LINCOLN, Neb. — After a week to recover and focus on themselves, the Huskers got back to their normal game-week schedule with a practice Tuesday afternoon. After they finished, the defensive staff and players previewed their upcoming showdown with one of the best offenses in the Big Ten in Indiana.
“They’ve done a good job at controlling the tempo of the game,” defensive coordinator Mark Banker said. “I think that they’ve got a potent run team. Zone, stretch, there’s a little bit of counter sweep in there, a rotation of three backs and it opens up the pass game.”
Cornerbacks coach Brian Stewart said he is pretty familiar with Indiana’s offense because of its similarities to what they ran at Houston while Stewart was there. Indiana has been known for its passing – and the Hoosiers are first in the Big Ten at 293 yards per game through the air – but as Banker said, the rushing attack is what makes them so dangerous overall.
“I think that’s what makes that thing unique, makes it go real well is those backs,” Stewart said. “I think he has a chance to keep them fresh, putting in 34 [Devine Redding] and putting in Tyler [Natee], 31; he has some guys that he can just keep on rolling in, keep them fresh and when you’re tempo, you want guys to be fresh. Those guys just keep moving the chains.”
Like Fresno State and Oregon, the Hoosiers try to speed things up and play at a very fast tempo.
“I think they’re very similar [to Oregon], watching them on film and then watching the game on TV and then kind of putting a clock on them, they’re very similar” linebackers coach Trent Bray said.
How did the Huskers handle that tempo against the Ducks?
“At times, not bad and at times, not good,” Bray said. “That will be the thing, handling it consistently and having seen it from a number of teams already, hopefully it will help us.”
Senior linebacker Josh Banderas said the Blackshirts are looking forward to the challenge the Indiana offense will provide.
“Any time you get to go against a top team ranked like that in passing or rushing, and they’re second in total offense, it’s a big challenge,” Banderas said. “Every week is a big challenge but this team, looking on film, they’ve showed that they’re a good team and they can beat anybody on any given day. They played Ohio State really tough and they had every chance to win. So it’s going to be a challenge but we’re excited and we’re up to it.”
>> According to Banker, the Huskers will have to be careful with their signs during the game as the Hoosiers look to them to key what they will do on offense.
“They do everything they can to steal defensive signals,” Banker said. “They work at it real hard. So they’re going to get your signals, and if they don’t get them before the game they’re going to get them before the snap and they actually call the play at the line of scrimmage. That’s not anything different or new; it’s just something that I think they really hone in on and they try to get into the perfect run or the perfect pass to beat your front and to beat your perimeter cover down … It will be important for us to just keep changing things up from the standpoint of how we send the call in.”
>> Stewart said having Tulane transfer Tanner Lee on the scout team will give the Huskers a look at what 6-foot-6 Indiana quarterback Richard Lagow will bring to the field.
“Any time somebody has a live arm, that can go deep, that can go to the short ones in tight windows, it helps you because you don’t want the first time you see that ball thrown into a tight window to be on Saturday,” Stewart said.
>> Wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp and tight Cethan Carter sat out of practice in street clothes, while running back Devine Ozigbo did some running on the side. All three are doubtful for Saturday’s game.
>> The Nebraska pass defense is allowing just under 95 fewer yards through the air per game this season, and Stewart said the main sources of improvement are comfort and confidence.
“I think that they’re more familiar with what we do and understanding what we’re going to play and when we’re going to play it,” Stewart said. “I think that has a big role. And I just think the confidence of the guys that we put out there – I think we started off the season being able to have some ball production and tackle the ball. That started off well for us, and now you have confidence going into your next game and attack the ball well in that game, and now you think you’re pretty good. I think that’s where we’re at.”
Junior cornerback Chris Jones in particular has taken big strides from last season, and if he continues to play at the level he is now, the NFL could be an option for him. However, Stewart doesn’t want to hear anything about that until 2018.
“I know that he has the ball skills, the tenacity, the plant and drive to get to where he’s supposed to get to be a high level player,” Stewart said. “I’m excited, and I’d like to keep it that way, keep him here.”
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. 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.