After a break in the schedule, it is game week once again for Nebraska and the Huskers were back at practice on Tuesday getting ready for a road trip to West Lafayette.
Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said the team used the bye week to get back to basics.
“We focused on our fundamentals, we focused on a lot of deep, deep, player depth, working down through the next, next man in and the next, next, next man in,” Diaco said. “A lot of guys participated and we did a lot of really strong individual work. The lion’s share of the practices were individual, just get the players better fundamentally.”
The Huskers have five weeks left in the season and junior left guard Jerald Foster said the team is refreshed coming off of the bye and is excited to take advantage of the opportunity.
“It’s going to be great,” Foster said. “It’s really big in the sense of us being able to make it to a bowl and it’s really big in us being able to wrap up our season in the right way. Us being able to have this bye where it was, we got lucky. I’m really happy that it just fell right in the middle. This back end of the season is going to be fun for us. We have good competition and hopefully we’ll be able to get on a streak.”
If Nebraska wants to put together a streak, it starts on Saturday against Purdue. The Boilermakers are 3-4 and coming off back-to-back losses — 17-9 to No. 5 Wisconsin and 14-12 against Rutgers.
First-year coach Jeff Brohm has alternated between sophomore Elijah Sindelar and junior David Blough at the quarterback position all season, and has yet to announce which signal-caller will get the start against Nebraska. Regardless of who is behind center, Diaco said it doesn’t change too much for the defense.
“The two-quarterback system doesn’t seem to change the play selection,” Diaco said. “The way they operate with personnel and the way they operate with formation and the way they operate with play selection, I don’t think they alter too much based on one person or the next. Tactically, there’s not much of a difference. Now fundamentally, there’s a difference because one guy does things a little bit different than the other guy … You saw 11 [Blough], at the end of the last game, keep plays alive with his legs and do a real nice job in a challenging circumstance in driving their team for, really, the game-tying, go-for-two moment there at the end in two-minute drill. He did a beautiful job. I don’t know how much of a mystery it is.”
Purdue is only averaging 24.1 points this season and has only scored one touchdown in the last two weeks. However, Brohm and his staff have shown a willingness to get creative with their play-calling and Diaco said the Huskers have to be ready for anything.
“They are very innovative,” Diaco said. “Coach Brohm and his brother [Brian], the Brohm brothers, they’ve been doing great, great things on offense for a long time. They’re from a deep lineage of dynamic offensive coaches and offensive production and they have a lot of offense. It is a lot of offense, a lot of personnel groupings, a lot of formations, a lot of plays, a lot of window dressing, just a lot of stuff. Tempo, it’s a lot to prepare for and can be a real problem.”
On the other side of the ball, Purdue is holding its opponents to 19.3 points per game.
“They’re big up front,” junior left tackle Nick Gates said. “They have some good D-linemen, good ‘backers. They’re big, they’re physical. It’s going to be a tough one up front this game. We’re excited for it.”
Ross-Ade Stadium averages about half the crowd size that the Huskers are used to playing in front of in Lincoln, but Gates said regardless that it shouldn’t be difficult to get themselves pumped up for the game.
“You don’t really go to football games for the fans or for the noise,” Gates said. “You go to win, you go to play against good players. It’s not too hard. We’re excited. We like playing football and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Foster echoed Gates’ thoughts and went even further.
“Every game, if you’re not prideful about being able to be on the field with the university’s logo on there, I don’t know why you’re out there. We could be 7-0 or 3-4 and I’m going to have the same pride when I go out and play for my university because I came here to be able to play with Nebraska on my helmet. Pride, if you don’t have that, then I don’t know what you’re doing.”
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.