The last time Wyoming came to Lincoln, the Cowboys had a shot at the end to upset a Top 25 team.
The Cowboys, down 37-34 with under a minute left, had the ball and a chance to drive down the field and steal a win in front of 90,000 people in Memorial Stadium.
The Huskers prevailed, but the narrow win highlighted issues that would end up plaguing the 2013 team for the rest of the season.
Now, in 2016 Wyoming comes into Lincoln 1-0 after a triple-overtime thriller against Northern Illinois, and boasts a different head coach, former Huskers assistant Craig Bohl, who won three straight Division I-FCS national championships at North Dakota State before taking the Wyoming job. He is in his third season with the Cowboys.
This could be a sneaky-tough game for the Huskers. Let’s break it down.
When Nebraska has the ball
The Cowboys only allowed 133 rushing yards against Northern Illinois last Saturday, keeping the Huskies to 3.6 yards per carry. On Saturday, the Wyoming front seven will be tested.
Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf seems set on running the ball and plans to keep a main chunk of Nebraska’s offense focused on the ground game. The Huskers put up nearly 300 rushing yards against Fresno State and are determined to dominate up front and in the rushing attack.
Nebraska running backs Devine Ozigbo and Terrell Newby both had great games on Saturday and should be able to wear down the Cowboys defense.
When Wyoming has the ball
Wyoming QB Josh Allen is a threat.
He’s big, he’s got a gun for an arm and he’s mobile. Allen was 19-for-29 for 245 yards and two touchdowns against Northern Illinois, and also ran 10 times for 70 yards and a touchdown. The Huskers secondary will have its hands full.
While Nebraska’s defense kept Fresno State to just 31 yards rushing, the secondary did give up 243 passing yards to Fresno State. It wasn’t a bad effort, but it could have been better, especially considering the Bulldogs started a redshirt freshman.
The Huskers get senior safety Nate Gerry back on Saturday, which will be huge in the pass defense. Allen might be a threat, but he won’t be able to do it all on his own. Wyoming will score, but as the game grinds on I’m not sure if they’ll be able to do it with ease.
Wyoming returned a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns on Saturday against Northern Illinois. Two flags brought those touchdowns back. But Nebraska needs to be careful because Wyoming is dangerous in the return game.
On the other hand, Nebraska’s return game is still up in the air. Nebraska coach Mike Riley said De’Mornay Pierson-El will return the first punt on Saturday, but wasn’t clear if that will be a regular thing.
If Wyoming is going to shock Nebraska this weekend, they’ll do it with special teams.
Bohl is transforming the Cowboys into the real deal. Bohl, a former Huskers player and coach, took North Dakota State to three straight national championships and is now taking a lackluster Wyoming program and making it legit.
Riley, on the other hand, is transforming himself and his past for this year’s team. The decision to run the ball as much as the Huskers have goes against everything Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf have done in the past. It’s smart and bold.
This game is going to be closer than you might think.
An 11 a.m. start is tricky, Wyoming is sneaky good, and the Huskers’ weaknesses on Saturday all point to mental discipline. If Nebraska doesn’t come out ready to play, and doesn’t start quickly on offense, it might be a long day.
In the end, Wyoming will do as it did in 2013 and give the Huskers a scare. I don’t think they’ll be able to pull the upset, though.
Prediction: Nebraska 31, Wyoming 21