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Nebraska DE Randy Gregory seeking first sack of season

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Nati Harnik/Associated Press
Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory is still seeking his first sack of 2014 after notching 10.5 last season.

Nebraska's defensive backs are worried about Miami's speed at wide receiver, which means this is a game where highly touted Huskers defensive end Randy Gregory can make a big impact.

Nebraska plays host to Miami on Saturday night.

"We have pretty good speed. Don't doubt us," Huskers cornerback Byerson Cockrell told the Lincoln Journal Star. "But, honestly, Miami, yeah, I believe they are going to be the fastest receivers we ever did go against. ... They've got a lot of speed, especially No. 4 (Phillip Dorsett).

"That man can roll."

Statistically, the Huskers have been excellent against the pass, allowing just a 46.1 completion percentage and 165.3 passing yards per game. But stopping the passing attacks of Florida Atlantic, McNeese State and Fresno State -- the teams the Huskers have beaten this season -- don't necessarily equate to stopping UM's passing attack.

"They're going to test us, there's no way around it," Cockrell said. "They're going to run deep downfield, so our corners and safeties, we're just going to have to buckle up and just have to defend it because if we can stop the run, that's the only thing they'll be able to go to."

Miami true freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya has thrown for 693 yards and seven touchdowns. But he also has tossed five interceptions and struggled when pressured in the opener against Louisville. Part of that was he was making his first college start against the Cardinals. But part of it was that the Cardinals did get into his face on numerous occasions.

That's where Gregory (6-foot-6, 248 pounds), a junior, comes in. He led the Big Ten with 10.5 sacks last season, but he doesn't have one this season. To be fair, he has missed one game and all but one series of another with a knee injury. This will be his second game after undergoing arthroscopic surgery Sept. 1.

"Trust me: He's a difference-maker, so having him out there is important," Huskers coach Bo Pelini said after last week's win over Fresno State, which was Gregory's first game back.

Gregory knows the pass rush will be important against Kaaya.

"It's big," Gregory told reporters this week. "I mean, for one, this is the first time they'll have played in front of a crowd as big as this, and for it to be on the road I think is big for us. Hopefully our crowd can get back there and get in (Kaaya's) head a little bit because he is young. I think if we can rattle him up a little bit early, we'll be all right toward the end of the game."

Gregory will spend much of his day going against Miami left tackle Ereck Flowers (6-6, 324), who was a high school teammate of star UM tailback Duke Johnson. Flowers was a part-time starter at right tackle as a true freshman in 2012, then started all 13 games at left tackle last season. He already is considered one of the best non-senior offensive tackles nationally and obviously can open even more eyes -- and potentially make himself some money -- with a strong performance against Gregory. Flowers' size is impressive, as is his athleticism and strength. His work against Gregory in the running game will be important, but Flowers' pass protection must be at a high level if UM is to win.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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