New players, new personnel and a new offensive system premiered overseas last Saturday.
It was also the debut of the new Nebraska coaches’ organizational and responsibility chart. Head coach Scott Frost relinquished play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Mark Whipple in the offseason, handing over the reins for the first time since he returned to his alma mater. After Nebraska managed just 110 net rushing yards in Dublin on Saturday, Frost told media members the team would have to get more creative to be successful in order to compete in the Big Ten.
In Tuesday’s press conference Frost said he didn’t realize he said that but thought it pertained to the run game.
“Coach Whip is really good, he knows his stuff, I thought he did a really good job calling the game,” Frost said. “We’ve gotten better up front, there’s no doubt, we’re better at running back, there’s no doubt about it, but in the Big Ten it’s hard to turn around and hand it to a back and be real consistent.”
Coaches met after the game and debriefed. On Tuesday, Frost didn’t want to expand upon where coaches see creative growth but complimented the offense and was pleased at how well it moved for the “first two and a half quarters.”
Admittedly, there was anger and disappointment among coaches after the opener. But coaches also found positives to expand upon.
Frost said the game came down to two or three plays. For example, the Huskers had the ball up 4 over the 40 with a fresh set of downs. The drive ended with an abrupt interception that was returned over midfield.
“In general, I thought everything was great and we need to make sure we execute better in those situations,” Frost said. “I know Whip watched the fourth quarter with the offense yesterday. And up until that point I thought we played really well.”
This new Huskers offense established its uptempo intentions early. Frost said they’re comfortable in that tempo but doesn’t want to go so fast that the defense can’t catch its breath. That means executing plays with positive yardage to maintain a rhythm and face manageable third downs. The Huskers did that most of Saturday to convert 9 of 16 attempts. Then, in the fourth quarter, Nebraska was 0 for 3.
“Whip does so many good things and we do so many good things now with a lot of the concepts he’s had for a long time,” Frost said. “I want all of us to put our heads together and find ways to make more first downs to get more opportunities.”
Whipple was not available to speak to media during Tuesday’s press conference but quarterback Casey Thompson was.
The junior said he’s totally committed and focused on Nebraska. He went as far as to say he won’t answer questions about Texas anymore. The transfer wishes all his friends there luck on the Longhorns’ upcoming season, but he’s focused on Nebraska alone going forward.
Thompson said he thought the offense played well the first three quarters. After each incompletion and both interceptions he was tagged with on Saturday, he checked in with the receivers and asked what happened. Thompson finished with 355 passing yards, which is the most ever by a Nebraska quarterback in a season opener.
The starting quarterback said the team runs a litany of plays during practice, including designed quarterback runs, and meet later in the week about which plays Thompson is most comfortable in. He attests he’s comfortable in all of them. He’ll speak up if he sees something on the field but apart from that, he trusts the coaches.
“If they call a run play, I’ll run the ball,” Thompson said, “if they call the pass, I’m going to throw it.”
Team captain Travis Vokolek was a big target for Thompson early in Saturday’s game but left with an ankle injury. He’s dinged up but Frost said the tight end is good to go. Receiver Omar Manning, who wasn’t suited up against Northwestern, practiced in full on Tuesday and will be a game-time decision come Saturday. Wide back Rahmir Johnson also didn’t suit up in Ireland. Frost said they want to find a spot for him and utilize his eclectic talents offense, possibly as soon as this weekend’s game against North Dakota in the stateside season debut for the new-offense Huskers.