Red Report: Husker coaches more comfortable preparing for second trip through Big Ten

2012-09-23T23:30:00Z 2012-09-23T23:34:03Z Red Report: Husker coaches more comfortable preparing for second trip through Big TenBy BRIAN CHRISTOPHERSON / Lincoln Journal Star

And ... Take 2.

Better than the first take, the Nebraska football team hopes.

At the very least, NU coaches say they feel more at ease with what to expect than a year ago, when Nebraska made its maiden voyage through the Big Ten.

“It’s hard to say how much more prepared, but I feel comfortable understanding – not what they do schematically -- but more the personnel,” defensive coordinator John Papuchis said. “I think that was the hardest thing to evaluate off the film a year ago. You knew what they were trying to do offensively and defensively, but you didn’t quite know how good guys were, how big they were, how fast they were, until you really got to see them at full speed and in person.”

Running backs coach Ron Brown echoed that opinion.

Studying a team in the film room is beneficial, of course. But that only takes you to a certain point.

“You see them on film, but mostly you’ve experienced in going head-to-head contact with them just what it’s all about,” Brown said, pointing to the value of last year.

One thing is certain: Wisconsin's smashmouth offense figures to present a different look than the mostly spread, up-tempo offenses Nebraska saw in nonconference play.

It's a change Papuchis doesn't seem to mind.

“It’s nice to see a team that gets in the huddle, and breaks the huddle, and has a fullback in the game,” he said with a smile. “It’s nice to get back to some traditional, old-school Big Ten football. I’m excited about that.”

* Believing in what they do: The Nebraska offense has seen its share of junk defenses thrown its way this season.

But when it comes to Wisconsin, the Huskers should have a fair idea of what's coming, sophomore wide receiver Kenny Bell said.

“For the most part, Wisconsin lines up in the same defense,” Bell said. “What you see is what you get. There’s not a whole lot of variation in what defenses they play.”

That isn’t a slam. In fact, Bell meant it as a compliment.

“They’re tried-and-true,” he said. “They don’t need to change defenses because they believe in what they do, which I respect.”

* Getting physical: Most of Bo Pelini’s secondary players at Nebraska have been known for being physical, not afraid to get their hands on receivers in coverage in an effort to take receivers out of the picture.

Certainly it was a style of play that equated success for guys such as Prince Amukamara and Alfonzo Dennard.

“When we play well, that’s how we play,” Papuchis said.

Nebraska’s secondary put that physical, pressing style on display against Idaho State on Saturday. The results were mostly successful.

Bengal quarterbacks completed just 21 of 43 passes for 179 yards. Of course, officials flagged Nebraska’s defensive backs on a few occasions.

“You can see my reaction about how I felt about a couple of those calls,” Pelini said. “That’s how we play, and, yeah, you’re going to live with that.”

A few flags – including one rather interesting “high-hit” call on Stanley Jean-Baptiste – didn’t deter Nebraska coaches from a good feeling about the secondary's play.

That style of play is what they want to see going forward.

“I’m never advocating for anybody to hurt anybody or take any cheap shots, but I certainly want our guys to be physical,” Papuchis said. “Sometimes there are going to be flags thrown when you’re physical. You take the good with the bad there. I don’t want our guys to become passive or soft because they’re worried (about calls). I want them to play aggressive. And I think we’re going to be happier more times than not when they play aggressive.”

* Injury report: The Huskers did have a couple defensive backs get dinged up Saturday, though Pelini believed neither to be seriously injured.

Senior safety P.J. Smith was down momentarily on the field in the second quarter, though he walked off on his own.

Smith is fine, Pelini said. “We just pulled the plug on him” to be safe.

Junior cornerback Mohammed Seisay also hobbled off with an injury. He did return for some snaps later.

Pelini said the injury to Seisay appeared to be in the thigh area.

“All indications are he’s fine,” Pelini said. “All the tests, everything we ran on him, have been negative. He should be good to go.”

Today’s special number: 67

That’s the percentage, rounded up, of third downs Wisconsin converted in a 48-17 win against Nebraska a year ago. The Badgers were 8-of-12 on third down, and also converted a fourth down for good measure.

The Badger offense this year ranks 109th nationally in third-down conversions, having converted 16 of 53 (30.1 percent).

Last year, with Russell Wilson directing the Wisconsin offense, the Badgers were No. 1 in the country in third-down offense, converting 93 of 170 attempts (54.7 percent).

Quotes on the run

“I still feel like back when I was a little kid. I love the game and I get nervous (before it). But then you get on the field and it’s really fun.” – True freshman running back Imani Cross

“It’s kind of like a relief, but then it’s super-exciting. But then again, you don’t want to mess up, because you don’t want to have Coach Bo down your throat.” – Quarterback Ron Kellogg on the feeling a backup has when he gets a chance to play

“Gee, what do you think? They ran one back for 80 freaking yards for a touchdown.” – Idaho State coach Mike Kramer when asked how his punter’s rugby style kicks worked

“I think we’re getting better. I do. Obviously a better football team than we were two weeks ago. I’m done talking about that game. It’s time to move forward. We’re looking forward to Big Ten play.” – Bo Pelini

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