Big Red Breakfast: Papuchis eager for second crack at UCLA

2013-09-13T11:00:00Z 2013-09-13T21:48:26Z Big Red Breakfast: Papuchis eager for second crack at UCLABy BRIAN CHRISTOPHERSON / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

OMAHA -- John Papuchis did not hide a fact that most would probably suspect anyway.

You bet this game against UCLA has been circled on his calendar.

How could it not be after last year's 36-30 loss, in which the Husker defense faced 94 plays and gave up 653 yards?

"The cool thing about athletics is there are sometimes opportunities to right wrongs," Nebraska's defensive coordinator said Friday at the Big Red Breakfast.

"I don't think anyone who walked away from the game a year ago felt good about our performance, and at that point looked forward to another opportunity to play this group."

But how does Nebraska hum a happier tune in the rematch with 16th-ranked UCLA?

One fan asked Papuchis if he planned to scrap all of last year's game plan.

"I'm stubborn, but I'm not stupid," Papuchis said to laughter. "Well, let me take that back. There's some people that probably think I'm both."

In seriousness, Papuchis said you don't scrap it all. "But there are certainly things that we didn't like."

The coach said he always breaks down defensive play into three categories when evaluating film: 1. What was a physical error? 2. What was a bad idea scheme-wise? 3. And then, what can you fix?

"Because it's one of two things," Papuchis said. "Either you're putting a guy in a situation that he physically can't succeed in. That's your fault as a coach. You have to fix that situation. Or it's not a very good idea schematically. So you've got to be able to differentiate between."

Papuchis said "a lot of the tale is going to be told in how we stop the run" this week.

A year ago, UCLA gashed Nebraska for 344 yards on the ground, averaging 6.1 yards per play. Running back Johnathan Franklin, who had 217 yards on 26 carries, is gone.

But the Bruins may have found something in their season opener. Junior Jordon James ran for 155 yards against Nevada and averaged 4.5 yards on six carries last year against the Huskers.

Papuchis pointed out that in UCLA's nine wins under Jim Mora, the Bruins averaged 274 yards passing. In their five losses, they averaged 278.

"So win or lose, they're about what they are (passing)," he said.

But the numbers are much different when it comes to the ground game for UCLA. As that stat goes for the Bruins, so it seems does the game's outcome.

"In their nine wins, they've averaged 235 (yards) in the run game. ... In their five losses,  they've averaged just over 120 yards in the ground," Papuchis said.

Given this, UCLA's rushing total is a number Papuchis will be watching closely early on Saturday. "How are we holding up against the run?"

There was no sugar-coating it from Nebraska's second-year coordinator when it came to the significance of this game.

Papuchis called it the type of opportunity that could "really set the tempo for what the rest of the year's going to be."

"Tomorrow is going to be a great evaluation day for our guys," he said. "How good are we really? How far do we still need to come?"

Here's more ...

* ON JOSH BANDERAS: "Josh never missed a beat. He approached the game just like he approaches practice. He was focused, he was intense. He went out and ran around and made plays. I think the thing that probably spoke volumes about our confidence in Josh ... (is) when (Wyoming) had the ball down three with a minute left, we had a true freshman at MIKE linebacker on the field, and I never felt uncomfortable about that, because the kid had earned the right to be out there and earned our trust."

* ON MICHAEL ROSE: "He wasn't really a nickel MIKE backer. He was kind of out of the whole nickel package early. And he kept saying, 'Coach, can I get some reps in practice? Can I get some reps in practice?' And we said, 'Yeah, you can get some reps, you can get some reps.' And he just kept flashing, he kept showing. ... Finally, it was to the point where we're like, 'You know what, I think this guy will be able to help us in nickel and dime situations more than just the base.'"

* ON DAVID SANTOS: "David's a good player. It's our job to make sure we find him a role that he can have great success in. I don't know that it is in the MIKE spot. But he's kind of like those other young 'backers. He needs to continue to work in practice. The one thing about Coach Bo (Pelini) that's always been something I admire is he's an equal-opportunity guy. If you go to practice and you work hard, whether you played good the week before poorly ... you have an opportunity to compete on the practice field and earn your playing time that week. David has that opportunity every day and he's working hard. He hasn't hung his head."

* ON CHARLES JACKSON: Papuchis said the sophomore is "a tremendous talent" at safety. "But he's probably got it at about 90 percent. He's got to close the gap on that other 10 percent. I think he could, and I think he will."

* ON 11 A.M. KICKOFFS: "I enjoy the early games personally, because waiting around all day is sometimes hard. You get antsy. You just want to go out and play the game. We'll have our team meal at 7 o'clock tomorrow morning. ... We'll probably get on the buses and head over to the stadium at probably 8:30, and then from there we're in our pre-game deal. For me, it's probably going to be probably a little bit of a restless night. I don't sleep that well the night before a game. But it's going to happen fast. I'm excited about it and I think our guys are too."

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

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