Red Report: Papuchis expects 'grind-it-out' game

2012-11-20T23:55:00Z 2012-11-21T20:53:35Z Red Report: Papuchis expects 'grind-it-out' gameBy the Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

John Papuchis remembers last season's showdown against border-rival Iowa as "kind of a grind-it-out type of game."

Friday's contest could be much the same, the Nebraska defensive coordinator said Tuesday.

The Huskers won 20-7 last November in Lincoln.

"Even though it's different guys playing, their philosophy hasn't changed much," Papuchis said. "I'm sure they're going to have some different wrinkles for us. But I expect pretty much what we've seen from them over the course of the year."

Which means Iowa (4-7, 2-5 Big Ten) likely will want to establish the run game, he said. The Hawkeyes, under first-year coordinator Greg Davis, lean on a physical running back in 6-foot, 225-pound sophomore Mark Weisman and like to employ play-action passes. Senior quarterback James Vandenberg (6-3, 212) leads a balanced attack.

Iowa ranks 100th nationally in rushing offense (124.4 yards per game) and 97th in passing (196.1). The Hawkeyes often get criticized for being "vanilla" offensively.

Papuchis sees it differently.

"They're fundamentally sound — they do what they do," he said. "It's their philosophy. It's what they believe in."

They believe in a downhill rushing attack led by Weisman, averaging 80.4 rushing yards per game.

"We're going to have to be ready for a 60-minute fistfight," Papuchis said.

He thinks Nebraska (9-2, 6-1) will be ready. With a sixth straight victory, the Huskers would clinch the Legends Division championship.

"Everyone always like to talk about, 'Can you keep the emotion up over the course of six weeks?' But our guys, they've come to work every day," Papuchis said. "They understand what they have at stake, and they've practiced well."

With a loss, Nebraska wouldn't learn its fate in the division race until the Michigan-Ohio State game on Saturday is completed. Michigan also is 6-1 in the league, but NU owns the tiebreaker thanks to its 23-9 triumph over the Wolverines on Oct. 27 in Lincoln.

The Big Ten championship game is Dec. 1 in Indianapolis.

"We don't want to sit on our couches and watch to see if we get in," Papuchis said. "I want to know by 4 o'clock on Friday afternoon."

* On a mission: Time is of the essence with one less day this week for Nebraska and Iowa to prepare for each other.

To that end, Husker wide receivers coach Rich Fisher echoed Papuchis' comments, saying the players have been all business in practices this week.

"Our focus was so crisp today," Fisher said of Tuesday's practice. "They're on a mission. I'll tell you, the maturity of the group … as I watched those guys work today, it was very businesslike, very precise, a lot of hustle, a lot of energy, getting after it. I think these guys understand exactly what they're after. They've been after it for a long time. We've been talking about it, we've been drilling it, we've been hearing it. It's right there for us. They can kind of see it and I don't think they're going to be denied."

* Hard feelings? Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was asked at his Tuesday press conference if there were any hard feelings about defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski moving in-conference from the Hawkeyes to the Huskers last December.

"People move, and you really can't control where they go," Ferentz said. "I've said this before: I try not to decide for our staff members what's best for them or what's in their best interest. That's for everybody to evaluate. We've had guys that have had opportunities to leave in-conference or out of conference and chose not to, but that's an individual decision.

"At the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for you. That's one thing this profession teaches, and I think all professions probably do."

— Steven M. Sipple and Brian Christopherson

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.

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