Sep 16, 2023; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Jeff Sims (7) warms up before the game against the Northern Illinois Huskies at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Nebraska coping with ‘heartbreaking’ injuries, preps for La Tech

Nebraska carries the momentum of its first win this season when it hosts Louisiana Tech in a non-conference game on Saturday afternoon in Lincoln, Neb.

The Cornhuskers also carry the pain.

The Cornhuskers (1-2) beat Northern Illinois 35-11 last week in their home opener, the first victory under new coach Matt Rhule and the first at Memorial Stadium in nearly a year. But two of Nebraska’s top three running backs suffered season-ending injuries — junior Rahmir Johnson (shoulder) and sophomore Gabe Ervin Jr. (hip).

“It’s heartbreaking,” Rhule said.

Ervin was leading the team in rushing with 196 yards; Johnson had 65 yards on 12 carries.

Nebraska might see the return of starter Jeff Sims, who will practice this week and could play Saturday. Heinrich Haarberg started this past game, throwing for 158 yards and two TDs and rushing for 98 yards and a score.

Louisiana Tech (2-2) is coming off a 40-37 home loss to North Texas in which it rallied from 17 points down in the final 10 minutes, only to lose on a last-seconds field goal.

“We have to turn the page quickly,” Bulldogs coach Sonny Cumbie said. “That is our challenge as coaches is how do we handle this week and how are we going to get better.”

The Bulldogs are led by former Boise State quarterback Hank Bachmeier, who has thrown for 756 yards and five TDs this season, though Jack Turner threw the game-tying TD pass to Smoke Harris against North Texas. Harris has 24 catches for 288 yards and three TDs in 2023.

A Nebraska win would give the team consecutive home victories for the first time since September 2021.

–Field Level Media

Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Cumbie (file photo) celebrates at Texas Tech in a 34-7 win over the Mississippi State Bulldogs at the AutoZone Liberty Bowl at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021.


Re-imagined Mizzou introduces newcomers in La Tech visit

Missouri hopes its third season under head coach Eliah Drinkwitz is a breakthrough.

Louisiana Tech is making a new start under first-year coach Sonny Cumbie as it visits the Tigers on Thursday night.

Missouri was 6-7 and 3-5 in the SEC last season after going 5-5 in Drinkwitz’s first season in 2020. Drinkwitz brought in 19 transfers and a second consecutive highly regarded freshman class to boost the roster.

“Although we’ve had changes in both staff and players,” Drinkwitz said, “there is a continuity to our program, there’s a foundation to the program.”

The Tigers brought in a new defensive coordinator in former LSU linebackers coach Blake Baker, who was previously defensive coordinator at Miami and Louisiana Tech.

“We will be improved on defense,” Drinkwitz said.

The Tigers entered preseason camp with a four-man battle to be the starting quarterback. Drinkwitz didn’t take long to make a decision, naming Brady Cook, a backup for each of the coach’s two seasons, on Aug. 9 to start the opener.

The newcomer drawing the most attention is wide receiver Luther Burden, who was ranked as the No. 3 freshman nationally in this year’s recruiting class.

Cumbie, who finished last season as interim head coach at Texas Tech and previously was offensive coordinator with the Red Raiders and TCU is going with Matthew Downing (a redshirt junior from TCU) over Parker McNeil (a redshirt senior from Texas Tech).

This is the third consecutive season that the Bulldogs, 3-9 and 2-6 in Conference USA last season, had a quarterback battle into the middle of camp.

“Quarterback is where it really starts on offense,” Cumbie said. “It is not a job that is decided by one play or one day. It is decided by consistency throughout fall camp and how they prepare and execute in live situations.”

Cumbie hired former Stephen F. Austin defensive coordinator Scott Power to try and upgrade a unit that finished 106th nationally in total defense (434.3) and 114th in scoring defense (34.0) last season.

–Field Level Media

Oct 2, 2021; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack quarterback Devin Leary (13) drops back to pass against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs during the first half at Carter-Finley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

No. 23 N.C State holds off Louisiana Tech for third straight win

Devin Leary threw two touchdown passes and No. 23 North Carolina State built on its big upset from a week earlier by defeating visiting Louisiana Tech 34-27 on Saturday night in Raleigh, N.C.

It wasn’t over until Jakeen Harris intercepted a pass in the end zone on the game’s last play after Louisiana Tech drove to the NC State 22-yard line.

Zonovan Knight’s 4-yard touchdown run with 7:45 left helped clinch the outcome for NC State, which moved to a 4-1 record for the second year in a row.

The Wolfpack never trailed but it had trouble pulling away, taking the lead for good in the waning seconds of the first half.

Austin Kendall finished with 341 passing yards and three touchdowns for Louisiana Tech (2-3), which has just four victories in 52 all-time games against Top 25 opposition.
Leary ended up 22-for-36 for 251 yards.

NC State’s Ricky Person, who had a 24-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, produced 90 yards on the ground on 15 attempts. Knight racked up 85 rushing yards on 13 carries.

Still, Kendall threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes, the latter on a 14-yard play to Griffin Herbert with 4:43 to play.

N.C. State, coming off a double-overtime win against Clemson a week earlier, is 4-0 at home.

NC State scored first on Leary’s 6-yard pass play to Chris Toudle, who dove into the end zone.

Louisiana Tech responded with a nine-play drive, capped by Kendall’s 2-yard toss to Jacob Adams.

Dunn, who missed all three of his field-goal attempts in the Clemson game (including a game-winning attempt from 39 yards on the final play of regulation), drilled a 36-yard field goal as the Wolfpack took a 10-7 lead in the second quarter. Louisiana Tech’s Jacob Barnes tied the game at 10-all when he booted a 21-yarder with 2:12 left in the half.

From there, each team punted before the Wolfpack went 57 yards in 36 seconds, setting up Dunn’s 29-yard field goal with two seconds left in the half.

Louisiana Tech’s two previous defeats this season came by a combined three points, including a one-point setback at Mississippi State, where NC State happened to suffer its lone defeat.

–Field Level Media

An Early Look: Kenneth Dixon, LA Tech

Coming out of Louisiana Tech is a senior running back by the name of Kenneth Dixon. Dixon is a talented running back, but he has a lot of wear and tear. He plays in a pass-first offense. Still, amazingly, he has quite the stat line over the past few years. Here are his careers stats so far. (as of 10/3/15)
• 699 carries with an average of 5.7 yards per carry
• 3,993 rushing yards and 59 touchdowns
• 69 receptions with 653 receiving yards
• 10 receiving touchdowns
Games scouted: Illinois (2014), Oklahoma (2014), and Western Kentucky (2014)
First, I would like to look at some concerns I have with Kenneth Dixon. Dixon does have a lot mileage on his tires, which is something that could hurt his draft stock. Soon, he will be breaking the barrier of 700 career carries and over 4,000 rushing yards. When you stop and think, that is over 700 hits he has taken in the stretch of only 4 years. I feel it is highly doubtful a team would spend a high draft pick on him because of that alone. Likely, he will not be averaging about 200 carries per year in the NFL, which is something that does stand in his favor.
Second, Dixon has a tendency to run upright, which causes him to take some rather big hits. I can recall several instances of him running down the sideline and getting hit very hard. His running upright not only leads to big hits, but it also decreases his ability to push piles. I feel his inside running is not as effective because he stands a little too tall when he hits a pile. Instead of being able to push a pile forward, he either gets driven back or has no gain.
But the good outweighs the bad. First, you have to look at the production. It is clear that, in his college career, Dixon has put up some great numbers. Has he faced the best of the best defenses on a consistent basis? No, but when has that played a factor in how great backs are in the NFL? It didn’t matter in the case of Doug Martin, Lesean McCoy, or Matt Forte, who all played for schools that played less than stellar teams on a consistent basis. If Dixon has the skill level mixed with the desire to win, the level of competition will not matter.
Dixon has great athletic ability to play the running back position. He will not be a power back, but will be used likely as a scat back. He is a very slippery runner who lives and breathes on runs off the tackle. He is extremely dangerous when he is allowed to cut the corner. Often, it will be a first down run or longer when he is allowed to do so. He can make quick cuts in the open field to make defenders miss and he can also make some crazy moves showcasing his agility and elusiveness.
I like how he is active in the passing game. He has shown on film that he can make catches and get yards after the catch without dropping passes or making errors. I even saw him line up in the slot some in the Louisiana Tech offense. This could add some draft stock to him as a lot of running backs are rarely involved in the passing game and are not three down backs. As of now, as we are reaching the start of conference play in the NCAA, I have Dixon listed as a third to fourth round pick in next year’s draft.
Austin Morris is the creator of The Scouting Lab. He is a graduate of National Football Post’s Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. He can be reached