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The majority of the attention from fans and media this week will be focused on whether Adrian Martinez or Luke McCaffrey lines up behind center as Nebraska's starting quarterback Saturday against Penn State.

But if there was one theme that emerged out of hearing from Nebraska's assistant coaches Tuesday, it's that playing time is up for grabs at nearly every position on both sides of the ball.



"Right now we have a lot of jobs — not just the quarterback position — that are up for grabs," NU offensive coordinator Matt Lubick said. "So this is an open competition week."

After falling to 0-2 behind a lackluster offensive performance against Northwestern, a loss that seemed to sting the team and the fan base as much as any in Scott Frost's tenure as head coach, Nebraska coaches made it clear almost immediately in practice this week that shake-ups could be on the horizon.

"We told the defense yesterday that I'm not looking to bench people, I'm not looking to scare anybody, but there's a lot of young guys that are earning a lot of opportunity," Husker defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said. "And they need the reps, and however you practice this week is going to determine how many reps those young guys get, and how many reps those older guys get."

Chinander mentioned defensive backs Myles Farmer and Quinton Newsome, inside linebacker Luke Reimer, and defensive lineman Jordon Riley as players who made an impact against the Wildcats and could push for more playing time in preparations for Penn State.

"So it's going to be a good week of practice," Chinander said, "and guys know it's on the line."

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First-drive frustrations: Northwestern's first drive of the game against Nebraska lasted seven plays, went 80 yards, and ended in a touchdown. The Wildcats' first drive of the second half lasted 10 plays, went 61 yards, and ended in another score.

On the rest of their possessions combined, the Wildcats ran 48 plays, gained just 176 yards, and scored once, averaging 3.7 yards per play.

So why the disconnect? Maybe some nerves and indecision on the first drive. But after having a half to settle in, the reason for the second score remains a mystery.

"The second-half drive, we're still searching for why we didn't start that one better," NU inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud said. "Because really, you take away the first two drives of each half, and it was a pretty solid football game for us."

The numbers above bear that out. On the two scoring drives, Northwestern averaged 8.3 yards per play.

"The second-half drive was pretty inexcusable. Some missed tackles, some sloppiness overall, and I'm not sure where that came from," Ruud said. "It's something we've got to look at, but certainly we need to start each half faster."

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Farnioks work together: Nebraska offensive lineman Matt Farniok had a solid source of knowledge while preparing to make his first career start at center against Northwestern: younger brother Will.

Frost said the elder Farniok played one of his best games at Nebraska after taking over for Cam Jurgens, who missed the game with an undisclosed injury.

Matt Farniok said Tuesday he found out he would be playing center in the week leading up to the game, and already had a base of knowledge to work from.

"My brother was a huge help in helping me understand how to snap; and proper stance, footwork," he said. "We've been working off and on (on) snaps probably for a month or two here and there. So he was a big factor in helping me snap the ball back to the quarterback."

Will Farniok, a sophomore, appeared in three games as a center for Nebraska last season as a redshirt freshman. He played the entire second half against South Alabama, and also played against Northern Illinois and Maryland.

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Piper praises defensive line: Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Ethan Piper has been solid in his first two games for Nebraska, and said Tuesday he has the guys he lines up across from in practice to thank.

"I think we have one of the best D-lines in the Big Ten, in my opinion, just sizewise and strength," Piper said. "And I think they did a great job of preparing me and the whole offensive line to go against Northwestern and Ohio State."

After rotating at left guard with Boe Wilson in Nebraska's season-opener, Piper drew a starting assignment against Northwestern thanks to the reshuffling caused by Jurgens' absence.

Chris Basnett

Contact the writer at cbasnett@journalstar.com or 402-473-7436. On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.