Husker offensive coaches have been giving their due attention with players in film study to all the penalties that have bogged down possessions.
As a team, Nebraska had 12 penalties against BYU, 12 more against Miami and 12 more against Southern Miss. The flags hurt Nebraska's offense plenty in the first half of the loss to the Hurricanes, and an illegal shift took a touchdown off the board that would have iced Saturday's 36-28 win over Southern Miss.
"I think it's continuing to teach awareness," said NU offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said Tuesday's practice. "Whether it's procedure, whether it's holding, it's technique with their hands, foot placement, focus, false starts, the motion. We had a guy shifting his feet during a motion. That's all it was. Just an overall awareness to clean things up. Be football intelligent and say, 'OK, there's a motion on the play, I can't reset my feet.' We just got to continue to teach it. Get it on film, correct it and stay with it.
"It's stuff we've got to clean up. It did hurt us in that game. It's going to hurt us in a close game."
Langsdorf agreed that officials seem to be calling the illegal formation penalty tighter across college football this year.
But you have to adjust.
The coach cuts out good clips and bad clips from each game. The penalties are, of course, part of the bad.
"Even on the good plays that we have, sometimes it's to say, 'This is well done,'" he said. "But we're always teaching from it — good or bad. We're going to correct it or we're going to say, 'This was excellent. Let's do this again.' It's part of the teaching."
* ANXIOUS PIERSON-EL: It hasn’t always been easy holding back sophomore receiver and return man De’Mornay Pierson-El.
He’s been itching to play ever since injuring his foot in mid-August.
“He’s all over me,” said Nebraska receivers coach Keith Williams. “He was all over me the first week. He said he was going to get fake bones put in his foot or something. He’s a football player. He wants to be out there. So it’s natural that he’d be a little anxious. But he understands we need to be smart about it at the same time.”
Williams said Pierson-El didn’t work in team drills Monday or Tuesday, but did do work on the side of the practice field. The coach is anxious to hear from trainers how Pierson-El is progressing. His availability for Saturday’s game remains in question.
“He’s anxious because he’s starting to feel better. … We just want to make sure we do it the right way,” Williams said.
On the defensive side of the ball, senior end Jack Gangwish (dislocated elbow) suited up, though he wore a large brace over his elbow. Marcus Newby (groin) also participated. Husker head coach Mike Riley said that Tuesday and Wednesday would be key workouts in deciding how ready those players were.
Those who sat out included linebacker Josh Banderas (groin), and defensive tackles Vincent Valentine (high-ankle sprain) and Kevin Williams (sprained thumb).
* IN SPOTLIGHT: Nebraska senior fullback Andy Janovich watches quite a bit of game film, even when he’s at home.
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He often notices plays that would work well for his position.
“I’ll be like, ‘Oh, man, this play would work perfect here,’” he said. “But I don’t know, if coaches don’t see it that way, it doesn’t really work out.”
It did work out for him last week, when he produced 121 yards against Southern Miss — 68 on five rushes in addition to a 53-yard catch-and-run. He said he doesn’t necessarily expect to become a prominent part of the offense, although Riley indicated Monday Janovich may be seeing more of the ball.
Langsdorf also said Janovich's performance makes a coach want to give him more touches.
"With our group, we make them earn the carries," Langsdorf said. "They've got to show enough, do enough to warrant getting the ball, and he did that. He's earned that. We're going to continue to do things with him."
In 40 career games before Southern Miss, Janovich had 35 total yards on six touches.
As a result, he was seldom in much demand by media. That changed Tuesday, when after practice he was surrounded by at least a dozen reporters.
“I prefer being under the radar,” he said. “I don’t like a lot of attention. But it was nice for one day.”
* QUICK READS: Langsdorf echoed what Riley said recently about Nebraska's running backs. Right now, the best back NU has in all phases is junior Terrell Newby, the coordinator said.
Langsdorf said Newby just needs to continue to work on seeing his reads well. He thinks the back "at times didn't look as physical as a runner, more because of the read than actually not being as physical as he needed to be.
"I think he got caught off-guard on a read, and his eyes weren't in the right spot, which surprised him, and all of a sudden he doesn't look like a physical runner," Langsdorf added. "So I think he has that ability. I think we have to get him trained a little better in terms of what he's looking at."
Running backs coach Reggie Davis said Newby, who has 399 yards on 70 carries as well as 58 receiving yards, has been strong on his pass pro and tight zone runs. He wants to see the back continue to get better at outside zone plays. "Just getting better at reading it so we can take advantage of the creases that are there," the coach said.
* QUOTABLE: Fumbles haven't been a big issue for Husker running backs. In fact, NU's back hadn't lost one until senior Imani Cross fumbled in the third quarter this past Saturday.
Davis draws a hard line on fumbles.
“Unless a guy is unconscious, I don’t think a fumble is understandable in my book,” he said.