Head coach Scott Frost met with the media Thursday afternoon for the last availability of the week before his Huskers face Northwestern (1-3, 0-2 Big Ten) at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. CT on Fox and Frost expects it to be another close one.
“The thing you always respect about Northwestern [is] they play hard, they’re physical and they don’t make mistakes,” Frost said.
“Looking at how this season’s played out, this is probably as important a game as there is all year for them. I just got done telling the guys I think it’s the same for us. I know they’re going to come in ready to play with where their season is. We have to be ready to play with where our season is. I expect it to be a physical game.”
The Badgers are coming off just a nine-point loss to Wisconsin on the road last weekend and have questions at quarterback on offense, but this is a team and a coaching staff that has played Nebraska tough for years. The Wildcats have won the last two games in overtime and the two teams have split the eight games played so far since Nebraska joined the Big Ten. Six of those games have been decided by seven points or less.
Other News and Notes
>> Frost said they found out about Khalil Davis’ one-game suspension from the Big Ten late Tuesday, early Wednesday. They didn't know about what had happened during the game, Frost said, or they would have acted on it then. Frost was pretty vague when talking about the incident itself, and the TV broadcast doesn't show what actually happened, but he added that Davis will also face internal discipline as well as the one-game suspension handed down by the conference.
“We don’t condone what he did on the field,” Frost said. “So I support and agree with the decision.”
As for who will replace Davis in the lineup, Frost said Ben Stille will be the starter and Deontre Thomas will be the No. 2. After that, Frost said they’ll see.
>> "We need to win the turnover battle, and that's a two-way street," Frost said.
On several occasions, Frost mentioned that the turnover margin was going to be a big indicator of who will win Saturday's game against Northwestern, but Nebraska can't expect the Wildcats to turn the ball over the way they did last week against Wisconsin (two fumbles and an interception, leading to two defensive scores for the Badgers).
“I really think the key to the whole game is going to be turnovers,” he said. “If you look back at last year’s game and everything that happened, if we just hadn’t given them a strip-sack-fumble on defense, we most likely would have won the game. That was the difference in the game.”
The defense is going to have to force some things, he said, and the offense is going to need to take better care of the football. After last Saturday's game, Frost mentioned that he hadn't yet been a part of many teams as turnover-prone as this Husker team. Asked what a hallmark is of a team with good ball security, Frost said it begins in practice.
>> Asked when Rahmir Johnson might be able to see some more action, Frost said the freshman running back is physically ready, it's just a matter of making sure he knows the offense well enough to operate effectively and finding a situation in games to get him out there.
"His speed is a difference for us, it can be a difference-maker," Frost said. "His time's coming very shortly."
>> All week, defensive coaches have said their preparation will not change despite questions at quarterback for Northwestern. Both sophomore Hunter Johnson and junior Aiden Smith have seen action for the Wildcats this season and they split time last week. Johnson went 10-for-21 for 59 yards while Smith went 8-for-20 for 99 yards, a score and a pick. Frost was highly complimentary of Johnson, the former 5-star recruit and Clemson quarterback.
>> Fellow freshman running back Ronald Thompkins, while recovering from a torn ACL suffered during his senior season of high school ball, had to have another procedure on his knee to clean up some things, Frost announced. Nebraska is not expecting him to be available until next spring.
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.