Mario Verduzco has coached in cold places before. The bulk of his 20-plus year career as a Division I college coach was spent at Cedar Falls, Iowa, but Northern Iowa didn't play outside. If it was cold and snowy outside, conditions were just fine inside the UNI Dome.
That's why Verduzco said Wednesday he's never actually coached a game in the snow. There was a game at Delaware once where it had snowed in the days leading up to the game, but nothing during.
The latter is a possibility on Saturday. The forecast currently calls for temperatures in the 20s with snow flurries or snow showers possible. But Verduzco wasn't spending much time worrying about how the weather might affect his star pupil, quarterback Adrian Martinez.
The Huskers went out for their "Fast Friday" practice last week in the worst of the Nebraska weather. Verduzco said Martinez took his shirt off, put a beanie on and had fun with it. Martinez's line against Illinois in the cold –– 24-for-34, 290 yards, three touchdowns –– was encouraging, too.
The cold, Verduzco said, "was never brought up once" in his conversations with Martinez last week.
But this week could bring a little more of a mitigating factor. Wind is worse than snow, according to multiple coaches, and there might be more of that this week. The box score for the Illinois game listed winds out of the south at 17-to-21 miles per hour. Saturday's forecast calls for 20- to 30-mile-per-hour winds out of the north-northeast.
"We'll go out there and we'll see what the conditions are," offensive coordinator Troy Walters said. "If it's windy and you can't throw a certain direction, that'll factor into the game plan. Right now we're scheming up Michigan State as if we'd scheme up anybody else . . . We'll have to adjust as the game goes, but it won't really affect what we do."
That's the plan anyway. But when you have a high-scoring offense, particularly when it's pitted against a defense-first opponent as the Huskers are this week, the weather's influence is always going to be a question.
Just not for Nebraska's coaches.
"We can adjust everything we do," running backs coach Ryan Held said. "We can be in heavier packages if we need to be. We can also still spread it out. We don’t worry if it’s cold out because if we have to practice in it, we will. We adjust accordingly. The defense still has to line up. They have to be able to tackle us in space. If we need to pound it, we will. Our offense is built for whatever weather it is."
Saturday's game should offer a great opportunity to prove it. Nebraska's win over Illinois showed the Huskers' offense, and Martinez, could operate in the cold. Now we might see if it can keep churning out yards and points with snow in the mix.
But until fans get to see it there will always be a little doubt. And "why play in the cold?" will never go away on the recruiting trail. It popped up again this week on Twitter with a Florida State pointing out the forecast to Nebraska commit Desmond Bland, who currently plays at Arizona Western, on Wednesday.
Im from the midwest😂🤦🏾♂️I can play in any weather https://t.co/0XNNdpwknO
— That Boy (@Desmond_Bland) November 15, 2018
Held, Nebraska's ace recruiter in the junior college ranks, must've been privately proud of Bland's response. He had expressed similar sentiments earlier that day.
"You come to Nebraska, you are in the Midwest you have to be able to play in all kinds of weather, right? If you want to be an NFL guy, you don’t get to just play in Miami and Texas," Held said. "You’ll play in Green Bay and Chicago, everywhere else like that. We have to be able to play no matter what the elements are. Our offense is built to be in any type of weather. We are always prepared."
The Grab Bag
- Big win for Nebraska basketball last night: 3 Takeaways, Game Story, Photos, They Said It
- It was signing day yesterday for basketball and volleyball (among others). Jacob Padilla offers a recap of Akol Arop’s signing day at Creighton Prep and a look at the latest Nebraska volleyball class.
- OC Troy Walters was excited on Wednesday by the challenge Michigan State’s defense presents.
- Greg Smith looks at how the Huskers hope to use the offense as a recruiting tool.
Today’s Song of Today