With the Cowboys set to take on Nebraska for the second time in four years at Memorial Stadium we thought it would be a good time to catch up with Erin Sorensen of the Nebraska Cornhusker magazine Hail Varsity once again. Sorensen is the online editor of Hail Varsity and is always tapped into the pulse of Husker Nation. Here are some of her thoughts as Wyoming heads into “The Sea of Red”.
What is the mood around the Husker football program in year two under head coach Mike Riley?
ES: I’d call it cautious optimism. There’s always going to be those that aren’t happy with Riley because of the way 2015 went, but I’d say a good majority are still on his side. Last season was tough on the heart (too many close games will do that to you) but quite a few of those losses were winnable. I think that’s what a lot of fans are hanging on to.
In 2010 Wyoming suffered a similar tragedy to Nebraska with the loss of LB Ruben Narcisse in a car accident. How emotional was the opening game in Lincoln with the tributes to punter Sam Foltz?
ES: It was emotional. I started crying in the press box during the missing man formation that honored Foltz. Seeing the Fresno State players start clapping just did it for me. There are moments that transcend sports. That was one of those moments.
At the end of last season and the beginning of this season, the Huskers looked to get back to their roots and focus on the running game. Is the running game being the staple of the Nebraska offense here to stay?
ES: Maybe. It was very run-heavy against Fresno State, which I think shocked a lot of people (but #RunTheBall guy was happy). Nebraska only passed the ball 13 times, which is wild when you think about it. The coaches have said all week that they want to find more balance between the pass game and the run game, so I guess we’ll see.
Give Wyoming fans one player from the Nebraska offense and defense they should keep their eyes on this Saturday.
ES: On defense, Wyoming fans should keep an eye on safety Nathan Gerry. He sat out against Fresno State for violating team rules but he’s back to face the Cowboys. He also hasn’t played a full game since Rutgers last season due to multiple targeting calls that he’s received. This is his big return, if you will. Plus, he has a bone to pick with Craig Bohl who never offered him while coaching at North Dakota State. Apparently Gerry plans to say something to Bohl about that (http://hailvarsity.com/news/blackshirts-ready-lunch-bucket-game-wyoming/2016/09/).
On offense, it’s a little more difficult to pick one player so I’ll pick an entire position group. Keep an eye on the wide receivers. Alonzo Moore had a great day against Fresno State. Jordan Westerkamp wasn’t as impressive as he usually is, but Wyoming could be a big bounce-back game for him. Then there’s Brandon Reilly, who sat out against Fresno State for a DUI he received during the offseason. Having all the wide receivers back and able to play could make that worth keeping an eye on.
Oh, and running back Devine Ozigbo is another worth watching. He’s just a good player. He’s the dark horse pick on this one.
What are the key factors for Nebraska to defeat Wyoming?
ES: Nebraska just needs to play consistent. That means quarterback Tommy Armstrong needs to stay calm and not feel the need to make the big “YOLO Bomb” passes (as they’ve been named). If he can stay confident in his game, that will be key.
As for the defense, they just need to keep working on communication. Against Fresno State, the Blackshirts struggled to get lined up and set before the ball was snapped. Fresno State runs a quicker tempo than Wyoming, but it’s still an issue. Communication will be a big factor in correcting that and Saturday will be another good opportunity to work on that.
Random bonus question: Your love of Taylor Swift and your hate of the song Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes is well documented. What would you do if Taylor Swift ever recorded a cover of Seven Nation Army?
ES: Take a vacation and think about my life for a bit.