Mickey Joseph isn’t concerned with whether his lack of prior head coaching experience influenced his perceived errors in Nebraska’s loss to Oklahoma.
Of course, it’s a fair consideration for the interim head coach. It’s been a decade since Joseph’s last and only collegiate head coaching job, and that was a two-year stint for an NAIA program. His mother agrees with the assessment too, he said at Tuesday’s press conference.
But as was the case on Saturday, Joseph’s main focus wasn’t considering the factors that may or may not have led to certain decisions. His focus was acknowledging errors, taking responsibility for them and seeing how he could improve.
Against Oklahoma, one significant mistake was not slowing down the tempo, according to Joseph. The Huskers had eight possessions in the first half against the Sooners. Five were shorter than two minutes, including the opening touchdown drive, while another was just over two minutes. With the Sooners having their way with Nebraska’s defense, their number of possessions resulted in a 35-7 halftime lead.
Joseph doesn’t know how that altered game plan would’ve impacted the game, or if it would’ve at all. But that doesn’t change his position.
“I got to do everything in my power to help the kids when we’re in a situation like that,” he said. “I don’t know how it would’ve ended. It could’ve ended the same way, but I’ve got to do a better job of that.”
Reduced tempo is something the team will implement moving forward, and Joseph and offensive coordinator Mark Whipple are on the same page about the plan.
As was the case last week, Joseph is making adjustments to how the team practices as well. One shift has been tackling in practice more frequently, which the Huskers had only done in scrimmages this year with Scott Frost as head coach, according to Joseph.
But while that change may draw the most attention given the defense’s struggles through four weeks, there’s more alterations taking place. Joseph said he’s drawing “a lot” from his time at LSU, where he was wide receivers coach on a national championship-winning team in 2019.
“Less reps. Speed it up a little bit more,” Joseph said of his practice plan. “Cut down on it, simplify some things, not coach the athleticism out of them, and get them playing fast on both sides of the ball, all three sides of the ball, special teams also.”
Joseph’s time at LSU also showed up in his changes to the staff. After defensive coordinator Erik Chinander was let go on Sunday, he promoted special teams coordinator Bill Busch into the spot. Busch was the safeties coach at LSU while Joseph was the receivers coach there, coaching players such as All-American and second-round NFL draft pick Grant Delpit.
While Joey Connors takes over at special teams coordinator, Busch will serve in the same role that Chinander was moved into last week. He’ll be the defensive coordinator along with coaching the safety and nickel position, while defensive backs coach Travis Fisher focuses on cornerbacks.
“Bill (Busch) is built for this. He’s sharp, he’s going to be detailed, he’s a really good football coach, and he’ll take care of it,” Joseph said. “I understand and Bill understands what I want. We spent time together at LSU and we talked a lot when we were at LSU… We got to compete against each other and share notes and get at each other on the field. Some people think we don’t like each other, but we do. We just get after each other on the field.”
The interim head coach doesn’t know if there will be any more changes to the staff. Of course, he said the same thing after the Oklahoma game too, acknowledging that it was possible but that he’d need to review the film first. The staff changes and ball control comments are part of Joseph’s stated plan to get Nebraska turned around for the rest of the season and potentially beyond.
“We’re going to do things the right way. We are not going to try to sabotage anything,” Joseph said. “If we don’t get the job and we have to leave here, they’re going to say we left this place better than we found it. We’re going to do things the right way. I expect my coaches to do it, I expect everybody to do their job.”