This is the Sean Fisher that Nebraska coaches have always boasted about.

And he wasn’t the only Husker linebacker to make a difference in Nebraska’s 23-9 victory against Michigan on Saturday night.

Freshman David Santos had a career-high 10 tackles, and Nebraska’s top three tacklers were all linebackers.

Fisher, though, was the feel-good story of the bunch. He had seven stops, including two for loss, in what may have been his most playing time of the season.

A senior from Omaha, Fisher missed the 2010 season because of a broken leg and never returned to his previous form last season. And this year, the BUCK linebacker has been used sparingly, based on the type of offense Nebraska faces.

“Everybody likes to go out and play,” Fisher said. “Just kind of a product of the circumstances sometimes this year, it’s been a little light on the playing time. That’s not anything you can control. You can’t get mad about it. If you play a spread team, that’s just how it is.

“Games like this, the Wisconsin game, they’ve been fun for me, because I have gotten a chance to get out there and have consistent playing time. It’s hard sometimes when you go out for one series for a play or two and you don’t see the field for another quarter."

That wasn't the case Saturday.

Fisher made his presence known early on a key third-down stop in the first quarter. He tackled Fitzgerald Toussaint for a 1-yard loss on third-and-2 from the Michigan 23-yard line, forcing a punt.

“I thought Sean played really well,” Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis said. “Like I said after we played Wisconsin, I think there are certain games and certain situations where the Sean Fishers and the Alonzo Whaleys are at their best.

“Fish is starting to play more at the nickel-MIKE, and I thought he played well tonight, but when he’s in base personnel, he’s a really good BUCK linebacker for us.”

Papuchis was also happy to see Fisher’s performance, from the standpoint of silencing any critics.

“I think any criticism of Fish is unfair from this perspective: I think if you’d ask Bo or (former Husker linebacker coach) Mike Ekeler, two years ago, prior to his ankle injury — and it was a pretty serious injury when he broke his ankle — we thought he was going to be a great player for us,” Papuchis said. “Then he got hurt. When he came back he wasn’t quite the same guy. I think this is more the Fish that we expected to see a couple of years ago.

“I think, like anything else, the more he plays, the more confidence he has, and it’s snowballing in a positive direction. The reality of Fish is, that even though it seems like he’s been here a long time, he hasn’t played a lot, so just getting more playing time has helped him.”

Santos hasn’t played much either, but for different reasons; he’s a redshirt freshman. But he’s becoming more a part of Nebraska’s defense as the season goes on.

“He’s kind of a guy that, during camp, you could tell he was right on the edge of really understanding and really having things click, but there are still some concepts that are foggy,” Fisher said. “I think you’ll really start to see him come along and really grasp those things, and I think it showed up on the field.”

Nebraska held Michigan to 188 total yards, and only 14 rushing yards in the second half. The Huskers had three second-half interceptions.

“We played well as a defense as a whole,” Fisher said. “We really emphasized the small things, getting back to little things — not dropping picks, not letting the scout team run down the field and say, ‘Oh, we’ll cover it on Saturday.’ That translated. You saw the picks we had.”

Reach Brian Rosenthal at 402-473-7436 or brosenthal@journalstar.com. You can follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBR.