Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Huskers Improving in Starting Offense’s Clash With Blackshirts

September 06, 2022

Nebraska’s offensive and defensive units both harped on improvements this fall. This week, they’re pitted against each other in practice.

Huskers coach Scott Frost told media in Monday’s press conference the first-team offense would go against the first-team defense more this week. Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander likes what he’s seen so far.

“I love ones on ones for the sheer fact that … on the defensive side, you know what they’re going to do for their base plays, but they can come out and do anything they want,” Chinander said after Tuesday’s practice. “So I don’t care what we do. I just like seeing good guys, good blockers blocking good defensive linemen. I like seeing good receivers running full speed routes on good DBs. I just like that that part of the game. You don’t have to have it be 80 reps, but 12 or 20 a day where you’re getting your ones and your twos 10 reps apiece, really banging against a good guy, really covering a good guy, those types of things, I think that’s invaluable.”

The Blackshirts allowed a 16-play, 80-yard drive to melt nearly 7 minutes off the second quarter just before halftime. Chinander harped on ending drives. So they’re addressing tackling.

“We’ve got to do a better job leveraging the football right now,” Chinander said. “All levels of up the defense — d-line, linebackers, DBs — everyone’s got to do a better job leveraging the football and when you leverage the football, those missed tackles — if you do get a missed tackle — they turn into one extra yard instead of five or six or plus. So we’ve just got to do a better job leveraging the football right now.”

Offensive coordinator Mark Whipple said the team is coming along with an emphasis on converting third downs into first downs. He pointed to Alante Brown’s 21-yard reception on 3rd and 10 midway through the first quarter of Saturday’s game as an example. The Huskers were 2-for-4 on third down in the first half against North Dakota.

Whipple also credited the offense with handling adversity after quarterback Casey Thompson threw a third-quarter interception that North Dakota capitalized on with a touchdown. The Huskers scored on their next drive — three of their next four to end the game. Thompson told Whipple he saw the linebacker drifting over but didn’t see the linebacker lined up over center.

“He’s getting better, did a lot of things,” Whipple said. “The good thing about Casey is he came over to the sideline, he said he never saw that linebacker. We didn’t give him that look in practice.”

The offensive coordinator also said there were plans to run a 2-minute offense at the end of the first half, the team just never got the ball back with that time. Nebraska ran 22 offensive plays in the first half for 7 points. The Huskers ran 39 plays in the second half and scored 31 points.

More news and notes:

>> Whipple said there’s a lot to his offense that hasn’t been installed yet because it takes time. He was in his third year at Pittsburgh when the Panthers emerged as a top-25 team last season.

>> Chinander said he’s happy with the flow of the current defensive rotation but would like to get more players involved.

>> Whipple is impressed with running back Anthony Grant but wants to continue developing depth at that position.

>> Chinander also praised the growth of Stephon Wynn Jr., including the hustle he showed to get to the fumble early in the third quarter.

>> Tight end Nate Boerkircher enjoyed his touchdown on Saturday with his brother, Ian. “We grew up at Aurora playing football our whole life, playing football in the backyard, probably fighting a lot and stuff like that. It was something we’ve dreamed about ever since we were little, so it was a special moment.”

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