Red Report: Fix-it week continues for Husker D

2013-09-03T22:00:00Z 2013-09-04T09:46:05Z Red Report: Fix-it week continues for Husker DBy BRIAN CHRISTOPHERSON / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

Nebraska played nine first-year players in its front seven on Saturday night by the count of John Papuchis.

The stats that came with that game have been repeated like a broken record by now — 602 Wyoming yards and 35 first downs.

But Nebraska's defensive coordinator said there was one thing that encouraged him when reviewing the film.

"Really, for the most part, the moment didn't seem too big for those guys," Papuchis said. "We certainly didn't play perfect, but I think they felt comfortable out there and I think they're just going to continue to get better."

Like Pelini the day before, Papuchis said the issues on defense are all correctable.

"There wasn't one thing where I flipped on the film and was like, 'Oh, this might not be able to get fixed,'" Papuchis said. "So I would say that's a positive. But knowing what we need to get fixed is one thing. Actually getting it fixed is how we're going to be defined."

Examples?

On Wyoming's second-to-last touchdown, a 29-yard pass, defensive back Ciante Evans played the ball with the wrong arm.

"That's a technique issue," Papuchis said. "That can be fixed."

On the last touchdown, a 47-yard pass, a player who was supposed to come on a blitz and never did.

"If he had came, he probably would have hit the quarterback in the mouth," Papuchis said. "And (Corey Cooper) got hung out in one-on-one coverage with a missed assignment pressure in front of him. That can be fixed."

* KNOW THYSELF: Ron Brown, in his 23rd season as a Nebraska assistant, knows as well as any the incredible passion that surrounds Husker football.

He also knows the criticism that can come when the local team doesn't play as some fans expect.

Brown said the key for coaches and players during weeks like these — after Nebraska survived a 37-34 scare over heavy underdog Wyoming — is to "not allow yourself to be defined by others."

"In other words, the way we've been training as a team, you have to know what we come back to and who we are," Brown said. "It's true for Tim Beck, it's true for Bo Pelini, it's true for each one of our position coaches, it's true for each one of our players. You can't let the media and fans tell you who you are. You have to decide who you are. Be Superman and the bullets will bounce off a whole lot better."

It's not always easy, Brown said. You can't go through life and not hear the negative opinions.

"But you have to have to have a grid inside that knows what to kick out and what to take in," the coach said.

If it's a challenge, Brown also sees it as a great opportunity.

"It's a great opportunity to show how strong we are in the midst of this. Because at the end of the day, as much as people have opinions and want to know what's going on, they're always going to have enormous respect for a person who is unflappable."

* THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE? The battle remains tight at Nebraska's linebacker spots, where Ross Els said after Tuesday's practice as many as six players are "very even" at the MIKE and dime backer positions.

Sophomore David Santos is the lone linebacker with a Blackshirt, but freshmen Josh Banderas and Michael Rose are right in the mix at the MIKE spot.

Els said Rose has had a good couple days of practice. "Don't be surprised if you see him in there."

Then there's Mohammed Seisay, Nathan Gerry and Zaire Anderson as dime candidates.

"There's not a lot of difference between those six guys," said Els, Nebraska's linebackers coach. "You'd like somebody to step forward and be better, but we need to get a few games under our belt and see how it goes."

Husker coaches showed a lot of faith in Josh Banderas in his first collegiate game on Saturday, putting him into the fire in the fourth quarter.

Papuchis said the plan was to play Banderas more earlier in the opener.

"(But) the game wasn't ever comfortable enough where we were that eager to play a freshman, but kind of bit the bullet there in the fourth quarter where we said, 'Hey, it's time to get him in.' He played well."

* WHERE'S ZAIRE? One linebacker who didn't see action on Saturday night was junior Zaire Anderson.

The reason was due to Wyoming's four-wide attack. Because of it, Seisay and Gerry, perhaps considered better in coverage, saw the action as the dime guy.

"I'd like to see Zaire have a bigger role this week, but some of that is going to be dictated by what kind of personnel grouping we're seeing from Southern Miss," Papuchis said.

* INJURIES: Linebacker Jared Afalava is back practicing this week after sitting out Saturday (strained neck). Tight end Sam Cotton remains out. Cornerback Josh Mitchell also sat out Tuesday's practice.

Reach Brian Christopherson at bchristopherson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. Follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

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