Like Husker defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said at the beginning of the year, there’s a really good culture in his room, and a devastating loss to Purdue isn’t going to change the fact that Nebraska’s defense wants to show up and give College Football Playoff hopeful Ohio State a real fight on Saturday.
Chinander, as well as offensive coordinator Matt Lubick, met with the media on Tuesday at Memorial Stadium. Chinander said he likes the keep-fighting tone that the defense spoke with on Monday, and that it’s showing this week in practice, too.
“They love the game and they love being around each other. They know what we’re trying to do. They want to come to work. They want to play for each other. They want to play for the fans. They want to play for Nebraska,” Chinander said of his defense. “I just love the culture we have in that room, and these kids are not going to do anything differently. They’re not going to say ‘Woe is me,’ and ‘Well, we lost a couple games.’ They don’t care. It’s right back to work. Let’s play again, because they love to be out there, they love to play this game and they want to continue to develop.”
Ohio State will come to Lincoln riding a six-game win streak. The Buckeyes’ offense is averaging 47.3 points per game, which is the best in the nation. CJ Stroud, the freshman quarterback and a former five-star prospect according to 247Sports, has picked up his play after a slow start to the season. The 6-foot-3, 218-pounder is averaging 326.9 total yards per game, which is tops in the conference and 10th nationally.
The Buckeyes are averaging a Big Ten-best 346.3 passing yards per game and 10.5 yards per attempt, which ranks third in the nation. Ohio State can run the ball well, too, as its 5.99-yards-per-carry average is first in the Big Ten and fourth nationally.
Chinander said the key to knocking off a balanced team like the Buckeyes will be to make them adjust.
“If it’s a team like this team that runs the ball really well and they throw the ball really well, you’re probably not going to take away everything on every down,” Chinander said. “But my job is, I have to be prepared for what I think they’re gonna do, what they’ve shown they’re going to do and try to take it away in those situations.”
Lubick was asked about the missed opportunity before halftime against Purdue, when quarterback Adrian Martinez and wideout Samori Touré couldn’t connect on a deep pass that, if caught, would’ve likely been a touchdown as Touré had a few steps on his defender.
“He (Touré) was the first one to say he could’ve made the catch. I think it was a little bit of the sun, and he kind of lost it a second, but he could’ve laid out,” Lubick said. “The biggest thing too, though, and Adrian will be the first one to say this, is we have to give him a catchable ball. When you have a guy beat by three yards, we have to give him more of a catchable ball. It was a combination. Samori has to make that catch and we gotta give him a little better ball.”
Touré was a big-play threat early in the season, but in the past three games he’s had just six catches for 85 yards. Are defenses catching on to Touré and his ability to stretch the field? It’s a combination of things, Lubick said.
“I think it’s more of the progressions, and sometimes the progression or the pass route called, he might be part of the progression but it didn’t get to him. Or he was the first part, but maybe he was covered and we moved on and they doubled him,” Lubick said. “We still have a lot of confidence in him.”
More news and notes:
>> Third-year safety Myles Farmer made his first start of the season—and second of his career—on Saturday against Purdue in place of the injured Deontai Williams. Farmer’s first start came on the road against Northwestern last season when Williams missed the first half because of a targeting penalty in the previous game. On Saturday, Farmer played the vast majority of the snaps and finished with six tackles (three solo).
“It went pretty good,” Farmer said. “It was my first start at Memorial, so it felt good starting in Memorial, having the fans with me. I played a pretty good game, I’ll say that.”
Farmer spent most of his first redshirt freshman season (this year being his second because of the COVID-19 eligibility freeze) playing in front of mostly empty stadiums, and he said he definitely had some nerves heading into Saturday.
“I think it’s normal to get nervous before every game,” Farmer added. “After that first play they kind of go away, but it’s kind of normal to me to get nervous a little bit.”
>> Outside linebackers coach Mike Dawson said that Ohio State does a great job of being able to throw intermediate passes. The Buckeyes are also able to max protect and find their elite athletes on deep shots.
“So the big deal for us is going to be winning one-on-one battles,” Dawson said. “It’s not a deal where you can just go ahead and all out-rush them and leave guys on islands against really good receivers. So we got to be able to win one-on-one. We can’t have a deal where Chins (Chinander) has to call in a perfect play to be able to get a rush. We’re going to have to be able to come off of their big bodies.”
>> Nebraska started practice outside Tuesday morning while Lincoln was covered in heavy fog. That made for an interesting start to practice, especially with returning kicks. Tight ends coach Sean Beckton shared some insight into how the fog actually benefitted the Huskers.
“It actually helps those guys focus a little harder,” Beckton said. “I told those guys, ‘You have to focus through this fog that much more in order to execute.’ It was good. We got something out of it.”
>> Tight end Thomas Fidone suited up against Purdue, but didn’t see the field. Beckton said that his “comfort level is increasing every day,” but he still has work to do before he gets in the game.
“We’re patient with him. We’re taking his time with him,” Beckton said. “There’s nothing physically wrong with him. It’s more or less mentally getting the reps, getting back into the groove of stepping with the correct foot, going back on the right technique on our line blocks, running crisp routes, those types of things. It’s going to take a little bit of time to get back into the flow of things.”
Beckton said he even stayed after practice on Tuesday to work more one-on-one with Fidone as he gets back into the swing of things.