thought it was well-designed, good game plan. I just thought it was a team win for us. I'm proud of that group of men in there. It was a heck of a win for us. It's a good football team we played."
The Cornhuskers have had no problem moving the football on the ground this season and while Helu certainly had a game to remember last time out, it is actually freshman QB Taylor Martinez that leads the ground attack with 886 yards (7.9 ypc) and 12 TDs. Helu is now a close second at 807 yards (7.9 ypc), with eight scores. In all, Nebraska is churning out almost 300 yards rushing per game (294.8) and of the team's 33 offensive TDs, 24 have come on the ground.
While running the football is the primary mode of travel in Lincoln, Martinez has been effective at times throwing downfield. The youngster has completed 60 percent of his throws, for 1,161 yards, with nine TDs. The primary targets have been Niles Paul (27 catches, 379 yards, one TD) and Brandon Kinnie (22 catches, 294 yards, three TDs).
The Nebraska defense is yielding just 17.8 ppg this year and although the unit has shown generosity with its rush defense (162.2 ypg), the pass defense has been stellar (148.0 ypg). Opponents rarely find success throwing the football near All-American cornerback Prince Amukamara (team-high 10 PBUs). Avoiding him however, has allowed DBs like P.J. Smith (three INTs), Eric Hagg (three INTs) and Alfonzo Dennard (three INTs) to make plays. Linebacker Lavonte David has been a tackling machine for Nebraska with 86 stops already, while defensive tackle Jared Crick (39 tackles, 8.0 TFLs, 4.5 sacks) possesses All- American talent up front.
The Cyclones will be hard-pressed to match Nebraska's production offensively and the numbers certainly attest to that. ISU is averaging 24.0 ppg and while the team has had some success on the ground (157.2 ypg), there has been very little from the passing game (163.7 ypg).
Quarterback Austen Arnaud has had consistency problems this season, completing just 57.4 percent of his passes, for 1,364 yards. He does have 10 TD passes, but that number is tempered by his eight interceptions. The team's top offensive weapon is in the backfield in the form of tailback Alexander Robinson. The senior is averaging 5.3 yards per carry and has amassed 725 yards on the year with eight TDs.
Iowa State's defense has once again relied heavily on forcing turnovers and like last year, the team has excelled at that in 2010. The Cyclones, who are allowing an alarming 432.8 yards of total offense per game, have assuaged that somewhat by forcing 20 turnovers thus far.
Linebackers A.J. Klein and Jake Knott have been all over the field, amassing 93 and 92 tackles, respectively. The pair have combined for nine TFLs, seven INTs and two fumble recoveries. Headlining the play in the secondary is 2009 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year David Sims, who has 71 tackles, one INT and two forced fumbles to his credit.