LINCOLN, NEB. Pedigree never hurts -- if it's a good one, that is.
Simply put, the Nebraska football team's backfield has a good pedigree.
The Cornhuskers' top two I-backs, Cory Ross and Tierre Green, lead a solid offense into tonight's 6:10 p.m. game with Kansas University at Memorial Stadium.
Off the field, the pair could be getting good advice from accomplished high-level football players who double as relatives.
Ross' big brother should be quite familiar to Kansas University fans. He's Roger Ross, a wide receiver for the Jayhawks during the 2000 and 2001 seasons. A few of KU's current players played the early stages of their careers with Ross, who finished with 974 yards receiving and six touchdowns in two years.
Meanwhile, Green's older cousin should be familiar to just about any football fan. He's Ahmann Green, the former Nebraska standout who currently is one of the most lethal running backs in the NFL as a member of the Green Bay Packers.
The bloodlines might have given the two a couple of extra merits in the "potential" department, but both Cory Ross and Tierre Green since have proven they're much more than just potential.
"Every year, when you prepare for Nebraska, you look for the run," KU defensive tackle Travis Watkins said. "That's how it's going to be again this year."
That's a somewhat surprising fact, considering Nebraska has revamped things and switched from the option offense to the West Coast offense with the arrival of coach Bill Callahan from the NFL's Oakland Raiders. The West Coast offense is a style of play that calls for more passing -- often for short gains -- than the option scheme ever would.
|Kickoff: 6:10 tonight.Where: Memorial Stadium at Lincoln, Neb.Line: Nebraska by 13.Radio: Jayhawk Radio Network, including 1320 KLWNTelevision: Pay-per view. To order, call 841-2100. Price: $29.95.Series: Nebraska leads 86-21-3.|
Despite the facelift, Callahan knows he has talented players who came to NU to run the football, most notably Ross, Green and quarterback Joe Dailey.
Dailey has struggled with the turnover bug thus far, throwing eight interceptions in three games. He does have a good arm, though, and can scramble and run the ball if needed. He's currently the team's third-leading rusher behind Ross and Green and has a team-high three rushing touchdowns on the year.
"He's learning, but you can see that he's starting to get a grasp on what they want," KU coach Mark Mangino said. "He's a really talented guy."
As for Ross and Green? Well, they still know how to run the football, coaching and scheme changes aside.
Ross has been the workhouse, rushing 64 times for 367 yards this season. The junior was banged up in Nebraska's 24-17 victory at Pittsburgh on Sept. 18, but the Huskers' week off did plenty to bring him back to full strength in time for Kansas. Callahan is hoping to get 15 to 20 carries out of him today.
"He had that 27 (carries against Southern Mississippi), and we talk about the possibility of overusing him," Callahan said. "He got a little nicked up in the Pittsburgh game, so we backed him down quite a bit last week to get him some rest and allow him to recover a little bit better so he's fresh to go this week."
|Location: Lincoln, Neb.Enrollment: 25,000.Nickname: Cornhuskers.Colors: Scarlett and Cream.Stadium: Memorial Stadium (73,918).Surface: Field Turf.Coach: Bill Callahan (2-1 in first season.ScheduleWestern Illinois, W 56-17 (1-0)Southern Mississippi, L 21-17 (1-1)at Pittsburgh, W 24-17 (2-1)Today -- Kansas, 6:10 p.m.Oct. 9 -- at Texas TechOct. 16 -- BaylorOct. 23 -- at Kansas StateOct. 30 -- MissouriNov. 6 -- at Iowa StateNov. 13 -- at OklahomaNov. 26 -- Colorado|
If they cut back on his carries, it could mean a few more for Green, a speedy red-shirt freshman who has proven more than capable of picking up big yardage. Though he has just 23 carries in Nebraska's three games, he has rushed for more than 200 yards, scored two touchdowns and averaged 8.8 yards per carry.
"He's real fast," Watkins said. "I haven't seen many running backs faster than him this year."
Nebraska's run defense has caught the headlines for leading the nation statistically in stopping the run. But the Cornhuskers' offensive ground game -- particularly on third down, where NU has struggled so far -- could make the difference in whether Nebraska picks up its 29th conference-opening victory in the last 30 years today.
The pedigree gave them potential. Now, the potential is turning into production.
"We have different running backs, and they all have a different role," NU offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. "We try to use them all."