Nebraska wants something Wisconsin has. Not the Wisconsin product on the field each week, that’s not the Huskers’ style and eventually they’re hoping the Badgers have to beat them for the division instead of the other way around. No, Nebraska wants Wisconsin’s mindset.
On Saturday, fans will see two programs at two very different stages. One is disciplined, one is… not so much.
“They have a really good coaching staff and they have a championship attitude on their football team,” defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said of the Huskers’ upcoming opponent. “I know everybody wants us to win right now and win big, it’s just not where it is right now. We need to get to the discipline of Wisconsin … we need to get to the championship attitude they have, the championship discipline they have, the championship mentality they have.”
The Badgers have won five straight against the Huskers. They’re favored heavily to make that six straight. Head coach Scott Frost said Monday that if Nebraska can play a cleaner football game and not continue to shoot itself in the foot, it can give Wisconsin a battle. But, for four weeks, the Huskers have known they need to clean things up and it still hasn’t happened when it matters.
“We are not a disciplined football team right now, plain and simple. We bust too much, we have too many penalties, period,” Chinander said. So he told his defense something this week in practice. “Your job is you need to execute better, you need to play harder. I need to coach you better and I need to love you harder.
“Sometimes loving you harder is hugging you and telling you how nice you are and sometimes it’s putting my foot in your rear end and telling you the truth.”
When Chinander met with the media after practice Tuesday, he covered topics ranging from linebacker Jacob Weinmaster to the status of a few Blackshirts. Everything came back to practice and needing more from the days leading up to the games.
Other News and Notes
>> Senior defensive tackle Mick Stoltenberg wasn’t on crutches Tuesday and his left knee wasn’t wrapped, though it was heavily swollen.
>> Defensive line coach Mike Dawson quipped that the Wisconsin offensive line, when he initially turned on the tape, looked like that of the Dallas Cowboys. The Badger offense ranks first in the conference in run yardage per game and third in average yards per carry.
>> Defensive backs coach Travis Fisher isn’t concerned about the Huskers’ recruiting efforts despite the 0-4 record. He said it comes down to the type of kids the recruit. The ones that are invested in them are fully invested in them. He said they don’t have to sell the kids on anything because they see what Nebraska needs and doesn’t need in the games.
>> Everyone talked about corner Lamar Jackson.
The junior was benched in the first half against Purdue after a holding penalty negated an interception. Jackson was then demoted to second-string corner on the Huskers’ newest depth chart.
Chinander was asked what his message is to someone in Jackson’s shoes.
“The message to a guy like that or like anybody on our team is practice better than anybody else and you’re the starter. Period,” he said. “I don’t have 11 starters, I don’t care who starts. Practice better than everybody else, you’re the starter. You don’t practice as good as everybody else, you’re not the starter. You need to earn the team’s trust back, not mine.”
Safety Deontai Williams told Jackson to keep his nose to the ground and stay focused. “Don’t look back because once you look backward, you slow down.”
“You’ve got to go hard, you lost your spot,” he said. “You want to win your spot back. If you feel like you deserve your spot and nobody should take your spot, you’ve got to be that dog and go get your spot back.”
Fisher wants to see more.
“When adversity hits, you will do one of two things,” he said. “You will sit on the ground or get up and fight. Right now, he’s not fighting.
"This is what he needs. This has been part of his development in a new coaching staff. This is just a tester for him. He needs to get up and swing. He's practicing and not complaining. None of that is going on. He just needs to swing."
>> The tackling has been okay through four, but Chinander says the Huskers need to work on leverage and angles out on the perimeter. “Sometimes when guys make a play in space, or guys catch a ball or guys get the edge, our angles, our pursuit angles and our coverage angles haven’t been the best right now, especially on the perimeter.”
>> Inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud and Chinander are taking a next-man-up mentality in the wake of Will Honas’ season-ending knee injury. Honas has been the backup at inside backer all year, but Nebraska has rotated plenty. Now, Collin Miller and Jacob Weinmaster are tasked with filling the void. Chinander said the key for Weinmaster is getting more reps in practice to adjust to the game speed.
Ruud said the same for Miller.
“If you’re not detailed in practice, you’re not going to be detailed in the game,” he said.
>> Williams plays FIFA. That’s all.
>> Chinander said there are “probably a few guys” who are close to earning a Blackshirt off their effort and production, but he’s “not going to start handing out Blackshirts when we give up 42 points and we lose to a conference opponent.”
No one has lost their Blackshirt yet, but Chinander wants to see more from the defense.
“There's guys who are playing hard. There's nobody playing good enough yet,” he said. “There’s guys who are playing with the attitude we want them to have, it’s just never 11 right now. It’s never 11 at the same time and we’re not going to be a great team until we get it.”
>> There was an interesting exchange between Fisher and Hail Varsity’s Greg Smith:
Q: Is it a misconception that all the “buy-in” talk is about just on the field? Or is it more about guys missing meals or not logging them or going to study hall?
TF: “Yeah it goes hand-in-hand. It’s the same guys that don’t think it’s important and its selfishness. You watch those penalties in the game, it’s the same guys. It’s the guys who think it’s not me today, I don’t feel like walking over to get dinner I feel like eating on my own. That’s the same guy that on third down, when we were are trying to get off the field gets a penalty. It’s the same guys.”
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.