Published Friday, September 14, 2012 AT 9:08 AM / Updated at 9:51 AM
Big Red Breakfast: Tough questions for Papuchis
Jon Nyatawa Omaha World-Herald

There is typically a laid-back and relaxed type of vibe at the Big Red Breakfast, where Husker fans get face-to-face interaction with NU coaches once a week. Usually a few tough questions will surface, but most are high-arching softballs: Here’s a topic and answer how you wish.

Not Friday. Not six days after one of the worst defensive performances in coach Bo Pelini’s tenure.

John Papuchis was on hand and the passionate Husker fans in attendance, purposeful and direct in their phrasing, had specific inquires they wanted their defensive coordinator to address.

Papuchis did his best during 45 minutes of Q&A, though he did get a little testy when he thought a fan was questioning the team’s goals. National championships are always the top priority, according to Papuchis. “There is a perception that we’ve lowered our standard — and we haven’t,” he said.

More highlights are below. We’ll have much more on Papuchis’ speech in Friday’s Metro edition of The World-Herald. There’s something about his new job that he didn’t fully expect… (How’s that for a teaser?)

Now, on to the highlights!

>> Junior Zaire Anderson will start at “will” (or weakside) linebacker for Nebraska Saturday, Papuchis said. Redshirt freshman David Santos is expected to play at that spot, too.

>> The question of the week, it seems: Is Nebraska’s defensive scheme too complicated? Papuchis says no. “There’s always that middle ground that you have to try to find, to make sure that you’re doing enough defensively to be effective — but you also, obviously, want to get your best players on the field.”

>> What’s up with the pass rush (or lack thereof)? Philosophically, one of the Huskers’ top priorities is to limit big plays in the passing game, so keeping more guys in coverage is often NU’s strategy, Papuchis said. That puts “a lot of stress” on the D-line, he said. “We limit their ability to turn it loose at times, and just wildly and recklessly rush the passer because of the way in which we match routes on the backend.”

>> One more pass rush quote from Papuchis: “There’s six gaps with four rushers, and those guys have got to do the best job that they can to keep that (QB) in the pocket — because there’s nobody else looking at him.”

>> Papuchis said members of the Husker defensive coaching staff have visited Alabama, Florida and Oklahoma during the last two offseasons.

>> UCLA’s pre-snap motions on offense seemed to fracture Nebraska’s defensive scheme a bit last week. Why? The offseason objective was to avoid stale play calling when opponents increased their tempo, Papuchis said. “We didn’t want all the window dressing of UCLA to force us to become very vanilla, very predictable. … We didn’t adjust as well as we would have liked.”

>> Papuchis on the defensive linemen getting into their stances a yard off the line of scrimmage: “This has kind of become its own topic that’s kind of created its own monster running around out there.” … The ends and tackles do have to play off the ball to some degree in this defense, Papuchis said. “We initially backed our guys off two years ago to give them a better opportunity to play their technique,” he said. It was 6 inches. Then a foot. There’s a middle ground somewhere, and changes could be coming, according to Papuchis. “We don’t want to give so much ground that we become soft at the point of attack,” he said.

>> Was there anything that the defense did well against UCLA? “At any point during the game?” Papuchis asked, as a smile emerged. Everyone laughed. … Then someone asked about the disparity in field position. And then someone wondered why the tackling was so poor. And then Papuchis had to tell everyone why linebacker Will Compton was twice matched up man-to-man with a speedy running back (bad calls, he said). … So, not too much room for levity Friday.

About Jon Nyatawa

Jon Nyatawa has covered local sports, primarily Nebraska football, for The Omaha World-Herald since 2008. He and his laptop, cell phone, tape recorder, pen and notebook all live in Lincoln. Follow him on Twitter: @JonNyatawa. Email him here: He welcomes feedback.


  1. All other's look to 95 says:

    You must pressure the QB in your pass defense. Certainly when you are facing a Freshmen or Redshirt Freshmen QB. TO and Charlie McBride didn’t worry about a few big plays in the passing game. They were much more concerned with teams making first downs and driving the field on them. We must get after the QB better. And run stop around the outside of our defense way better. UCLA’s number 23 ran around the corners of are defense all day. Sometime not being touch until he was 8-10 yards down field. Can’t happen. I know our coaches can fix this. Gotta get more aggressive!!

    1. MikeG says:

      Charlie McBride is twice the defensive genious as Bo. Giving up a few big pass plays isnt bad. One, you get the ball right back and can march down and answer and Two, it puts the other teams defense right back on the field and they get tired. We have literally reversed roles from what made us successful in the past. We dont need to be a quick strike offense like Beck is doing. Look at earlier years. It wasnt uncommon for the score to be 7-7 or 14-7, but the time of possession heavily favored the huskers usually. By the second half, the opponents defense was wiped out and we would score at will. Now we try to be quick strike, which translates into either a quick score, against weaker opponents, or a quick drive, 3 and out. Now it is our own struggling defense that is getting tired and being on the field longer. Look at time of possession these last few years as opposed to the late 90′s.

    2. MikeG says:

      I dont mind the other team winning because it made great plays, I just hate losing because we may stupid ones. Thats whats been happening.

      1. huskercris says:


      2. Butch says:

        Bingo, that hits the nail on the head. Us, and stupid plays…..or as Boo might say…….”failing to execute”.

  2. All other's look to 95 says:

    And if you get to the QB he doesn’t have time to make a big play in the passing game. Because he’s running for his life.

  3. Jamie T says:


    Sounds like a collection of non-answers to me. Step up or give up the coach speak. Oh wait, we are Nebraskan’s, we are slow and dumb and we should be happy just to have a coach that wants to be here. Give me a break! Ever wonder what it would be like to have coaches that were already experienced in their respective positions before we hired them?

  4. The honey badger says:

    The staff is lost and te defensive scheme is too hard that is showing no results. Two gaps system sucks only worked bc of suh . No pressure on the qb big linebackers going after fast back getting out of poistion with simple motion. Ucla was running anything new simple spread with screens diAmond looks and throwing deep to keep safeties out the box.the staff needs to step bc ark st has to be licking their chops after seeing film.

    1. The honey badger says:


  5. JPM7791 says:

    It bothers me that the coaches aren’t more contrite about this. People know, but I don’t think really appreciate how historic this defensive performance was. 2nd most yards given up in the history of the program. Cosgrove never gave up this many yards. The only game we gave up more was against a Wilkinson-coached OU team in the ’50s that was one of the best ever. Had UCLA not lost 5 yards on the last play, it would have been the MOST yards EVER given up by an NU defense. If you have any talent, you should be able to play the exact same defensive formation on every play and not give up this many yards.

    Something is wrong. Very wrong. Read Mike Leach’s book. He emphasizes simplicity and repetition. I think Pelini is trying to force these guys to do too much. Just line up and play D! (PS, are we sure Carl wasn’t the real mastermind?)

    1. The honey badger says:

      ^^^^ like this guy said to bo coaching a defense that might make pro players spend late nights studying. If you watch the ucla game the players were lost looking to the sideline every single play cbs were looking for calls everyone was looking lost why??? Simplify and let the players play Bo

    2. A Fan says:

      Agree. I think it’s a combination of things. We haven’t recruited well enough since Pelini became head coach. And… I don’t think the assistant coaches are that good. It’s early to say that… but I just don’t see it with these guys.

      This team is years from national title contention, at the rate we’re going.

    3. NUCORNDEVIL says:


    4. redark says:

      Had the Bruin QB stayed healthy, we could have seen 750 to 800 yds. Thank goodness for a clock that ended the carnage. Unbelievable that NU still had a chance to win that game

    5. David says:

      Yes, exactly.

    6. NUCORNDEVIL says:

      Its not so much Leach, most of your experienced coaches understand the simplicity concept, helps players play faster ‘Bama’ ‘OU’, Pelini is trying to teach kids Calculus before they learn their times tables, then blames execution on the players, which requires them to study more film, instead of hitting at full speed on the field.
      We have to start all over, whats the point of keeping Pelini? We have some mythical keep who ever tom Osborne hires for 20 years because we gave Tom 20 years rule?

  6. NUCORNDEVIL says:

    Let’s break this down to reality:
    1. ” Is Nebraska’s defensive scheme too complicated? Papuchis says no?” Yes, this man/zone system is designed for Pro’s who get all season to study it, college kids don’t have the time which takes them 2 years to fully grasp the system barring any injury to the starting five. This is why we never have depth and the same DB’s have to play the whole game, this system requires every Linebacker and DB to know the system completely, 1 confused player negates the whole system, we have watched it time and time again.

    2. “What’s up with the pass rush?” Papuchis: ” “There’s six gaps with four rushers, and those guys have got to do the best job that they can to keep that (QB) in the pocket — because there’s nobody else looking at him.” At this point were putting the stress on DB’s to cover 4.3 speed WR’s for about 4 to 5 seconds. I would much rather have a QB running for his life throwing the ball over the middle late, our running out of bounds, this is just an excuse for not being able to recruit, and develop solid DT’s. Tell Suh, Winstrom, Tomich, Parella, and all the other Husker DE’s about hanging out keeping the QB in the pocket.

    3. ” UCLA’s pre-snap motions on offense seemed to fracture Nebraska’s defensive scheme a bit last week.” I shouldn’t have to comment about this, any third grader knows what this means.
    So lets hear the excuse from a 3rd grader…..Papuchis: ” “We didn’t want all the window dressing of UCLA to force us to become very vanilla, very predictable. … We didn’t adjust as well as we would have liked.” Put that in your pipe and smoke it Husker fans, I rest my case.

    Smoke and ‘windows’ people…………. :)

    1. A Fan says:

      Corndevil… I disagree with you on one point. Pelini’s defense worked in 2009 and 2010… when he had the athletets to run it. Better put, what’s different between the defense he ran in those years and now? Have we changed the defense significantly or have the players changed?

      1. NUCORNDEVIL says:

        What year did Pelini become HC?
        How well did that secondary play in 2011? Whats up this year?
        It is definitely a talent issue, and those players are all in the Pro’s now.
        Again, Calliham may have been a pompous ass, but he is ‘Light years’ beyond Pelini’s comprehension level when it come to evaluating talent, obviously.
        Pelini is ‘Light years’ comprehensively behind all other NCAA coaches in the recruiting trenches.
        Calliham had that Superbowl appeal, the Raiders etc…..
        Calliham also put NU into such a frenzy with his neglect, or stubborn decisions on the defensive side of the ball, Bo Pelini, who replaced a horrific Bohl in 2003, looked like a savior.
        A Fan, you also have to remember all starters played all the time, whenever an injury occurred to one of the starters, the secondary was suspect, and often the excuse for big plays against our defense.

    2. deadred says:

      well on to complicated didnt this system lead in scoring defense in 2009 one year removed from beigning horrible and mostly same players

  7. redark says:

    Papuchis should run foe political office. A bunch of gobbledegook to smooth over the biggest defensive debacle in Husker history. Even Bo called it “embarrassing and sickening. ”
    The blitz package was a slow footed linebacker who showed blitz 5 seconds in advance.
    Time to gamble a bit with the pass rush as the “vanilla” they are trying to avoid is just that. Take a lesson from UCLA and adjust as they did in the second half.

    1. NUCORNDEVIL says:


    2. Jeff_Georgia says:

      Exactly. Not a honest answer in the lot. A lot of PC and excuses. A wastes of everyone’s time. Glad I wasn’t there….

  8. Dave S says:

    This is a poorly coached team! Defensive players were out of position all day. We have no excellent athletes on either lines. We cannot protect the Quarterback against athletic defensive lines and we cannot get off blocks. Play calling is terrible as was evident in the fourth quarter when we had a solid running attack all day. Pelini is not a defensive genius and, with a few exceptions, he cannot recruit lineman.

    1. Jeff_Georgia says:

      I wish he would have explained how “We didn’t want all the window dressing of UCLA to force us to become very vanilla, very predictable” or “We limit their ability to turn it loose at times, and just wildly and recklessly rush the passer” would have been worse than the crap on the field on Saturday.

      UCLA did a pretty nice job “wildly and reckless” putting tremendous pressure on T-Mart, Mr. Papuchis.

      God, what a whitewash. He might as well have stayed home from the breakfast (he could have skipped the UCLA game as well – how much worse would it have been?).

      1. deadred says:

        pelini was making the calls not papa and even with the terrible d why does beck get a pass off supposed to strongest unit on team and 4q beck did nothing to help them ameer no carries last 13 min of game how about 3rd and 1 put marrow in and lock the play weres the multiple at beck also says UCLA had 5 players between our guards so on critcal play u give it to a fullback wwhich RAY CHARLES WOULD HAVE KNOWN WHO GETTING THE BALL def was horrible but until last ucla td neb had a chance where did the offense go

  9. NUCORNDEVIL says:

    I called this in June, when i asked Husker Nation if Noel Mazzone goes to the top of the list as Pelini’s replacement, after he takes a Freshman QB and dissects Pelini’s genius defense.
    Papuchis should be working security at the Henry Doorly Zoo, not on a Div1 college football field, let alone Nebraska.
    I can’t really make a decision on Beck just yet, since i haven’t seen him call plays with a Div1 QB, as comprehensively challenged as our current starting QB is, right now its a push.
    Fisher needs to be coaching LB’s just sayin…….
    I see how screwed up the team and staff is, especially when these kids see better QB prospects and Bo continues to force Martinez on us, being a Div 1 Lineman is a bi*&ch, especially when the QB is lost, or cannot make the correct reads, consistently. :( You don’t think these players see the problems? I watched this team collapse in the 2nd half LIVE, in typical meltdown Pelini fashion.
    I guarantee to all Husker fans, If Pelini would just replace the current starting QB, NU will win the BIG.

    1. Waskel Wabbit says:

      Security guard? that would take at least some intelligence…you know, just enough to not get shot. pelini wou;ld be a good used car salesman. Wait a minute…he couldn’t sell pus_y on a troop train.

      1. NUCORNDEVIL says:

        I think being an armed security guard takes smarts.

  10. The honey badger says:

    The sad thing about ucla is they pretty much ran similar plays and kept using it bc neb was too stubborn to adapt and change. Nothin was new they ran a similar version of what Oklahoma st runs its nothing new. Bo is so set in his ways he can’t hire outside help bc he will fire them ASAP just like BB at wisky.there were better and more qualified DC but he chooses JP who looks lost and worse than cosgrove. Simplify simplify and let the defense fly

  11. NUCORNDEVIL says:

    Here’s a tough question for Papuchis:
    “Mr. Papuchis, how guilty do you feel chasing that paycheck?”

  12. glass house says:


  13. Two for the road says:

    Does any find it peculiar that 2 years ago we backed our d lineman off the line of scrimmage….. Which is the exact time our defense began to go down hill.

  14. Clay says:

    While i will not jump on the band wagon to replace Bo, i will say that during the 2nd half of the Bruins game, i really felt that our younger coaches would not come up with anything to stop what was happening on the field, not sure if if was lack of experience or what, but, i really felt we were in trouble early, and i also felt like we would not be able to make the adjustments needed in the 2nd half…I hope this is not the case, but, we were simply out coached and out played in that game, especially the 2nd half. I also agree with many of you that we need to find a way to rush the QB, it seems like we try to keep from getting in the backfield to sack, or rush the QB, and it just gives them extra time to burn us deep…The other thing that i have noticed is, we don’t seem to ever change anything up, we do the same thing time and time again, and you can almost see what the opponents offense will be doing, before they do it…If i can see that, shouldn’t our coaching staff? While this was a non conference game, it was the 2nd game of the season, and after being very excited watching the So Miss game, this one really sticks in my craw…We are in for a very rough run through the BIG, if we dont make some adjustments…..

  15. Dizzle says:

    O lineman must love playing against this scheme, they don’t have to block anybody. Lining up two feet from the line of scrimmage, nice, the opponent starts with 1st and 9, brilliant!

  16. Kevin says:

    Wow !!! Love the Haters…. it’s typical NU losses 1,000 comments, NU wins 5 comments…. It is pretty apparent that the D lacks speed, that game against UCLA was hard on the eyes. Compton seems like a decent MLB, But in no way should he be matched up against a RB in a pass pattern. Let’s see what happens this week. I like seeing Zaire Anderson playing. But I also would like to see Santos get playing time. NUCD……”I called this in June, when i asked Husker Nation if Noel Mazzone goes to the top of the list as Pelini’s replacement, after he takes a Freshman QB and dissects Pelini’s genius defenseD: ” Let’s see if you eat your words this weekend.

    1. NUCORNDEVIL says:

      i have made no prediction on this game, it’s Arkansas State.
      But i would like to point out, here we go with another fairly new coaching staff with an HC who was an above average OC, and a mobile QB.
      Did anyone see that NU defense last weekend?

  17. Jeremy says:

    How is it that everyone in the world can see the things we are doing wrong except the coaching staff? Other teams are able to aggressively rush the QB and still not get burned for a lot of big plays, so why can’t we do that? What other good collegiate defenses are running the 2-gap? Maybe a few, but certainly most of the top defenses run the 1-gap, which allows you to be more aggressive and not have to think as much. On offense, Beck seems to be the only one in North America who thought putting more pressure on Martinez in the second half against UCLA by calling pass after pass was a good idea (at the time his pass protection was crumbling in on him play after play). It just seems like a lot of our problems are fixable if we simply address what’s wrong and change it, instead of just “working harder” and “executing better”. To me, those phrases are just another way of saying “We’re going to keep doing the same stupid crap we’ve been doing and hope to hell for better results.”
    NO! You’ve got to stop doing those stupid things, coaches! SImplify the D a little bit so our players don’t need 3 years to understand what the hell to do on the field. Get up on the line and knock some heads, and run the ball whenever you can. You’re making this harder than it needs to be.

  18. WA Husker says:

    Jeremy – I agree. Still shaking my head that, after running – what was it? – 60+ yards off right tackle in the 4th, Beck comes out in the last three – five possessions with pass, pass, pass from a QB rattled (again) in front of mommy and daddy and a few dozen friends. Hiring assistants is an art which apparently left Lincoln, mostly, when TO retired. As NU football drags on, the post-Pelini era will be rough for everybody.

  19. jakblack says:

    IT is the talent and lack of recruiting…its over unless we get rid of Pelini..we will be a underdog at Northwestern

  20. Tripduz says:

    I think you are all a bunch of whiners that sit in your mommas house and cry if she doesn’t fix your cereal fast enough. It’s easy to be a genius after the fact. It’s easy to be an armchair qb and question play calls after they don’t work. If you are all so brilliant why are you discussing it on a message board for an article online? Why haven’t any of you gurus sent in your applications to the UNL and fixed this “horrible mess” we are in? Husker fans are great when the team is winning, and a bunch of little babies boohoo’ing when they lose.

    It’s too early to tell a lot of this from and gloom you fickle fans are predicting. We may be a below average team, UCLA may be that good, who knows yet? Nobody. The reason I’m not that worried is because I know the Players and coaches want to win more than any of you sore losers. I saw the worst thing being tackling. It wasn’t players out o position or dumb calls here and there on offense that cost us the game, it was tackling. Plain and simple. Make the tackles we missed and we save a lot of yards/points and win the game in my opinion. Either back the team and coaches for the entire season then make a rational judgement, or find another team to cry and moan about! There’s a lot more teams out there that have lost a game that could use a bunch hissy fit pitchers like y’all! Go get em!!

  21. johnjones says:

    Been a fan my whole life…I am no football coach, but I am not an idiot…you can’t hit, what you can’t catch…

    1st–get rid of Meredith and put in eric martin…
    2nd–275 pounds of Baker Steinkuhler isn’t going to work, put the big bad boys in that we got…
    3rd–get rid of whale, compton and fisher…put the 2 juco’s and the freshmen in.. .TO and Mcbride learned that speed, speed and big freaking monsters on the front is what wins on defense…

    If you don’t believe me, then look at what Ala and Lsu and South Car and Mich St and all these teams do…Bo is an ass, he is stubborn and he don’t a crap about our tradition and what TO carried on from Big old Bob…

    He is a jerk and he is a safety coach that is why he cares about having the best backs on the back side…You think that all these teams that we have gone up against, would have shown him, on how to stop a running quarterback…

    What do they do to us…BLiTZZZZZ…they bring the heat…Taylor cries and falls apart and we are three and out…

    Yeah and get rid of him…Yeah he is fast, but he isn’t elusive fast and Tommy Armstrong is and I would rather have a QB that can get out of crap, instead of one who chokes…

    Call us haters or whatever, the point still remains that Bo is dragging this program down…Those freshmen that we have, could have killed UCLA….But Bo is too stubborn…

    I saw a video where Will Compton called Bo as Bo and not coach or Coach Bo…that is why he is starting because they are friends and will knows his defense…Hey that is great…But those freshman that he is going up against, shook him so much and they left his jock strap, 15 feet behind them…

    Wake up and realize that unless he adapts and plays the talent…schemes go out the door after the ball is hiked…plays break down….One thing remains…Kill the QB and get the ball….and freaking smash anyone who the QB gives it too…I for one would love to see that beast of an end…Called Eric Martin, thrash the crap of the QB…Have him scared for once, just like the good old days…Instead of Meredith, getting his behind kicked in…Our D–line looks so tiny….against those big ole boys who are freshman…

    Put the Talent in…they are going to mess up…they score a Touchdown….but they will save you 3 to 4 touchdowns….Hey Ala, Lsu…and all them big schools play freshmen…We use to too….
    But we will sat…If Bo is still set in his ways….I say fire him and get someone else at the end of the season…or get used to losing 4 to 6 games a season…Unless he changes his ways…

  22. MikeG says:

    John, you hit one nail right on the head. Why dont we follow the example of other teams who successfully contain mobile QB’s. Watch how teams like OSU and MSU play against us and Michigan. They have figured out that the best way to defeat a mobile QB is to take away his bread and butter, the run. If he beats you through the air, they deserve to win. Also, his ability to beat you through the air is weakened even more when he has to make quick decisions because he is getting pressure. We hsould have 2 base schemes. The one we have now should be played against pass-first, pro style QB’s then switch to a heavier blitz, faster LB set when playing against Michigan, Ohio State, and mobile QB’s. I know people point to the comeback against OSU but I dont care what anyone says, if Braxton Miller didnt get hurt, we would have gotten destroyed in that game.

  23. Tripduz says:

    Somebody get these babies some tissues for their poor, red heinies!!!!