It’s OK to feel confident in Nebraska’s defense.
Coming into the season social media, message boards and talk radio shows were flooded by fans questioning how that side of the football would look. Remember the “how do we even measure success for the defense” talk? On the surface, it wasn’t entirely out of bounds to question the unit. In 2018, the Huskers defense gave up 31.3 points per game which was 12th in the Big Ten. Nebraska also gave up 195 yards per game on the ground which was also 12th in the league. So far in 2019 Nebraska is allowing 26.5 points per game and 4 yards per rush.
The defense entered the 2019 season with something to prove despite returning more players with game experience. The numbers don’t tell the entire story since the book is still being written on the 2019 season. The numbers also don’t tell the story of the extra burden the defense is carrying on a weekly basis while the offense finds its way. This was going to be the season of the Year 2 leap for Frost’s offense and it hasn’t materialized yet.
The current Nebraska defense has often looked like a confident bunch this season. Set aside the Ohio State game where no part of the game looked good. Yes, the defense tired out in the second half at Colorado after playing lights out in the first half. The defense played much better than the score would show at Illinois. Against Northwestern, Nebraska did what they were supposed to do. They got back on track against a struggling offense. Nebraska held the Wildcats under 300 total yards and 5-for-16 on third down.
Where is this confidence coming from?
“There are no problems when it comes to this defense,” sophomore outside linebacker Caleb Tannor said after the game. “I have my full trust in this defense. I believe we are all going to make the right play, the right job and assignment. We are all going to get to the ball and make the play. That’s what happened today. We all made plays.”
You practice how you play. That is an old adage in football. Over the first 18 games of the Frost Era we have heard countless times about how the team has practiced. How you practice can also give you confidence according to senior captain Mo Barry.
“What we do in preparation. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to the game,” Barry explained. “That’s what gives us confidence. If we have a great week and feel like we are dialed in, then the game is going to look like the week. We had a great week. We came back on Monday and we were hungry. We worked on fundamentals, getting off blocks and making tackles. Everyone was honed in on their craft. That’s what you saw out there. We were way better at tackling, getting off blocks and making plays.”
You can also gain confidence by feeding off each other according to redshirt freshman cornerback Braxton Clark. He’s carving out a nice role for himself in the defense this season. The Orlando native thinks it’s contagious when one guys makes a play which makes all the guys hungrier.
There are going to be times where one side of the ball struggles. This season has been odd because no one saw prolonged struggles for the offense coming in 2019. What, if anything, does the defense tell the offense while this is going on?
“We let them know we got their back,” sophomore Cam Taylor-Britt said. “Through everything they are going through. If they are doing good or bad. If they are doing good we pat them on the back. If they are doing bad we pat them on the back and let them know we got their back.”
For now, the defense is the calming influence on this football team. It’s OK to express some confidence in the Blackshirts. They have plenty in 2019.
Greg is the Recruiting Analyst for Hail Varsity and has covered Husker athletics since 2013. He has always had a passion for sports while growing up in the Chicago area. As he got older and had to hang up his cleats and sneakers, he realized his passion for sports went beyond just watching and attending games. He has covered many events from the Rose Bowl to championship boxing matches. If he’s not talking sports, he’s hovering over his grill. He is married to an amazing woman, Kim, and they have a dog that barks when Greg yells at the TV during games.