Pelini, Nebraska address defense again

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


LINCOLN, Neb. -- Dating to last year's Big Ten Championship game and Capital One Bowl, Nebraska has surrendered 1,831 yards of total offense over its last three games.
That covers more than a mile.
Saturday's season-opening opponent, Wyoming, amassed 602 yards, including 205 in the fourth quarter, when the Cowboys scored two long touchdowns on two quick series that combined for six plays. That cut a 16-point deficit to three.
"That, to me, was a really bad dream," Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis said. "It was close to being a nightmare."
It might still become that.
Nebraska, with 10 redshirted or true freshmen on the defensive two-deep, has only one more game, Saturday against Southern Miss, which carries a 13-game losing streak into Lincoln, before hosting UCLA. Last year, the Bruins collected the second-most yards ever allowed by a Nebraska defense.
Coach Bo Pelini said throughout fall camp that he liked where this defense was headed, and that despite its youth, it would be an improved unit.
Even after a Saturday's close call in a 37-34 victory, Pelini hasn't changed that stance.
"Things haven't changed as far as what my expectations are and what I feel this football team will be," Pelini said. "If anything, I feel better about it coming out of the other night. I think we will be significantly better. I felt pretty good after watching that film."
The defensive problems looked familiar - big plays, missed tackles in open space, and an inability to stop the run, particularly between the tackles, where Nebraska looks most vulnerable.
"Some of the things, especially on the defensive side, weren't really physical things," Pelini said. "It was understanding, it was reacting, it was adjusting, in some instances."
Nebraska's experienced offense, which many felt would need to carry the defense, at least through the early portion of the season, wasn't exactly hitting on all cylinders, either. Yes, the Huskers totaled 530 yards, but missed blocks, lacked rhythm and again hindered itself with turnovers and penalties.
"We have to clean up our football on both sides," Pelini said. "I don't think we played nearly up to our potential in any phase of the game. I think it will serve as a wakeup call to our guys, in some instances. I think most importantly, I think we will learn a lot from this, from watching the film."
  Notes: Quarterback Taylor Martinez has a bruised shoulder -- his non-throwing shoulder -- but won't be limited, Pelini said. Martinez suffered the injury in Saturday's game against Wyoming and wore an ice pack after the game. Pelini said Martinez will practice this week and play against Southern Miss. ... Linebacker Jared Afalava didn't play Saturday because of a strained neck and could return this week. "We'll see in the next couple of days," Pelini said. The redshirted freshman is listed as the No.1 BUCK linebacker.

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