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Nebraska's Amukamara ready for Missouri receivers

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 | 9:10 p.m. CDT
Nebraska's Prince Amukamara intercepts a pass intended for Oklahoma's Adron Tennell during the first half of a game Nov. 7, 2009 in Lincoln, Neb. The cornerback will be in the spotlight Saturday when Blaine Gabbert and the Missouri Tigers visit for a game that could decide the Big 12 North winner.

LINCOLN, Neb. — You won't catch Prince Amukamara feeling sorry for himself after getting worked over by Oklahoma State star receiver Justin Blackmon.

The Nebraska cornerback already has forgotten about it. Mostly.

With Missouri's Blaine Gabbert and his crew of receivers coming to town on Saturday, there's no time to wallow in self pity. After all, the 14th-ranked Cornhuskers beat Oklahoma State and they can take control of the Big 12 North with a victory against the No. 7 Tigers.

Amukamara keeps telling himself that.

"It kind of stuck with me for a little bit," he said. "But I thought if I kept thinking about it, it would be selfish as a player to not enjoy the win. I kind of had a bad taste and a good taste in my mouth. The good taste was we won, but the bad taste was my performance."

Blackmon versus Amukamara was the featured matchup of last week's game. Blackmon is the national leader in receiving yards, and Amukamara already is projected as a high first-round pick in next year's NFL draft.

Blackmon made five catches for 157 yards and two touchdowns, accounting for more than half of Brandon Weeden's 286 yards passing. It was the most yards through the air against the Huskers since Kansas' Todd Reesing threw for 304 and three touchdowns in 2008.

Gabbert is averaging 271 yards passing and has gone over 300 yards three times. That includes last week's 308-yard, three-touchdown performance in a 36-27 win against Oklahoma.

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said he's not worried about whether Amukamara will bounce back. In fact, Pelini said Amukamara wasn't all that bad against Oklahoma State; he just had bad things happen to him.

"I think he will be better going forward because of it," Pelini said. "Let's face it, he hasn't had to fight that type of adversity. I've coached secondary for a long time, so I know you're going to get beat. It's not a matter of when, but what you do after you get beat."

Blackmon did most of his damage in the second quarter. Amukamara was beaten on a jump ball for a 36-yard gain, committed a pass interference and then gave up an 80-yard touchdown on a flea-flicker.

On the long TD, Amukamara briefly bit on the run when Weeden handed off to Joseph Randle. When Randle pitched the ball back to Weeden, Blackmon had several steps on Amukamara.

"Prince was supposed to have help on the flea-flicker," Pelini said. "That really wasn't his play. He almost made a great play on it. The ball was underthrown and the guy kind of pushed him back and it was a good play by him. Prince was in good position, but a couple times, guys make good plays."

Alfonzo Dennard spelled Amukamara on Blackmon after the flea-flicker. Amukamara was back on Blackmon in the third quarter, and he didn't catch another ball against him.

"We went against a good wide receiver, and he played as well as he can," Dennard said of his teammate. "Everybody's going to catch one every now and then. At halftime, Prince had the most energy, and he said he wanted to redeem himself. He came out the second half and redeemed himself."

Pelini, an NFL assistant for nine years before coaching in college, said cornerbacks who play aggressively like Amukamara are vulnerable to the big play. But Pelini said they don't happen often against Amukamara, who spends a significant amount of time in man-to-man coverage.

"There isn't a corner that has ever played, and I was around some great corners in the NFL, but they all get beat," Pelini said. "There is no one that is invincible."

Missouri has a greater array of receivers than Oklahoma State, and has an accurate quarterback with a quick release. Gabbert, who's completing 67 percent of his passes, hasn't thrown an interception in three games and has been picked off just three times in 269 attempts.

Tight end Michael Egnew leads the Tigers in catches, with 56. Of more concern to Amukamara and Dennard are big-play threats Jerrell Jackson, T.J. Moe and Wes Kemp.

Amukamara said he isn't necessarily looking at Saturday's game as an opportunity for redemption.

"The team is bigger than me," he said. "It's about helping our team get that 'W' against Missouri, whatever I need to do."


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