LINCOLN, Neb. – With each passing day, Columbus draws nearer for the Huskers, and on Wednesday the offense discussed what they expect to see on Saturday as the Huskers take on Ohio State.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it,” senior running back Terrell Newby said. “That’s kind of the reason why we signed up to come here, games like this and games like last week’s [against Wisconsin]. I’m definitely ready to go out there and just compete.”
Offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said the team has responded well after suffering its first loss of the season at Camp Randall last Saturday.
“I think our guys were hungry, ready to get back to work,” Langsdorf said. “I think they were upset about that game. I think we had some opportunities, I think they knew that and felt that, and I think they were hungry to get back to work. I thought Tuesday was great that way, another sharp day today.”
>> Langsdorf offered a quick evaluation of what he’s seen from the Ohio State defense.
“They’re really deep up front, they rotate eight guys, they’ve got depth with big, strong guys and then edge rushers that can move,” Langsdorf said. “They’ve got a really solid group of linebackers, probably the best secondary we’ve faced also. So top to bottom, really talented personnel. We’ve got to be able to cover them up and get some yards early, and then protect the quarterback and go after them.”
As good as the Ohio State secondary is, Langsdorf sees some opportunities for the Huskers to exploit the Buckeyes’ aggressiveness.
“People have moved the ball on them, and I think that they’ve had some things where they’ve been able to draw up the linebackers and kind of get downfield on them,” Langsdorf said. “They do play a lot of man. They press a lot on the corners so they’re putting them on islands by themselves so I think you have to take advantage of some one-on-ones. You’ve got to be able to make sure that you get the quarterback protected first; that’s going to be a big key in the passing game.”
To set up the deep shots the Huskers will have to find some success on the ground first, especially on early downs.
“I think that’s a good thing, if we can have some success running the ball, it always helps us,” Langsdorf said. “So establishing that early and getting positive gains would be big.”
Early down success is something that the Huskers have struggled with recently, both through the air and on the ground, and now they’ll face one of the best teams in the country.
“We’re going to need it. I think the production there, whether it’s a completion or a positive gain on first down, that’s big for us,” Langsdorf said. “It just helps us on second and third downs, you get into better situations if you can chip away early and get into a better third down. That’s a big part of it, take a little bit of heat off of second and long … Production on early downs is really big for us, both run and pass.”
>> Another area the Huskers might be able to have some success in against the Buckeyes is the quarterback run game.
“[Northwestern] had some big runs [against Ohio State],” Langsdorf said. “It was some scramble runs and designed quarterback run. I think that stuff worked well for them. That’s a good thing to see. With the mobility of Tommy, I think that’s a good way to attack them.”
>> As for the running backs, Langdorf gave an update on how the backfield looks behind Newby.
“Devine [Ozigbo], I think, is getting better,” Langsdorf said. “I think he’s feeling better. You’ll see a little bit more of him. Then you’ve got Tre [Bryant] and Mikale [Wilbon] kind of in spot roles. Those two guys are pretty much in the same spot. I think getting Devine back and getting him feeling better will help us.”
>> Tight end Cethan Carter returned to practice on a limited basis this week and his status is up in the air.
“He looks good,” Langsdorf said. “He’s running well. I think he’s feeling good. It’s good to see him out there; it’s nice to have him back. I think so far so good. We’ll see a little bit more tomorrow but I think we’re going to be OK.”
Will Carter play this week?
“Maybe,” Langsdorf said. “We’ll probably have a better idea by Friday. We’re kind of trying to ease him back in and feeling good. I think today was another step toward that.”
Langsdorf said a return by Carter would have a significant impact on the offense as a whole.
“You just have to be aware of him and make sure coverage is going to him,” Langsdorf said. “It takes a little heat off of some of the other guys. It’s good to have him there as another threat they have to worry about. It’s good for us and a physical presence in the run game also.”
>> Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh declined to offer an update on the status of the banged up offensive line after right guard Tanner Farmer left the game in Columbus and right tackle David Knevel has missed practice time this week. However, the next man up on the interior is senior Corey Whitaker.
“He hasn’t played a lot but what I like about Corey is he’s smart a guy, he prepares and he’s a tough dude,” Cavanaugh said. “Talk about a guy who’s overcome ACLs in both knees and how important it is to him, it’s awesome.”