Defensive line coach Tony Tuioti has a lot to be happy about with his group to this point in the season. The Nebraska defense just held Purdue to -2 rushing yards which is pretty hard to do in a Big Ten game. It was a continuation of a strong performance from the defense against Iowa. In that game, the team held the Hawkeyes to under three yards per carry.
Tuioti isn’t satisfied yet though.
“What we’ve done the last two weeks is great, but it’s a whole new game, it’s a life of its own when we play Minnesota this week,” Tuioti said on Thursday’s ‘Sports Nightly’ radio show. “We know we have to buckle up and get ready for a hard hat day.”
Part of the reason Tuioti can’t let his group get too comfortable is what happened against Minnesota last year. His group is eager to perform better than it did in the 34-7 loss to the Gophers last season. That was a game dominated by Minnesota up front.
“We spent all week making sure the guys understand what type game this is going to be,” Tuioti said. “The younger guys know Minnesota got after us. It’s not a game that we are very proud of. Especially not in our room. Our guys take a lot of pride in trying to stop the run and being physical at the point of attack.
“Minnesota outplayed us last year. They were more physical and got us out of our gaps. We have to make sure we put ourselves in position to be better this week. We watched the tape all week this week. It’s a bitter taste in our mouths and our guys are hungry to do better.”
Several players that will have large roles in the game this weekend were not part of last season’s game. One player that we haven’t seen much of this year is junior college transfer Jordon Riley. Tuioti says he was slowed by a knee injury early in the season, but he is rounding back into the form that had him poised to make an impact this season.
“That set him back a little bit,” Tuioti said. “I’m just now starting to see him get his twitch back. He doesn’t have a knee brace anymore. He’s starting to look like the guy I saw in training camp that to me was going to have a really, really good season for us.”
Another player you can count on having an increased role in this year’s game is nose tackle Damion Daniels. He’s playing his best football as of late. The challenge was always how many snaps Daniels could give the Huskers. Tuioti spoke highly of the work he has put in to get himself to this point.
“He’s done a tremendous job this year,” Tuioti said. “Just getting his body right, getting in better shape. That was something that I challenged him on from day one. He’s done a great job of doing that. He played his most reps in the Iowa game. He played 44 snaps in that game. That’s a lot for a big man like that.
“Just throughout the game I was checking with him and he wanted to play more. He’s in such a great place mentality wise. Especially in the red zone. He’s knocking guys back and is physical at the point of attack.”
Tuioti knows that what you see is what you get from Minnesota. The Gophers are going to line up big guys on the line and run downhill at the Huskers. They are going to feed star running back Mohamed Ibrahim in this game. Tuioti thinks his guys his guys will be ready after a solid week of practice with the right attitude and intensity.
Greg is the Recruiting Analyst for Hail Varsity and has covered Husker athletics since 2013. He has always had a passion for sports while growing up in the Chicago area. As he got older and had to hang up his cleats and sneakers, he realized his passion for sports went beyond just watching and attending games. He has covered many events from the Rose Bowl to championship boxing matches. If he’s not talking sports, he’s hovering over his grill. He is married to an amazing woman, Kim, and they have a dog that barks when Greg yells at the TV during games.