Offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf walked off the practice field Monday night wearing a black Nebraska “Boneyard” T-shirt and a black hat.
“Throwing the bones,” he joked. It wasn’t in response to the proposed blackout of Memorial Stadium on Saturday when No. 8 Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) comes to town. It might have been because Saturday’s battle with the Badgers figures to be a slugfest and figures to be tight. The two teams have almost played to a 25-25 draw in the two games in Lincoln since the Huskers moved to the Big Ten and with both teams entering the matchup wanting to run the ball and play defense, the onus could fall on whichever offense can make one more play.
Langsdorf knows in order to do that, the Huskers will need to play their best game of the season.
“They’ll be the best defense we’ll face,” he said confidently. “Their whole d-line is high-motor, high energy. They’ve got a relentless rush. They really don’t have one standout guy, they’ve just been really solid all the way around and their linebacking crew, even with the injury to probably their best guy, is still a really solid group. You look at them top to bottom and they’re solid and physical all the way around.”
They’re hard to run against and hard to block in pass protection, Langsdorf said. Unless Nebraska has some fancy plans up its sleeve that doesn’t involve running or throwing, Nebraska will have to beat Wisconsin in one of those things first to even have a chance at opening up the other.
“You have to really be smart about the protections that you use and the route selection,” Langsdorf said of how they go about accomplishing that. “The patterns down field, you need to have some protection in there, and if you’re going to try and push it, you gotta be smart about it too and not give up hits and sacks or force balls into tough situations.
“They do a nice job in coverage and changing things up so [we’ve] got to be smart about the planning and making sure we put the quarterback and the offense in good situations.”
Langsdorf feels like his team is prepared for the fight though, at least more so than they were even a season ago because of the change in the Huskers’ defensive identities. With defensive coordinator Bob Diaco coming to town and Nebraska’s defense converting to a 3-4, Langsdorf has had to work against a 3-4 defense since spring ball.
“Out of the 3-4 you can get a bunch of different combinations of pressures, and so we’ve seen a lot of that throughout the last couple months,” Langsdorf said. “I think having that experience, all that work against the 3-4, has been really good. It’s been helpful for us early in the season, not having to make that transition so quickly in a game week.”
Langsdorf said he and Diaco have worked hand-in-hand in preparation so far. Whether it’s Diaco needing to see a specific look from the offense to prepare his squad and vice versa, or it’s just “rolling the ball out there” and playing and adjusting on the fly.
Other news and notes
>> Wide receiver De'Mornay Pierson-El wore a green non-contact jersey during practice Monday evening.
>> Langsdorf has had to make several of those on the fly adjustments this season in not just his planning, but his personnel.
At some point or another during the first five games of the season, Langsdorf has had to replace a starting running back, right tackle, wide receiver and center with unproven and untested youth off the bench. There’s been hiccups, but as guys are getting healthier and nearing returns to the lineup, Langsdorf feels like the benefits are coming too.
“I think the nice thing about playing young guys is you become deeper in a hurry,” he said. “You get the No. 1s back and now you’ve got a little bit of depth all of the sudden.
“I think we’ve built depth with [freshman tackle Brenden] Jaimes, with [center Michael] Decker in the line. I think you’ve seen some good minutes from [wide receivers] Gabe Rahn and [Bryan] Reimers. JD [Spielman]’s been giving us good minutes although he’s a No. 1 in there at the slot. We are building some depth at receiver … I think all those guys have contributed and it’s made our team deeper.”
>> As for the youth up front, with Jaimes being a true freshman and Decker being a rather inexperienced sophomore, there are questions about how they’ll hold up to a Wisconsin offensive line that ranks second in the Big Ten (tied for ninth nationally) in sacks.
Langsdorf said it’s just been about taking things one game at a time and trying to approach every team the same.
“We’ve really been preaching that if we do the same thing every week and we prepare the same way, it is another game,” he said. “Everybody will make it a big game but we don’t have to prepare harder because we’re playing Wisconsin than we do Illinois. I think that’s really been the way we’ve approached it.
“We want it to be the same every week. Then we don’t have to get up for the big game and act different and give more speeches and do anything crazy.”
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.