“It’s very fixable.”
That was Nebraska coach Bo Pelini’s assessment of the Huskers after staying at Memorial Stadium until early Sunday morning reviewing film from the Wyoming game. The Cowboys gashed the Huskers for 602 total yards and 35 first downs, the most by a Nebraska opponent in school history, but Pelini was remarkably upbeat at his weekly press conference on Monday.
“I learned a lot as a coach the other night especially regarding the situation we’re in right now. Things haven’t changed as far as what my expectations are and what I think this football team is going to be. If anything, I feel even better about it coming out of the other night,” Pelini said.
It might be a familiar refrain for Nebraska fans. The words execute, fixable, and adjustments have been used before in this context. For a fan base looking for answers on the defensive side of the ball, Saturday’s game only offered more questions.
Part of Wyoming’s gaudy offensive numbers might be able to be explained by Nebraska’s inexperience on that side of the ball — seven players on defense made their Nebraska debuts in the game — but not for the reason you might think.
Pelini came away from the game thinking the coaches may have over-compensated for Nebraska’s youth.
“I think at times, we tried to make it too easy for them. We ended up in a couple situations I didn’t like. We tried to simplify a couple of adjustments where if we would’ve adjusted a different way we would’ve been in a better situation.
“Sometimes you try to oversimplify it. We got caught in a couple of defenses that weren’t good especially against the quarterback draw…They’re easy adjustments to make.”
The Huskers will have a chance to prove their head coach right this week against a Southern Miss team coming off a tough home loss to Texas State last Saturday. The Golden Eagles turned the ball over six times in the 22-15 loss, but quarterback Allan Bridgford, making his first start for Southern Miss after transferring from Cal in the offseason, looked crisp, throwing for 377 yards and a touchdown.
The loss was the Eagles’ 13th-straight, dating back to last year’s season-opening 49-20 loss to Nebraska, but Pelini says he thinks Southern Miss is headed in the right direction under first-year head coach Todd Monken.
“They look like a better football team now than they were a year ago. They have real speed at the wideout position and some really dynamic guys on the outside,” Pelini said.
Nebraska’s offense also has some work to do despite putting up 530 yards and 27 first downs on Saturday. Pelini said the offense was “just OK” on Saturday and needed to finish blocks better this week.
Ameer Abdullah, one of the leaders on the offensive side of the ball, spoke to the team in the locker room following the win over Wyoming to emphasize some of those same points.
“We have a certain standard that we want to hold on this team,” he said. “I felt, personally, that we didn’t play up to that standard. That may work against some teams in lower divisions than what we are but that’s not the kind of football we’re capable of playing. We can be much better and that’s what I tried to voice to the team.”
A few other news and notes from the Huskers’ Monday press conference:
–Taylor Martinez said that his left shoulder is fine after he appeared to be favoring it in the second half last Saturday. He’ll practice and play this week. Pelini said the Huskers came out of the game relatively injury free.
–Martinez’s fourth quarter interception, his third straight game throwing a pick dating back to last season, gave Wyoming a chance to win the game. The pass, intended for Sam Burtch, appeared to be a miscommunication between receiver and quarterback. Martinez gave his take on the play:
“Our starting receivers were out and I don’t get very many reps with the other kids back there. It was just miscommunication with us. I thought he was going to break a lot shorter than he did break.”
–Pelini was effusive in his praise of Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith. Smith had 478 total yards in the game and threw for four touchdowns, but most notable was his ability to keep plays alive against Nebraska’s pass rush.
“Smith is exceptional at buying time in the pocket and his pocket feel. It’s something you really can’t teach. I thought that the first time we played them two years ago,” Pelini said.
Smith lost out on Mountain West offensive player of the week honors to Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr who threw for 456 yards and five touchdowns in a 52-51 win over Rutgers.
–Pelini was also high on the play of true freshman linebacker Josh Banderas. He only had two tackles in his Nebraska debut, but Banderas was in at key moments in the second half.
“He had a couple of snaps early and then he got a lot of snaps later on,” Pelini said. “It shows how we feel about him. When the game sort of got to be on the line there, we weren’t afraid to put him in there. He’s going to be good.”
When asked how big the gap was between Banderas and David Santos, the Huskers only returning starter at that spot coming into the season, Pelini said “not big.”