Red Report: NU defense girds for PSU fourth-down tries

2012-11-08T22:45:00Z 2012-11-08T22:47:05Z Red Report: NU defense girds for PSU fourth-down triesBy the Lincoln Journal Star

Stop most teams on third down, and you've done your job as a defense.

That's not necessarily the case against Penn State.

The Nittany Lions have converted fourth down into a first down 16 times in 30 chances (53 percent) this season.

Nebraska, by contrast, has converted 4 of 6 fourth-down chances.

"We're going to play the next down and treat it like another third-down snap if that's the way they choose to go," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said Thursday.

"I've looked at all the fourth downs and the situations. Part of it is probably due to they don't have a lot of confidence in their field-goal kicker, I don't know.

"We'll be ready."

Penn State sophomore place-kicker Sam Ficken is only 7-for-14 on field-goal tries this season, with a long of 34 yards. He's 0-for-4 from 40-49 yards.

* Versatile Cam: We'll go with the Husker roster and call Cameron Meredith a defensive end. But you may have noticed that, since the Northwestern game, the senior has been spending a lot of time at defensive tackle.

"I've picked up on it fast and I'm still playing there right now," Meredith said this week.

It's not the easiest assignment for a 255-pounder to go inside against Big Ten offensive linemen.

"It's kind of a mismatch at some point when you're getting double-teamed, but if you just play with technique and listen to what coach has to say, you'll be fine," Meredith said. "I found myself getting blown off the ball once in a while, but that's football. The other team is going to win once in a while. But I think Coach Kaz (defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski) does a good job of correcting it."

Meredith said he likes being versatile and still works both positions in practice.

He sees good reason for it.

"Especially with what happened last year at the end of the season," Meredith said. "We had three or four D-tackles out. So I think it's good that we work me both inside and on the end."

* Clean quarterback: Although Penn State senior quarterback Matt McGloin has attempted 340 passes (completing 211), he's been sacked only 13 times.

"He's a real quick, rhythm thrower — he gets the ball in and out," Pelini said. "Hopefully we can challenge and get on some routes and make him hold the ball a little longer."

It isn't like McGloin moves around in the pocket a lot, Pelini said.

"A lot of it is play-action, but he gets the ball out in a hurry," the coach said. "He makes quick decisions."

* Injury report: It appears senior running back Rex Burkhead (knee) will miss his third straight game and fifth overall.

Pelini said a final decision for Saturday's game hasn't been made. Burkhead sat out of practice Thursday.

"We'll have to see how it goes," Pelini said. "But I would say he's doubtful."

Pelini said he doesn't think Burkhead is eligible for a medical redshirt.

Meanwhile, Nebraska senior wideout Tim Marlowe (shoulder) is "probably 50-50" in terms of his chances of playing Saturday. Marlowe also sat out Thursday.

"We'll see how it goes over the next 48 hours," Pelini said.

Senior safety P.J. Smith missed practice time earlier in the week but practiced Thursday and apparently will play against Penn State.

* Academic prowess: Four Huskers (Burkhead, Sean Fisher, Jake Long and Spencer Long) were selected to the CoSIDA Academic All-District 7 team. Pelini said those players set a high bar for the rest of the team.

"I'd like that list to keep growing," Pelini said. "We put a high value on what these kids are doing academically and what we ask them to do. It's a good example for the rest of the football team, because that's what they're here to do first. First and foremost, you're a student."

* Last word: The Huskers will conduct a walk-through practice Friday afternoon. "We have some things we still have to get cleaned up going into the game," Pelini said.

-- Brian Christopherson and Steven M. Sipple

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 402-473-7440 or

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.