Nebraska has rushed for 660 yards in its two games and is one of seven teams nationally that hasn't allowed a sack. Forget that, though: The Huskers' offensive line gets its first real test Saturday at UCLA.
Specifically, the Huskers have to deal with UCLA senior outside linebacker Anthony Barr (6-feet-4, 248 pounds), who had 13.5 sacks last season and is seen by numerous NFL draft analysts as a top-10 pick next May. Last season, when UCLA beat Nebraska 36-30, Barr had four tackles, a sack, a pass breakup and a forced fumble in just his second game playing linebacker following a move from fullback.
Nebraska beat Wyoming and Southern Miss in its first two games, basically doing what it wanted offensively against those two. It won't be that easy Saturday, and it is incumbent on a veteran line to play well.
"We've got to be perfect," Huskers offensive line coach John Garrison told the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald. "We've got to keep [quarterback Taylor Martinez] clean. We've got to keep him from taking shots, any pressures. Not just sacks, but pressures or hits. Those obviously build up on a quarterback."
"You don't see too many guys with his length, speed and physicality," Garrison told the Lincoln Journal Star. "It's pretty rare. That's what makes him a pretty special player."
Barr usually lines up at right outside linebacker, but he occasionally will flip to the left side or even put his hand down as an end on the right side.
Nebraska returned three offensive line starters from last season, and its all-upperclassman starting five includes four seniors. Senior guard Spencer Long (6-4, 315) is one of the best at his position in the nation, and senior tackles Andrew Rodriguez (6-6, 330), Jeremiah Sirles (6-6, 310) and Brent Qvale (6-7, 315) each have NFL potential. But the Huskers allowed 35 sacks last season, an alarmingly high number for a team with as mobile a quarterback as Martinez.
The linemen know the onus is on them to perform at a high level against an aggressive and athletic Bruins defense. They also know that scouts will notice if Barr is neutralized.
"It's going to be a challenge," Rodriguez, the starting right tackle, told the Lincoln paper. "It's what you like. It's what gets you jacked."
The tackles know they have to keep Barr under control.
"It's going to be about getting a good set on him," Sirles, the starting left tackle, told the Lincoln paper. "And you've got to stay inside-out on him and get your hands on him because he's a very good hands player."
Rodriguez told reporters that Barr was "relentless" but can be stymied.
"My main objective is to get my hands on him," Rodriguez told huskeronline.com. "He's not that big of a guy. If you get your hands on him, he won't be able to make a move."
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.