After a performance where his defense gave up fewer yards (14) than Michigan State’s offense ran plays (15) in the second half last Saturday in East Lansing, Michigan, Nebraska defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said he loved the emotion, violence and speed from his players.
The Blackshirts were the silver lining of the Huskers’ 23-20 overtime loss. While a special teams blunder late in the fourth quarter had a major impact in the game, Chinander and his unit won’t be caught putting blame on teammates.
“Pointing the finger isn’t solving any issues. Helping others is solving a lot of issues,” Chinander said. “So I think those kids gotta take it upon themselves to help spread what they’re creating in that room and continue to get better on their end. We got good guys on the defense and they’re not finger pointers, not complainers.”
Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald was impressed with Nebraska’s defense at MSU, saying, “What jumps out to me, obviously, defensively they’re playing at an incredibly hard level. It’s 11 heartbeats operating as one. I know the pride they have in their Blackshirts, and it’s really impressive to watch.”
Chinander said he respects Fitzgerald as a coach and for what he’s done in the Big Ten for so long. But he also added he was quick to point out to his players that praise and blame is all the same.
“Can’t read your own press clippings, it’s time to go back to work,” Chinander said. “There’s only a few guys in your life that won’t lie to you—the guys in our room and probably your family. Everybody else will tell you what you want to hear and what they want you to hear. I appreciate the comment, but I’m just like them, I don’t want to read my own press clippings either.”
Following head coach Scott Frost’s Monday comments on the offensive line’s competition always being open, offensive coordinator Matt Lubick said the team has been trying out different o-line combinations the past couple weeks. Each night the coaching staff talks about which players will get how many practice reps.
“In a practice you probably have 150 plays, and each play is scripted and planned, and we just make sure the right guys are in at the right times so they get all the various looks,” Lubick said. “So there’s maybe a little more time into that than we normally do.”
More news and notes:
>> Lubick was impressed with the way the team has practiced the past two days after the overtime loss. The players aren’t hanging their heads and are moving on to Northwestern. “It’s easy to practice when things are going well,” he said. “You really find out about somebody, how mentally tough they are, when things aren’t going well, when you don’t get the results you wanted. How are you going to respond?”
>> Quarterback Adrian Martinez threw an interception in overtime, which all but sealed the win for Michigan State. Wideout Samori Touré was targeted on the play and faced tight coverage with the corner playing with inside leverage. Lubick said Touré needed to run his slant route flatter and needed to “protect the throw” better.
>> Nebraska ranks ninth in the Big Ten in red-zone scoring at 79.17%. The Huskers are sixth in red-zone touchdowns, scoring 14 on 24 attempts for 58.33%. Lubick said operating out of the red zone shrinks the playbook because the defense doesn’t have as much field to defend, so it usually packs the box with bodies. The best red-zone offenses run the ball against those heavy boxes, though, Lubick said.
>> Husker fans may still see freshman tight end Thomas Fidone in action this fall. Tight ends coach Sean Beckton said Tuesday that Fidone could potentially be available for up to four games this fall, but that is yet to be determined. Fidone suffered a serious knee injury during spring that was expected to keep him out until mid season at the earliest. He has not yet been cleared for full football activities.
>> Beckton mentioned two new names that he’s been working with to get up to speed in the punt-return game. True freshman Kamonte Grimes has been working as a returner since the spring, but Beckton said he’s held back by “young mistakes.” Second year freshman Will Nixon was another player mentioned. Nixon didn’t travel last week but if he was in East Lansing, Beckton said he might have tried him back there.