Offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Troy Walters was happy with how Nebraska's offense blocked against Minnesota. He was particularly pleased with wide receiver Mike Williams' block on a Gopher safety that helped running back Devine Ozigbo break free for a 59-yard touchdown run.
"Mike Williams, one of the proudest moments I had was when he came down and blocked the safety for Devine's second touchdown, long run," Walters said on Wednesday. "Blocked him, stayed on him. Proud of those guys. We're getting better. Those long runs are a result of the guys on the perimeter doing their job. It's good to see."
Walters has a saying for that: "No block, no rock." That's what he wants from his wide receivers, and from everyone else on the offense too. The Huskers run through blocking circuits in practice, specifically to drill home why that aspect of the game is so important to success.
"We take 15 minutes out of practice and work three different stations, three different block drills and we understand the importance of blocking across the board, on the perimeter, by the wide receivers, off the line," Walters said. "Obviously even running backs and pass protection. We make it a point of emphasis and those guys have responded well."
As for Williams specifically, blocking was the one thing keeping him from more playing time.
"We run a lot of perimeter screens where he's got to block the corner and if you can't do that, it's hard for me to put you out on the field," Walters said. "He's improved and gotten better as the year has gone on. A lot of it is want to and attitude. I wasn't the biggest guy, but you've got to have that dog mentality and go out there and make sure the guy out there that you're blocking doesn't make the tackle. He's really embraced that and gotten better."
Walters also sees blocking as a selfless action. It tells him which players are "team guys." Even running back Maurice Washington's block to allow quarterback Adrian Martinez a few extra yards stood out to Walters.
Those are signs of a selfless team, but also a team that loves to play with each other and for each other.
"Any time you have an opportunity to help a teammate out, our guys relish that opportunity and cherish it and want to be the block that springs a big run," Walters said. "I think Mo understands that when he has a long run, it's probably because a couple of guys got their blocks and now he allows someone else to make a long run by his block. As an offense, we're playing together.
"We enjoy playing with one another and whatever we can do to help our teammates out, that's what the guys are doing. It's been great."
Other news and notes:
>> Sophomore defensive end Ben Stille declined his Blackshirt on Tuesday. Stille explained the decision a bit more on Wednesday, saying he ultimately felt he had not yet earned it.
>> Senior defensive tackle Mick Stoltenberg has practiced both Tuesday and Wednesday this week. He said he's hopeful to see some playing time against Bethune-Cookman this weekend.
As for the knee injury that has kept him out, he said it was something he suffered before the season began. It was after the Michigan game when he realized he needed to stay off the field and rest.
>> Tight ends coach Sean Beckton has a connection to Bethune-Cookman. In fact, he's known coach Terry Sims for quite some time.
"I’m from that area, grew up watching that program over the years," Beckton said. "Then when I went to UCF, obviously we played against those guys. It became a rivalry early on in my career. The receivers coach was a graduate assistant for me. So I know a few of those guys. When I started teaching in Daytona Beach, their CFO was a colleague of mine. So a lot of those guys over there I know. That’s the area I grew up in and watched those guys play for a long time.”
Did Beckton play a role in connecting Sims with Scott Frost?
“We were looking for a game and I suggested that a long time ago … There were some other programs that reached out to me — not going to disclose those — but I gave all the information to Coach Frost and let him go from there," Beckton said.
>> Nebraska gave the players Monday off from practice, and didn't practice in pads on Tuesday. That could be concerning as the team finds its groove this week, but Walters has been more than pleased with the overall energy of the team.
"It's been great. We've tried to kind of balance an off-week, it was supposed to be a bye week, so making sure we get rest and keep the guys fresh, as well as preparing for Bethune-Cookman and also trying to get some recruiting in as well," Walters said. "Trying to balance it all. I think the players have done a great job of responding to everything we kind of throw at them. They respond and it's been a great week of getting everything accomplished that we want to get accomplished."
The decision to give the players a little time off was a result of playing a full season without a bye week. That doesn't mean Nebraska is taking Bethune-Cookman lightly, though. The Huskers just want to be sure they stay in top condition.
"You have to understand that we've gone seven straight weeks and so practice-wise, we've shortened practice a little bit and we toned down some periods," Walters said. "We want to make sure that they're fresh. We feel like they know what they're doing. We've been good on our assignment, good on our detail. Now it's about staying fresh so we can continue to play fast and continue to execute."
>> Senior wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. had 163 receiving yards against Minnesota. After an up-and-down season so far, it was exactly what Walters wanted to see.
"Proud of him," Walters said. "He hasn't had the year that he wanted, that we would have liked him to have, but he's never hung his head and he's never strayed from the process. It's good to see his hard work, his dedication, his commitment be rewarded. Every game here on out, I expect a big game from him."
>> Is it difficult for a young quarterback like Martinez to deal with so much praise? Quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzo doesn't think so. Nebraska has taken a very sensible approach with Martinez, to ensure he's staying even-keeled.
“I just remind him of the things we’ve talked about since I first got here in January," Verduzco said. "We are one cog in the wheel of success or failure. Truly. Ultimately, we are doing our job. Thirdly, the quarterback’s importance is no different than anyone on the team in terms of function. Now obviously, we have more responsibility and that’s the thing if you want to say creates our importance. So, I constantly remind him about those sorts of things. Not that he necessarily needs to hear it, but it certainly has been a different perspective for him to hear those sorts of things. I think it creates a sense of calmness for a quarterback when its approached that way. Just go out and try to do your job, don’t try to do anyone else’s job.
"It becomes hard for example in the Northwestern game when things aren’t going in the direction we want them to go. If he starts pressing and doing things out of his job description, that’s when we really have some problems. Just reminding him of those things is always the point when we have games like that."
>> Offensive line coach Greg Austin didn't feel his group had its best game against Minnesota, but he did feel it was the "cleanest."
Erin is the Deputy Editor and Digital Marketing Strategist for Hail Varsity. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report, Cox Media Group’s Land of 10, and even Hail Varsity (previously from 2012-2017). She has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET’s Big Red Wrap-Up, and a varsity of radio shows nationwide. When not covering the Huskers, Erin is probably at Chipotle.