LINCOLN, Neb. – The theme after the first practice for the Huskers following their 62-3 loss at Ohio State was consistent: it’s on to Minnesota.
“We can’t let Ohio State beat us twice,” defensive line coach John Parrella said. “It’s one of those deals where when something like that happens, you can’t allow it to beat us again Saturday. We moved on real quick and I thought we had a real good practice today.”
Cornerbacks coach Brian Stewart had a similar message for his players.
“The truth of the matter is I told those guys the best way to get over somebody is to get on somebody else, and that’s what we’ve got to do, just keep a laser focus,” Stewart said.
So far, linebackers coach Trent Bray said the players have responded how the coaches wanted them to.
“They came out and worked,” Bray said. “There wasn’t any jogging around or bad attitudes or heads hung down. That’s what we’re looking for. There’s nothing you can do about it. The only thing we can do is control what’s in front of us, and that’s what we’ve got to do.”
The coaches each took their own approach to film study following the loss. Bray, for example, pushed it off as long as possible.
“I did not want to watch the tape right away this week,” Bray said. “I got up in the morning and I watched it. Normally I watch it on the plane ride back but I didn’t want to put myself through that. I had to watch it one time already.”
Stewart, however, jumped on it right away.
“I watched it on the plane,” Stewart said. “I watched it as many times as I possibly could. It’s never as bad as you think and it’s never as good as you think, right? But that one was as bad as I thought. From a corners perspective, I thought they did a decent job of keeping the ball in front of them but we just didn’t make any plays.”
Stewart said what he learned from watching the film is that the Huskers just let everything that went wrong early snowball until it was too late to fight back.
“The main thing is you kind of got hit in the face early with a few things and then you didn’t respond the way you wanted to,” Stewart said. “And then you’re scrambling to respond. I just think that’s kind of the whole deal. You get hit in the face; it’s a football game, you’re going to get hit. You just have to respond, and respond by being technique sound, being focused, knowing and doing what you’re supposed to do the way you’re supposed to do it. I think after we got hit a few times we didn’t.”
Bray wants to see the defense come out and set the tone against the Golden Gophers on Saturday.
“I think it’s important just as a team and as a defense and for each of us individually to come out and respond,” Bray said. “That’s been the big thing this week is how are you going to respond to adversity? How are you going to respond to what happened? I think our guys will come out and play hard, and that’s what we’re working on. It was a good day of practice today focused on what we need to do to get better. That’s going to be big. It’s a pride thing, really is what it is.”
Defensive coordinator Mark Banker discussed what he’s seen from Minnesota this year and what kind of challenge the Gophers will offer.
“They’ve kind of found their niche, they’ve kind of found what’s working for them and the players that will be in the rotation from a standpoint of getting their touches, whether it be run or pass,” Banker said. “They’re big up front. I think they average right around 6-6 and right around 320, 325 pounds up front … they’re just solid. They’ve won four games in a row. They’ve played two common opponents with Illinois and Purdue and beat them pretty handily. They’ve closed out a few games late, so they’re staying with it, they’re finishing well in the fourth quarter.
“For us, a big deal is going to be stopping their run game. You’ve got to do that with this team. They do want to run. If they can they’ll just keep running the ball and they’ll only throw when they absolutely have to. Then on third downs, obviously, get off the field. It will be a physical game up front.”
Bray said the front seven will have to step up and lead the charge.
“It’s going to be very important that we control the line of scrimmage, we do a good job when they run their pull schemes that we’re hitting them in the backfield and we’re resetting the line of scrimmage so we can make plays and control that run game because that’s really what they’re thriving off of these last four games,” Bray said.”
Stewart said it is going to be important for the secondary to contribute against the run as well.
“It’s a lot of crack and replace and it’s a lot of eyes,” Stewart said. “You have to have good eye discipline. They’re going to do a lot of play-action pass and try to throw the ball deep. We have to be on top of those guys and again, crack and replace is going to be big; we’re going to have to make some tackles.”
Quarterback Mitch Leidner is a threat to run the ball much more than he was last year, although he provides a different kind of challenge for the defense than JT Barrett did in Columbus.
“He’s more of a big Ben Roethlisberger-type quarterback than he is JT Barrett, but he is running some zone read and he’s doing a good job,” Stewart said. “They have an escort for him, which means there’s a blocker all the time, every time he fakes it. So if he does take it, he does have somebody to minimize some of the hits he would take.”
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.