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Saturday Scouting Report: Nebraska at Texas A&M
OCTOBER 8, 1998

by TOM DIENHART AND KYLE VELTROP The Sporting News

An analytical look at Saturday's game:

When: 3:30 p.m. ET.
TV: ABC (regional).
Records: Nebraska, 5-0; A&M, 4-1.

Key matchups

  • Nebraska running back DeAngelo Evans vs. A&M linebacker Dat Nguyen: Evans missed the first three games of the season but has started the last two games. In his first start against Washington, Evans was brilliant, but Oklahoma State kept him contained last week when he could manage only 41 yards on 15 carries. The NU quarterback situation is muddled thanks to an assortment of injuries, so the Huskers need Evans to produce a big game. Nguyen is the Aggies' leading tackler and a big-play linebacker who came up with two huge plays last week against Kansas that set up two touchdowns in a 24-21 A&M win. He is the heart of the Aggies defense. Nebraska is averaging 257 yards a game on the ground; A&M is allowing just 91.

  • A&M running back Dante Hall vs. Nebraska's run defense: Hall was a one-man show against Kansas, rushing for 177 yards on 36 carries and all three of A&M's touchdowns. This is an intriguing matchup; A&M has almost no choice but to feed the ball to Hall since its passing game is all but nonexistent. Nebraska's defensive weakness is pass coverage, but Oklahoma State also showed that it is possible to run the ball against the Huskers (Nathan Simmons ran for 114 yards). Look for the Huskers to stack the line against Hall and dare quarterback Randy McCown to pass.

    Why Nebraska will win

    Even if a team can keep it close against Nebraska, the Huskers just find a way to win, the latest example coming from Joe Walker's 73-yard punt return for a TD and their defense's goal-line stand against OSU.

    Back-to-back nail-biters for NU are about as prevalent as blue shirts at a Husker pep rally. While the Cornhuskers aren't as dominating as they've been in past years, they still have the kind of depth that makes coaches drool.

    Nebraska should be able to control the line of scrimmage, as it ranks in the top 10 in the nation in rushing offense and defense. The defense continues to get a boost from end Mike Rucker, a preseason All-American candidate.

    Rucker was severely limited in NU's first three games but was able to get in his first extensive action in the win over Washington two weeks ago. Last week, he turned in his best performance of the season with a 10-tackle effort against Oklahoma State that included stopping the Cowboys' Simmons short of the goal line on the game's final play.

    Why Texas A&M will win

    The Aggies are playing a Nebraska team that has no idea who its quarterback will be this week. Starter Bobby Newcombe is questionable, as is sub Eric Couch. Both are injury prone, which isn't a good trait for the oft-pounded option quarterback. Third-stringer Monte Christo has taken most of the snaps with the first team in practice.

    A&M gets to face a team coming off a draining win that has to start either a third-stringer or a rusty, banged-up quarterback. Also, NU receiver Kenny Cheatham won't play, so the 'Huskers passing game isn't at full strength.

    McCown, who will be getting his second start after supplanting Branndon Stewart on the depth chart, has thrown 148 consecutive passes without an interception, and the defense has forced 14 turnovers and ranks third nationally at a plus-two.

    Any team that can regularly win the turnover battle has a good chance for success.

    Overview

    Texas A&M has three things in its favor:

    1) The game is at College Station, always a tough place to play.

    2) The Aggies usually win the turnover battle. 3) The Huskers are banged up.

    Still, it doesn't look like A&M will be able to take advantage of Nebraska's defensive weaknesses; the 'Huskers struggle against the pass and with athletic quarterbacks who can beat you with their legs and arm.

    While A&M might be able to hold its own defensively, its one-dimensional offense probably won't be enough for the Aggies to pull the upset.

    Predictions

    Dienhart says Nebraska 21, Texas A&M 3; Veltrop says Nebraska 30, Texas A&M 15.