In the wake of the surge of national media attention senior defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has received the past few days, it was expected that he would the topic of choice during Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini's interview during Monday's Big 12 coaches' teleconference.
In Thursday's 27-12 win over Missouri, Suh racked up six tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, a pass breakup, three quarterback hurries and a crucial fourth-quarter interception that set up the Huskers' go-ahead touchdown.
For his efforts, Suh was named both the national and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week.
Like always, Pelini was subtle in his responses to reporters' questions gushing over Suh's performance and value to the Huskers' defense. He said he was obviously impressed with the Portland, Ore, native's night, but that he expected it to only be the beginning of even better games to come.
"He played well," Pelini said. "He did some good things, as did (Jared Crick) and the other guys up front. I thought he played well. I thought he did some good things. I think there's more out there for him to go get. I don't think he's reached his potential yet."
Having coaching numerous talented defensive linemen and future NFL draft picks over the course of his career, Pelini was asked if he could compare Suh to any of his former players. He said Suh's intelligence and awareness combined with obvious physical talent make it hard to compare him with anyone.
"He's smart," Pelini said. "He's a smart football player. He's obviously very talented. I don't know who I'd compare him to. I don't really get into that very much. I think he's a pretty special football player."
Lee, offense get pass because of weather
Aside from a furious fourth quarter rally, it was an ugly night for Nebraska's offense on Thursday, especially for junior quarterback Zac Lee.
Having mustered up zero points and only 108 yards of total offense through the game's first three quarters, the Huskers' looked inept offensively for much of the game against the Tigers. Until his 56-yard touchdown to Niles Paul, Lee had completed just 9-of-27 passes for 79 yards.
Pelini admitted that he was close to sitting Lee down and playing freshman quarterback Cody Green for a series or two, but because of the rainy weather conditions, he was more willing to let Lee continue to fight through his rough start.
Obviously, the move paid off.
"He had a rough three quarters," Pelini said. "It was tough conditions. He played well in the fourth quarter, and he's played pretty consistent football. I like where Zac is. I think he's playing well
He's only started five games. This will be six coming up. I see progress, and I think he'll just keep getting better."
Pelini said his decision to leave Lee in came down to not wanting to put all of the blame for Nebraska's offensive woes on the head of his quarterback.
"The way things were going and the conditions, everyone wants to point at the quarterback," he said. "It ain't the quarterback. It's 11 guys out there executing, and we weren't getting it done. We persevered, and we were able to find a way to get it done."
While the Huskers were able to eventually get things going and pull off a win, Pelini said he and the coaching staff weren't going to ignore what happened through Thursday's first three quarters. Pelini said the team has already started to address the offensive issues, and will continue to do so until they're fixed.
"You have to look at everything - everything you do every week - and learn from what happened," he said. "We might play in those conditions Saturday. You don't know that. We've got to get better and we've got to fix the things that we've got to get fixed, regardless of what the conditions are. There's a lot there that we can get better from.
"We're not going to just ignore the things that went wrong because of the bad conditions. You can't do that. We're going to work to get them fixed and play better and execute better from start to finish."
Pelini ready for either Tech quarterback
With the health status of Texas Tech quarterback Taylor Potts (concussion) still in the air for Saturday's game, Pelini said the Huskers are preparing to face either Potts or backup Steven Sheffield.
Pelini said that whoever ends up playing on Saturday would present equally difficult challenges for NU's defense. In three games played this season, Sheffield is 53-of-70 passing for 780 yards 11 touchdowns and two interceptions.
In his first start last week against Kansas State, he was 33-of-41 for 490 yards and seven touchdowns.
"I think they're both good players," Pelini said. "I think they've both shown that they can make plays and that they're both good football players. We're going to defend their offense, and they're just one cog of the offense. But they've shown that they can be productive no matter who's back there."
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