The bad movie replayed before their eyes.
Before each play, after Minnesota had finished shuttling in personnel and motioning into formation, Ross Els hit the pause button.
Nebraska’s linebackers coach did not say much during the Sunday film review. He wanted to listen. Listen to players make defensive checks for each formation they saw.
Here was the funny part. Or maybe it’s the sad part.
“We made them all perfectly fine,” said redshirt freshman linebacker Michael Rose. “I guess hindsight is 20-20.”
But they don’t allow do-overs in football -- unless it's Tom Brady and "the tuck rule." There can be no taking back Nebraska’s dismal defensive showing in the 34-23 loss Saturday to the Golden Gophers.
The question now: What comes next?
And Rose, it seems, is the central figure in those changes.
Monday, when Husker coach Bo Pelini talked about the possibility of starting a different quarterback – Tommy Armstrong – this week against Northwestern, he also said he planned to make changes to the quarterback of the defense.
Rose is moving to the MIKE backer spot to join true freshman Josh Banderas. And Santos, the sophomore who had been manning the spot, will now likely play at WILL backer.
"Believe me, I'm not putting this on David Santos by any means,” Pelini said. “But that's not his strength. From my standpoint, from a coach's standpoint, you don't want to put a square peg into a round hole.”
The search continues, particularly at linebacker, to master the basics and communicate better and not be robots.
“I think our mindset within the scheme is too robotic right now for us as players,” Rose said. “We've got to realize we’re still out there playing football. It’s just football. It’s a game we’ve all been playing quite a while now.”
You must understand and respect the scheme, of course. But Rose believes players are not letting their natural instincts take over in certain situations.
“You can still be within the framework of the scheme of this defense and you can still go make plays,” he said. “You can’t tell me guys like (Ndamukong) Suh and Lavonte (David) and Fonzo (Alfonzo Dennard), all those guys in the NFL right now, you can’t tell me they didn’t make plays in this scheme. It’s not like it’s never been done and we’re breaking through on some revolutionary things. We have to go out and make plays.”
And limit the busts.
Nebraska had way too many breakdowns in the basics Saturday, which is no doubt why the 5-foot-11, 230-pound Rose is now getting his shot to lead the show.
There was one breakdown in particular that perplexed Pelini. It came after a timeout. Minnesota’s offense had shown a certain formation just prior to the timeout.
“If they come out (again) in this formation, this is what’s going to happen,” Pelini said players were told.
Minnesota came out in the exact same formation. The Gophers did just as predicted.
And yet ...
“We had two guys bust it for whatever reason,” Pelini said.
As ugly as it was, Rose believes the defense can cut down on the missteps and find its footing in a hurry.
The Huskers hit it hard during a full-pad practice Sunday, and Rose believes it's a team still full of desire to fix the wrongs.
“Please believe me, we don’t like the feeling of losing as much as anybody else,” Rose said. “We don’t like the feeling of losing to a team we felt like we should have handled. We don’t like the feeling of being talked about as ‘Our defense is terrible’ or ‘We’re not good enough to win ballgames right now.’ So trust me, we take those things to heart and we’re definitely going to do our best to make sure that’s not a problem again.”
Rose is hoping to provide a major answer to the problem with his move to middle.
In his second year in the program, with just one start under his belt, Rose has been limited in action, working at the WILL spot with Zaire Anderson. But he's shown flashes of his potential while playing, recording 15 tackles, including two for loss.
And while a redshirt freshman, he says that doesn’t matter when it comes to letting your voice be heard.
“Coach Bo said you started off as a freshman at the start of the season,” Rose said. “You’re no longer looked at as a freshman at this point of the year. It’s time for everybody to step up.”
Whether you’re a captain or a freshman, you can’t be afraid to tell a teammate when he’s messed up, he said.
The worst mistake of all can sometimes be saying nothing.
“It starts with us individually,” Rose said. “We have to make sure we have a commitment to this team and to this program, and I think you’re going to see that from us in the remaining five weeks.”