ISU Offense is No Joke
After the too-close-for-comfort game with South Dakota State two seasons ago, NU fans may not need to be reminded that FCS opponents can be feisty. At the same time, it's hard to take an opponent like Idaho State too seriously. If the Bengals have a 1% chance of pulling an upset in Lincoln, that chance probably rests on them having success playing to their strengths. Primarily, the strength of ISU is a very accurate passing game that's averaged over 400 yards in two games so far.
The base offense for Idaho State includes three wide receivers and a very productive tight end. The running game hasn't been especially fruitful. Against Air Force, their lone FBS opponent this year, they completed a lot of short, quick passes. Quarterback Kevin Yost went 41 of 52 for 355 yards in the game with two touchdowns to 6'5" tight end Josh Hill. His favorite target this year though has been wide receiver Derek Graves who's caught 15 passes in each game so far. Wideout Cam Richmond has already caught 20 passes this year for over 200 yards as well. Their other starter at receiver, Luke Austin has managed 12 catches for 148 yards as a fourth option.
Despite so many passes, ISU allowed just two sacks against Air Force. Again that's a credit to Yost for getting rid of the ball quickly. Defensively, that means Nebraska will be tested again tackling players in space. If you take away yards after the catch, chances are you'll force punts. But if NU allows Bengal receivers to run after the catch, the game could become a lot more interesting than it ought to be. Idaho State scored 21 points against Air Force, just 10 fewer than Michigan did and the Falcons were playing in the Big House against the Wolverines and at home versus the Bengals.
This week, the Huskers won't have to contend with a dual-threat passer. Yost doesn't tend to run by design nor has he done much damage running when plays break down.
Offensively, Nebraska's only concerns will be about self-inflicted wounds. Turnovers, penalties, missed assignments, and bad throws might be the only thing that could do NU in. The Idaho State defensive line is very small. The Husker offensive line should be able to consistently push them off of the ball. Nebraska might be best served just following the Falcons blueprint which saw Air Force throw just 11 passes in the game (completing eight of them) while racking up over 600 total yards. The Bengals actually did a fairly good job defensively on third downs, holding the Falcons to just 5 of 12 conversions. Air Force went 4-4 on fourth down though.
No, this probably won't be a game for the ages. But the ISU offense should pose enough of a challenge to merit the attention of the Blackshirts. For a defense still seeking to improve, this will be a worthwhile test of the pass defense.