September 30, 2008

Tuesday notebook: Huskers still irked by Daniel

Nearly a year removed from last season's 41-6 loss to Missouri, quarterback Chase Daniel's words are still echoing in Nebraska's ears heading into Saturday's showdown with the Tigers.


Commenting on Nebraska's defensive schemes under then-defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove, Daniel noted that the Huskers seemed to refuse to alter their game plan to adjust to the Tigers' offense, which resulted in Daniel finishing the night with 401 yards passing and four total touchdowns.


In case you forgot, here is Daniel's evaluation of Nebraska's defense following last year's game:


"They're very stubborn," Daniel said. "Cosgrove's a very stubborn guy. It's always been that way. ... That's just how he is, that's how they are. They're a bunch of confident guys in what they do, and they felt they had the best chance doing that, so they stuck with it.


"You can't just play one defense the whole entire game. That's like high school stuff that I faced in high school, so it's nothing new for me."


Though Bo Pelini has since taken over the program and installed an entirely different defensive philosophy, many Huskers who were a part of last season's defense still hold some hard feelings over Daniel's comments.


With one last shot to even the score, NU's defense still remembers Daniel's words, but the players are making sure they remain focused on the task at hand and don't get caught up in simply seeking revenge.


"That's his opinion," senior defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. "He says what he wants to say. I could really care less what his opinion is, because I know what we have and I know what we can do against them. I'll talk when I'm on the field and when I'm approached. That's how I'll go about it."


Some players admitted that Daniel's comments could provide the Huskers with a bit more motivation, though considering last year's final score and the Tigers' No. 4 national ranking this season, they probably don't need much of a boost in that department.


"Obviously when comments are made like that, it gives us that extra motivation," junior safety Matt O'Hanlon said. "But we're not really looking at what they're saying. We're just focusing on what we have to do as a defense."


Daniel's comments still resonate even within Nebraska's offensive players, as their six points in last season's contest were equally as unimpressive as the defense's performance.


In order for the Huskers to exact revenge on Missouri this weekend, they know they'll have to put on a vastly improved showing on both sides of the football.


"Obviously we weren't happy with the way we played last year and the way things went down," senior wide receiver Todd Peterson said, "but if you get so caught up in that then you lose sight of what you're really trying to do, and that's win a football game."












Tuesday's Practice Takes
Third down impact: Nebraska fans likely won't enjoy this fun fact: Heading into Saturday's game, Missouri's first-team offense under Daniel and had 40 possessions without a single three-and-out. The Huskers' defense, however, has played 53 possessions and only held opponents to nine three and outs through four games. As could be expected, this will likely play a huge role in who comes out on top on Saturday, as the Huskers must find a way to keep the Tigers' offense off the field and give their offense good field position.
Blitzing Tigers: Sophomore running back Roy Helu gave some insight into Missouri's defensive style when he commented on how often the Tigers like to blitz defenders in a given game. Helu estimated that after watching film, the Tigers have blitzed at least one defender on roughly 40 percent of their plays. While this could open up some holes for Nebraska's receivers, it should also put major stress on the offensive line to keep quarterback Joe Ganz upright.
Injury report: Junior safety Larry Asante did not practice for the second day in a row on Tuesday, as he is still listed him as day-to-day. However, defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said he expects Asante to be ready to go for Saturday's game. Senior offensive lineman Andy Christensen was a no-show for second straight practice. Head coach Bo Pelini said Christensen is out with "medical issues." Pelini wasn't sure when Christensen would return back to the practice field.
What's on tap next: The Nebraska football team held a two-hour and 15-minute full-padded practice on Tuesday on the grass fields north of Memorial Stadium. The Huskers will come back on Wednesday for another two-hour and 15 minute full-padded practice.



Suh explains crucial personal foul


For the first time since his fourth-quarter personal foul penalty for a late hit against Virginia Tech, Suh finally gave his side of the story at Tuesday's weekly press conference.


With roughly four minutes left in the game, Hokie quarterback Tyrod Taylor scrambled out of the pocket towards the right sideline on a third down-and-4 from Nebraska's 34-yard line.


After he was knocked out of bounds, Suh dove on top of Taylor and was subsequently flagged for a late hit. The referees said it was unnecessary roughness, but Suh had a different opinion on how the play went down.


"For me, the way we're coached and taught is to pursue the carrier until the sideline," Suh said. "Me going back and looking at the film, I took off before I saw him coming out of the pile. When I saw him coming out of the pile, I'm thinking he's reaching to get the first down. So obviously I'm not going to hold up and pull away. I'm not going to get yelled at by my coaches for pulling up and then he turns around and gets the first down.


"The call's the call. We can't go back and change it. We still had other chances after it to hold them to a field goal or even create a turnover. Things happen. That's just the way it is."


Following the penalty, Pelini was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct to move the ball all the up to the NU 11, where the Hokies were then able to end the drive with an eventual game-winning touchdown.


Looking back, Suh said he has no regrets for the play, other than that the referee's call hurt his team and helped contribute to the Huskers' first loss of the season.


"You gotta live with it," he said. "That's how things go. Things didn't go our way, and we've just got to move on forward from it. But we still had chances in the game. We had them on the 20-yard line, and unfortunately Coach (Pelini) got another penalty. But I don't criticize him for that… Things didn't work out the way we wanted to, unfortunately. I got the bad call, and that's that."


Helu not frustrated with lack of carries


Despite getting just four carries in last week's loss to Virginia Tech, sophomore running back Roy Helu said he isn't feeling frustrated about not being more involved in Nebraska's offensive scheme.


Senior Marlon Lucky had a team-high eight carries for just 18 yards in the loss, while Helu on the other hand looked far more productive in his limited number of touches. With just four carries, Helu had a team-best 21 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown run to end the third quarter.


Still, Helu insists he's content with the Huskers' running back rotation.


"(It's) not frustrating at all," Helu said. "Not for me."


Helu was then asked if it was even possible for a running back to find his rhythm in a game when only getting four carries. He responded by saying it doesn't even take that many to do it.


"One. I think all of us just need one carry," he said. "I don't really think it's a big deal getting in a rhythm. As a mindset, if we look at it like that, then we're going to be selfish. We're going to want the ball all the time. If I just get one carry then I'm going to do my best on that one carry.


"If I wait four quarters to get another one, then I'm going to do my best on that one. If I'm in on pass protection, I'm going to do my best on that assignment. Even though I'm not getting the ball, I'm just going to do my best. I'm just glad to be contributing to the team."

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