Mike Dawson
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Mike Dawson Discusses Defending the Run, Iowa’s Skill Position Talent and More

November 25, 2020

With Thanksgiving on Thursday, Sports Nightly moved the Nebraska Football Show up a day this week, and it was outside linebackers coach Mike Dawson’s turn to join Greg Sharpe for an hour-long discussion.

Sharpe and Dawson closed out the hour by discussing what the Huskers expect to see from Iowa on Friday afternoon.

“I’m an old-school football guy, or like to think about myself that way, and I love the scheme that they run,” Dawson said. “They’re obviously a very well-coached team and have very talented players. It’s going to be a big challenge for us, just like anybody that you’re going to play against. You’ve got to stop the run. For us defensively, that’s going to be the No. 1; I don’t think that’s a secret on their side or our side that they’re going to try to run it and we need to stop it. That’s going to be the big deal.”

Iowa is averaging 181.6 yards per game on the ground this season at 5.0 yards per tote. Sophomore Tyler Goodson has been the bell-cow back (90.6 adds per game, 5.5 yards per carry, six touchdowns) while senior Mekhi Sargent has provided a change of pace behind him (61.8 yards per game, 6.4 yards per carry, six touchdowns). The Huskers are allowing 4.7 yards per carry so far this season.

“Then we have to force some turnovers,” Dawson continued. “We have to, offensively, take care of the football; you have to win that battle. You have to do a great job minimizing your penalties and win the penalty battle. That hidden yardage is invaluable, and we’ve got to do a great job on special teams. Those are going to be the factors, and it’s going to start with us and it’s going to be the guys up front that will control the trenches.”

Though Iowa is a defensive team who wants to run the ball, Dawson said their skill position players deserve more credit than they probably get.

“I think sometimes when you talk about teams that are running that pro style offense, you think about big ol’ linemen and those guys grinding; you don’t give the credit to the offensive skill which they have,” Dawson said. “They have very good receivers, they have very good running backs and they run hard, and the quarterback does a great job when he’s called upon to throw the ball and also scramble. There are times where he gets himself out of the pocket and you can see the guys that are undisciplined in the rush and he’ll pull it down and take off when he needs to.”

Dawson’s group is going to have to play a major role on Friday if the Huskers want to set the edge and slow down Iowa’s offense, and the key will be attention to detail and physicality.

“Any time a team is going to run the ball like that, if they can establish the run then they can implement the play-actions and the nakeds and the boots that come off of it,” Dawson said. “They’re very proficient at that, they do a good job. It all comes down to your keys, and we talked a little bit briefly about your hand placement … Doing a good job with your technique, it all comes back down to that. Striking your man on key and that’s going to give you the answers to the test. Hey do a great job of it and that usually happens when a team is physical. We’re going to have to be a physical team and go ahead and put our hands in the correct position and be physical while we do it.”

Nebraska and Iowa are set to kick off at 12 p.m. CT on Friday on FOX.

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