Nebraska’s game with Oklahoma on Saturday presents an incredible opportunity, one that the team isn’t taking lightly, said Nebraska defensive coordinator Erik Chinander.
“It’s a nameless, faceless opponent every week, and if you don’t prepare like it is, then you get snuck up on and you get the trap game,” he said during Tuesday’s media availability at Memorial Stadium. “You have to prepare like it’s Oklahoma, like it’s Ohio State, or like we’re playing for the national championship every single week.”
Chinander added that it’s exciting that the 50th anniversary of “The Game of the Century” will be part of FOX’s “Big Noon Kickoff,” which will lead to many eyes across the country watching.
“I think it’s exciting for these guys to go show that, as a defensive unit, what they can do and that they belong,” Chinander said. “I’m excited to do it, too, because you always want to get yourself tested, and get yourself battle ready for when you enter conference play, and this will do both. This will be a great test for our team, this will be a great game to sharpen the sword a little bit and get us ready for conference play. I’m really excited for these kids to go out and show the country that they can play with anybody.”
Chinander dished on Oklahoma’s Heisman candidate quarterback, Spencer Rattler, who has passed for 547 yards and six touchdowns against two interceptions in wins over Tulane and Western Carolina.
Chinander said that Rattler, who stands 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, reminds him of Vernon Adams Jr., the former Eastern Washington quarterback who transferred to Oregon in 2015, the same season as when Chinander was the Ducks’ outside linebackers coach. Adams was another short quarterback at 5-11 who was pass-first while having the ability to run well, too.
“I think he’s really good at extending the play. He reminds me a little bit of when we were at Oregon, Vernon Adams did a really good job of that,” Chinander said. “He wasn’t the guy who was going to pull it down and take it for 80, but he was the guy who would scramble, keep this play extended, always had his eyes downfield and was always going to make a play.”
More news and notes:
>> Offensive coordinator Matt Lubick said it’s always “earlier the better” when deciding which receivers are going to be the majority of the reps in the game.
>> Travis Vokolek, who hasn’t played this season due to an injury, is getting very close to getting back on the field. With Austin Allen’s status uncertain for Oklahoma, Lubick said that Vokolek is very physical at the point of attack and is also cerebral. He’s a tight end that gives the offense flexibility.
>> Lubick said that Oklahoma’s defense plays fast, just like its offense does. He credits the Sooners’ coaching staff for getting their players ready and keeping things simple.
>> Gabe Ervin Jr. is starting to gain more confidence. “He’s getting more comfortable and took advantage of the bigger holes that were there,” Lubick said.
>> Lubick said that quarterback Adrian Martinez’s chunk plays—and the two 68-yard touchdown passes to wideout Samori Touré—all were from Martinez’s second and third progressions, which is good to see.
>> Having a versatile player like outside linebacker JoJo Domann—who plays well in space at 6-1, 230 pounds—against Oklahoma’s high-powered offense will be a huge benefit, Chinander said.
“His football IQ is up a lot from two years ago. he understands what we’re trying to get done, he understands his alignment, his assignment, what he’s supposed to look at.
>> When it comes to speed, Oklahoma is fast. Nebraska knows that, but defensive backs coach Travis Fisher had some thoughts on the Sooners’ speed in relation to his own group.
“Speed is speed,” he said. “They’re a great football team. I think those receivers and those skill position players are fast but I also think we’re fast. I think we’ve got guys in the secondary and guys on our defense that are fast as well so I think it is what it is with that.”
>> Corners Braxton Clark and Quinton Newsome have been battling it out at the cornerback spot opposite of Cam Taylor-Britt. While Newsome has started every game so far this season, Clark has seen action in all three matchups as well. He posted his first tackle of the season in Nebraska’s win over Buffalo, finishing with two stops.
“I think they’re doing a good job of being available,” Fisher said. “Quinton is playing good football and he’s playing good football every day and Braxton is coming in. Right now we’re starting to see more of Braxton in these football games and he’s doing a good job as well.”
>> Safety Marquel Dismuke spoke on what Rattler brings to the Sooners’ offense: “Just him extending the play and throwing a ball,” he said. “Even if it’s a 50/50 ball, he’s still going to throw it to give his receivers a chance to go out there and make a play. For us, we want that so we can try to get the ball to our offense.”
>> Quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco said his first memory of the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry is Johnny Rodgers’ punt return during the Game of the Century. His family was living in the Bay Area in California at the time and his mom, a “West Coast Nebraska fan,” was going crazy during the return. Verudzco said his family became Nebraska fans “by proxy because they were kicking the piss out of everybody all the time.”