Nebraska RB Greg Bell Not Making Trip to Wisconsin
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Nebraska Leftovers: Week 3 Versus Troy

September 14, 2018

We're going to start up a regular Friday post filled with notes and quotes from the week before that we just couldn't get into a full story or didn't fit anywhere else. This will be a mash-up of sorts each week from the recorders of Erin Sorensen, Greg Smith, Jacob Padilla and Derek Peterson. Enjoy.

Safety Tre Neal knew Memorial Stadium would be a different environment from Spectrum Stadium, but experiencing it at full capacity was as unique as anything he could have imagined. The defense preached communication over the week, and a big part of that was because of the noise. Neal and the defense don't want the crowd to get quieter. They just have to work on communication, because that environment can be problematic for an opposing offense.

"It's very different. I've never played in front of 90,000 people that were cheering just for you. Now, we played at the Peach Bowl last year and there were 90,000 people there but there were some Auburn fans, some UCF fans and it was split pretty evenly. But when you're on defense and you just hear everyone screaming as loud as they can? Fans know it messes up the offense, but it means we have to work on our communication also," Neal said. "It was one of those things where it was deafening. I remember I was screaming at the top of my lungs a call and Mohamed [Barry] acted like he couldn't hear anything. I had to literally walk up to him and yell in his ear and tell him what to do.

"It's a great thing, though. There's nothing wrong with that and speaks to the fans. They're crazy. When you have 90,000 fans screaming for you to help you out? I think that's just everything." — ES

A lot of attention has been paid to safety Antonio Reed's late hit on Colorado receiver Jay MacIntyre that resulted in a Colorado first down and ended with a game-winning touchdown. Asked how he handles a play like that, defensive backs coach Travis Fisher had this to say:

"It’s simple, go to class on time. Come to practice with your ankles taped. If they are supposed to be taped, they have to be taped. Have your pad and your pencil in every meeting. The small things. If he does the small things right and we do the small things right…it’s not about just Antonio. It’s about the small things as a group and as a team. If we can do those things right, when you get put in that opportunity in games it’ll happen the other way." — GS

In the second half of Saturday's game, CU quarterback Steven Montez took a shot toward the back left corner of the end zone. Safety Deontai Williams played the ball perfectly and knocked it away. Those plays — flawless execution defending a pass play — were few and far between for Husker defensive backs a year ago, so Williams' play was a welcome sight.

"I just felt relieved," he said. "Here it comes; here it comes. I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long, long time. So I was like I’ve got to be ready, and I knew they were going to come right at me, so I was like ‘OK, here it is right here.’ That’s where the big shot was, and I knocked the ball down. I should have gotten a pick, I should have gotten an interception to help my team, but I’ll take the PBU." — JP

One of Saturday's standouts and, really, a standout from the entire offseason was linebacker Tyrin Ferguson. The junior finished play with 10 total tackles (third on the team), five solo tackles (team-high), two TFLs and a sack.

"It’s just indicative of the work he’s put in in the offseason. It’s manifested itself out on the field," Jovan Dewitt, his position coach, said of his play. "The discipline that he approaches the weight room with in offseason conditioning has correlated over to how he handles practice and then what he does in practice ends up leading itself to productivity on the field.

"To me, it’s not a surprise. I expected him to be like that, to have those numbers and that type of production. In his mind, he’s just got to stay working on the same thing and stay focused." — DP

Inside linebacker coach Barrett Ruud made a comment this week that Nebraska doesn't step up in games but instead falls back on the habits that the team has built. Neal echoed those comments, saying the team has leaned on him during the transition. He's seen the staff rebuild a program once, and he knows what they're capable of. As for Neal, he just wants to be a support system in the growth of the team (which means answering a log of questions sometimes).

"A lot of questions, just because I've been through it. I've been through 0-12. I've been through the first year, the growing pains. And I've been through when it all clicks," he said. "I think they want it to click faster, sooner rather than later. I think it's one of those things where they come up to me and ask how they should be doing things. Not even practice, but even stuff off the field and how we manage things like somebody doing this or that and if we let it slide. I could punish the person and say, 'You shouldn't do that, it's not right.'

"I think those little things are what we're working on and the culture of the team. Once you get that done? The wins will come. You'll just fall back on how you built the program and that's what we're learning to do." — ES

Everyone was pleased with the way redshirt freshman Damion Daniels performed in his first real action at Nebraska. He only had one tackle in the box score, but Daniels was disruptive in his time on the field, bull-rushing CU's center and collapsing the box on a handful of plays.

"I was happy for Damion [that] he got a chance to get out there and play. I know he was excited to finally get out in Memorial Stadium and get going," defensive line coach Mike Dawson said. "He had a couple good plays where he was penetrating and doing some things. He’s got to get used to playing at game speed and making sure he’s exact in what he’s doing and knows and understands the communication out there. He’s going to get better and better. I’m excited about the future with Damion.”

Defensive lineman Carlos Davis was just as complimentary.

“He didn’t play like a redshirt freshman either while he was out there," Davis said. "That goes to the work he put in before this, in the winter and summer.” — GS & JP

Maybe one of the most eye-opening plays from Nebraska's season-opener was junior back Greg Bell's burst through the middle of the field for a 45-yard gain. Sounds good, yes? But on film, Bell should have scored. He was gone. It should have gone for six but Colorado was able to chase him down.

"He was too tight. He looked like he was a track guy that was trying to run 10.5 instead of allowing him to run it and be natural," running back coach Ryan Held said. "I bet if you would have had a close up on him, I bet he was like this [scrunches face, grinds teeth] just running. He looked like a 95-year-old man out there running towards the end. He knows that. I was giving him heck about that. He’s just got to loosen up, when you see the open hole, we’ve got to be able to get that deal done."

Held said he loves his backfield; he saw good things from all three guys Nebraska used against the Buffs (Bell, freshman Maurice Washington and senior Devine Ozigbo). He said he's not worried about Bell's speed until Bell gives him a reason to.

"I mean, we’ll see. Obviously, the proof will be out there," Held said. "He’ll get another chance and if it shows that it’s a consistent deal then it is what it is, but I do have faith that all my guys have the ability to make big plays. Whether we’ve got a guy that can go 80 in this league, I don’t know, we’ll see." — DP

Speaking of Washington, he was asked again about what his schedule looked like before arriving at Nebraska (when he wasn't in football and wasn't working out much) and while his answer didn't provide any new information, it's still shocking to think about after a strong performance in his first collegiate game.

"I could only do what I could," he said. "So, I was working, going to 24 Hour Fitness. I didn’t have a gym or a school to work out at. I got a couple guys that I knew that play football out there and we were working all the time. I was still trying to stay focused because if that didn’t go through, I still had a life to live. I’m here now though so that’s great." — GS

Offensive line coach Greg Austin was asked whether or not the offensive line is in good enough shape to keep up with the pace of play for four quarters with a five- or six-man rotation. His answer, in short: yes.

"That was one of the other things we talked about as we did our debrief is them getting into game shape. You don’t really get into game shape until a game. We don’t have sets in our practice where we’re running for 13 plays in a run. Game shape is game shape.

"We have to do a good job of making sure we have a good run-to-pass ratio to where those guys aren’t running the ball every single play at tempo. That’s going to gas anybody out. It’s one of those, as coaches and players alike come to know each other, [we] kind of get a feel for who we are and how we function and I think that as we go along, those guys are going to get way more of a feel for where they are in terms of game shape.” — JP

Being from Alabama, freshman corner Cam Taylor knows quite a few guys on the Troy team. To name a few: safety Adarius Wesley, defensive end John Hines, a couple corners and most of the coaching staff. Asked if there's a little friendly competition going up against old pals, Taylor said:

"Nothing's friendly."

The corner said his first time in Memorial Stadium was great. He had watched YouTube videos of the Tunnel Walk before but actually getting to experience it live was something else. 

Taylor played significant snaps at corner in the fourth quarter against Colorado following a fall camp filled with nothing but good things from his position coach, Travis Fisher. One of the things that always comes up when Fisher talks about Taylor is his preparation.

"I just know if I’m not working, somebody’s working harder than me so I try to put in extra work whenever I can in my off time," he said.  — DP

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