Consistent winning starts with believing. And it’s on the coaching staff to get the players to believe.
Interim head coach Mickey Joseph said on Wednesday that offensive coordinator Mark Whipple’s comments were “right on.” Whipple shared his feelings on Tuesday that there are times when he doesn’t think the offense believes in itself to win every game. That comes from a season of bad luck and even worse losses.
“If you lost nine straight, would you think you could win every game,” Joseph asked. “It’s human nature to doubt yourself.”
That’s where this coaching staff comes in.
“So we talked about not doubting yourself,” Joseph continued. “And we do have high expectations but right now I think they’re at a good place mentally for what us coaches are asking them to do to win football games. I think they turned over a new leaf that they did it. on Saturday.”
The head coach said players started buying in during the bye week. Their mentality changed slightly and the defense played faster. All facets rose to the call for more physicality and that encouraged coaches.
A potential part of the mindset change came with the defense’s best performance of the season. Nebraska forced seven three-and-outs against Indiana. But the Huskers’ offense didn’t capitalize on it until the fourth quarter.
“Everybody’s got to do their jobs on offense,” Joseph said. “Offense’s job is to score points and not worry about what the defense is doing, that’s what we’re trying to stress.”
Joseph said the team’s swag started returning. When asked what that looked like exactly, he best summarized it with “35-25 win over Indiana.”
In preparation for Rutgers, Joseph channeled a Deion Sanders quote: “Bet on yourself, look in the mirror and believe in yourself.” Players received that Wednesday morning and Joseph liked how they internalized the message.
He thought the team adjusted to the short prep week smoothly. He liked the coaches’ preparation strategies, which involved leaving the stadium around 11 p.m. on Tuesday night. Players responded satisfactorily in Wednesday’s morning practice.
Joseph also said he hopes to get team captain Travis Vokolek more involved in the offense. Vokolek caught his only target during the Indiana game. The head coach noted the senior’s value beyond running routes.
“Travis is a big part of this offense,” Joseph said. “We look for him to catch balls but he’s a great run blocker, he does pass protect also. So he’s got a big role in this offense.”
Freshman Malcolm Hartzog seized opportunity coaches presented in the bye week and earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors after his first career start. Coaches praised Hartzog’s work and maturity throughout the week. Joseph said on Wednesday he didn’t see any other young Huskers on the cusp of making a similar impact.
Quarterback Casey Thompson listed a number of bruises and lumps he’s accrued on Monday. The transfer junior wants to play through whatever injury unless it ends his season. Joseph reiterated that Thompson’s taken lumps but practiced as normal this week.
Joseph is confident in defensive coordinator Bill Busch’s game plan against a more physical run-based Rutgers offense than Nebraska saw against Indiana.