Time to Figure Out the Snapping Issues
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Time to Figure Out the Snapping Issues, Nebraska Captain Farniok Says

October 07, 2019

Getting good at snapping a football in the exact right way to the exact right spot on a rep-after-rep basis, as is the case with doing most anything, takes practice. I assume. I’ve never actually done it. But that was the assumption from everyone when redshirt freshman center Cameron Jurgens was given the inside track to the starting center position. 

Nebraska didn’t have an abundance of time, what with the division title talk, but time was what Jurgens would need.

The Beatrice native is a converted tight end. He’d never snapped in a football game before. When he did it for the first time in a game that counted, he was doing it in front of 90,000 people and a TV audience and the weight of offseason expectations pushing down on him. 

You can start to explain away some of those early misfires on Aug. 31 against South Alabama. 

It’s a lot harder, though, to do that on Oct. 5 against Northwestern in the sixth game of the season. 

“There's too many snaps that are going wild or going wrong that are messing up the reads, and we've got to find a way to fix it,” said right tackle and captain Matt Farniok Monday afternoon when the team met with the media ahead of their trip to Minnesota. 

Farniok being the one to say this seems significant. It’s the first time this season there has been real, outward criticism of the guy who head coach Scott Frost maintains is the future of the position. 

Most of the “Yeah, that needs to get better” talk is couched with praise for the progress the young Jurgens has made. 

But things seemed to have come to a head Saturday against Northwestern. Nebraska’s ground attack — where Jurgens looks supremely confident blocking in — is up to fifth in the Big Ten in terms of efficiency (yards per play), but the rhythm-based aerial attack has been stunted. Nebraska is 10th in the conference in yards per game through the air and Adrian Martinez’s completion percentage is four-tenths of a percentage point from dropping below 60, the bad place no quarterback wants to be in. 

Sure, Martinez has had his own set of issues, but Jurgens plays a not-so-insignificant role in this passing funk and overall offensive disconnect.

“We got to find some kind of way to get those snaps right to [the quarterback’s] chest,” Farniok continued. “There is no excuse for it now. Heading into Week 7, we need perfect snaps every time. That's the No. 1 role of the center, and that's what we expect from the center. So he knows he needs to fix it and he's been working on it.”

Even Frost started to publicly press the issue a little, though still not as directly as Farniok. 

"We've had the snap issues all year," Frost said. "It's gotten better progressively as the year has gone along, but again, it's hard for quarterbacks or anyone to have good timing or good rhythm and have their eyes where they're supposed to be when we're worried about too many unknowns. And the snap is the first one. We're putting a lot on our quarterbacks from a decision standpoint. They have to be able to get their eyes in the right place and see the right thing to make the right read.

“We’re playing young linemen. We’re playing a young center. It’s gotten better, but it still needs to improve.” 

Farniok made sure to say figuring out a resolution to all this lays with the offensive line as a unit, and they have a responsibility to help Jurgens through whatever’s going on. 

“Just making sure we stay focused,” he said. “A lot of it is that we believe he has done it before and he has done it multiple times and it is not every single snap that goes haywire, it is the occasional [snap].”

At the end of the day, though, if Jurgens is in his head, it’s up to him to figure out what’s going on. And even though Monday provided a break from the usual stick-to-the-cards, everything-is-going-to-be-fine talking points, Nebraska is still giving him the ultimate vote of confidence. 

He still has his job. 

When line coach Greg Austin turns on the tape from Saturday’s 13-10 win against a Northwestern defense that ranks eighth in the country in Bill Connelly’s S&P+ metric, he’ll see a handful of times where Jurgens is moving that Wildcat front in ways it hasn’t often been moved this season. 

The blocking promise is clearly there. 

It’s just time for the other aspect of the position to show up a little cleaner for those Sunday rewatches.

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