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Nebraska doesn't fear statistically dazzling Wildcat defense

(c) 1995 Copyright The News and Observer Publishing Co.
(c) 1995 Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. (Oct 20, 1995 - 01:18 EDT) -- If Saturday's game between No. 2 Nebraska and No. 8 Kansas State matches the Wildcats' top-ranked defense against the Cornhuskers' potent offense, that's just fine with Nebraska cornerback Michael Booker.

The Husker defense has been criticized much of the season and Nebraska still is undefeated (6-0, 2-0 Big Eight).

"We know if we can eliminate the big plays, we know we can hold teams out of the end zone," Booker said. "We've stepped it up. I think we want to be past K-State's defense. It's a good defense, but I don't think it's better than ours. I think we have the best defense in the nation."

Statistically, that honor belongs to the Wildcats (6-0, 2-0). Kansas State had three straight shutouts this season and no team allows fewer yards and points per game (199.8 and 7.5).

Nebraska's defense is fifth against the run (88.5 yards allowed), sixth in points allowed (14.5) and 13th overall (291.2). A 57-0 victory over Missouri last week was the team's first shutout since last season.

It's been the big play that has burned Nebraska. The average touchdown play against the Huskers covers 26.4 yards; of 12 TDs, five have covered at least 30 yards.

Middle linebacker Doug Colman, who is third on the team with 25 tackles, said the Huskers have worked to improve against the big play.

"We did a good job against the run with Missouri (39 yards)," he said. "This week, we'll have a chance to see how far we've come. I think we'll start blitzing earlier on in the game."

Nebraska will be trying to rattle Wildcat quarterback Matt Miller, who has completed 67 percent of his passes for 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Three receivers average more than six receptions per game, led by Kevin Lockett with 27 catches for 428 yards and seven touchdowns.

Booker, a junior who has a team-high three pass breakups and an interception after starting since the third game, said he hopes he doesn't become a target for Miller.

"I can't tell you what they're going to run, but I know they're going to try some trickery," he said. "I just hope that they're not going to pick on me all game. I am the inexperienced defensive back."

Jared Tomich, a rush end who leads Nebraska with four sacks, said the Kansas State offense appears more balanced this season. The Wildcats averaged 236.7 yards passing and 203.2 rushing per game in scoring 36.8 points.

"Every year, no matter what, we have a hard time with them," Tomich said. "There is a lot of emotion on both sides of the ball and it shows up during the game. I think we need to key on the passing this year, but our biggest goal is to keep a zero up on their scoreboard."

Colman is expected to start again Saturday in place of Phil Ellis, who practiced this week after recovering from a broken foot.

Terrell Farley is expected to start at weakside linebacker in place of Ryan Terwilliger. Farley has 25 tackles, including three sacks, two interceptions returned for touchdowns and a pair of blocked kicks.