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Published: Tuesday, 10/23/2012

UM players know they need to find end zone against Huskers

BY RACHEL LENZI
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

ANN ARBOR — Will Campbell isn’t unnerved by the fact that the Michigan football team didn’t score a touchdown in Saturday’s 12-10 win over Michigan State.

In fact, he regards Saturday’s win as a learning experience of sorts for the No. 20 Wolverines.

“I wouldn’t say it’s an area of concern,” said Campbell, whose team scored an average of 44.5 points in its first two Big Ten Conference games. “It’s giving our kickers more confidence, so that if we are in another situation like that, they’ve been there before.”

But as Michigan (5-2, 3-0 Big Ten) prepares to face Nebraska (5-2, 2-1) this weekend in Lincoln, center Elliott Mealer offered a little less restraint, though in an eloquent fashion.

“Obviously, I hope we can avoid that the rest of the season,” the Wauseon graduate said. “That kind of falls upon the offensive line’s shoulder. We need to get touchdowns. For us to, I don’t want to say sneak through last weekend’s game, but for us to pull that off and rely on our kickers was good.

“But I think you can’t be happy with that as an offense. Playing tough teams, we’re going to need touchdowns.”

Will four field goals suffice on Saturday against the Huskers? The odds are probably not in Michigan’s favor.

When Michigan plays at Nebraska for the first time since 1911, the Wolverines will face a much more potent team that’s among the conference’s offensive leaders. Nebraska leads the Big Ten with 41.6 points and 512.4 yards a game, and quarterback Taylor Martinez leads the conference in pass efficiency (1,615 yards and 15 touchdowns on 124 completions). Martinez is second in the conference with 230.7 passing yards a game behind Penn State’s Matt McGloin (255.4); Michigan’s Denard Robinson is sixth (180.6).

“Their front, they’re physical, they’re big, and they have the ability to combination-block and move people off the ball,” said Michigan coach Brady Hoke, whose team has given up 23 points in its first three Big Ten games. “The dual threat, with Martinez running some of the spread stuff, some of the same stuff that we run, I think that is a part of it, and the play-action game for them has been pretty good.”

One point, however, is in question for the Huskers: running back Rex Burkhead, who sat out part of Saturday’s 29-28 win at Northwestern after injuring his left knee for a third time this season.

The Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star reported Monday that Huskers coach Bo Pelini will “proceed cautiously” with Burkhead in preparation for Saturday’s game against the Wolverines.

Still, the Huskers have options after Burkhead. Ameer Abdullah has 615 yards in seven games. Abdullah stepped in for Burkhead on Saturday and finished with 101 yards on 19 carries against Northwestern.

“Knowing Nebraska is the best offense in the conference, it’s a humbler at the same time,” Campbell said. “On us, we need to prepare harder, because they’re a good offense, and we need to do the same thing we’ve been doing.”

ROBINSON ON O’BRIEN LIST: Robinson has been named a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award, given annually to the nation’s top quarterback.

Robinson is one of 16 semifinalists for the award, a field originally narrowed down from 12 quarterbacks. Robinson is one of two Big Ten quarterbacks on the list, joining Ohio State’s Braxton Miller.

BIG TEN HONORS GIBBONS: The Big Ten named kicker Brendan Gibbons the league’s special teams player of the week. Gibbons kicked four field goals, including the game-winner with five seconds left to lift Michigan to its first win since 2007 over Michigan State.

INJURY UPDATE: Hoke said he expects sophomore cornerback Raymon Taylor to play Saturday. Taylor injured his arm in the fourth quarter of last Saturday’s win over Michigan State.

Contact Rachel Lenzi at:

rlenzi@theblade.com,

419-724-6510 or on

Twitter @RLenziBlade.



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