Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis was the man of the moment after the Huskers’ Tuesday practice. He spent nearly a half-hour talking to various groups of reporters. That’s some media grinding. Papuchis was forthright and thorough in explaining how NU moves forward from here.
The place to start: Explosive plays. As Jon Nyatawa explained in his Tuesday column, 11 of Wyoming’s plays went for 327 yards.
“Which is mind-boggling,” Papuchis said. “But 63 plays went for 275. I can live with that. So the question to our guys as we went into this week was: ‘What are we going to do this week to take those 11 explosive plays down to five, and then down to three, and then down to two, and eventually down to zero.’ We need to take the consistency we played with over 63 plays and do it over the course of a whole ballgame.”
Papuchis said he also wanted to “eliminate dumb penalties.” The Husker defense had several that extended Cowboy drives.
>> Communication among defenders, Papuchis said, was “good and bad.” Adjustments took longer than any game Papuchis said he’s coached as a defensive coordinator. The staff had to make multiple explanations.
“I only saw two offensive plays the whole game,” Papuchis said. “Usually, you make your corrections and kind of see what’s going with the game. I didn’t see any of our game. Because it was constantly going over and going over and going over. Our guys got it eventually.”
>> Count Papuchis as a believer that NU’s defense can fix these problems — although he acknowledged the desire of the Husker fan base to want to see it corrected sooner.
“I know that there’s an impatience that surrounds what we’re doing – and the expectation is that we’re going to be a finished product every Saturday when we take the field — but what I want out of this defense is that they stay focused on the main thing — to continue to improve and work as hard as they can every week,” Papuchis said.
>> Middle linebacker David Santos — who had be the defense’s main communicator for the first time in his career — said the night “wasn’t perfect” for him or the defense overall. Coaches, he said, were “pissed with our performance.”
“I left a lot on the field,” Santos said. “I could have done better…I had a few missed assignment. I wasn’t close to being as good as I know I can be. It’s a work in progress. We’re going to keep getting better.”
Papuchis said Santos held up “OK.”
“For his first opportunity at Mike, I thought he did some good things and certainly he did some things we need to clean up,” Papuchis said. He’s the field general, he’s the leader. Without having a Will Compton and Lavonte David and owning that Mike spot, we need him to step up and own that Mike spot.”
The plan against Wyoming, Papuchis said, was to put freshman Mike Josh Banderas in the game earlier than NU eventually did. But Banderas played for much of the four quarter. Papuchis said
>> Papuchis reiterated that Zaire Anderson — who did not play defense against Wyoming — hasn’t been lost on the sideline. There’s a plan for Anderson in NU’s defense when the personnel calls for it.
“I’d like to see Zaire have a bigger role this week,” Papuchis said. “Some of that’s going to be dictated, though, by what kind of personnel groupings we’re seeing from Southern Miss. You have to have some guys out there that can cover wideouts. Zaire can in certain situations, so his role I’d like to see a little bit increased.”
>> Surveying coaches and players, there does seem to be some comfort in actually knowing how the defense will function with all these young parts, and how, going forward, the players can better compliment each other. To the defensive coaches credit, they stuck to their words. They played a ton of guys in a ton of situations. There’s a lot to sift through now, and coaching it up in a week — if you presume Southern Mississippi’s offense isn’t much of a challenge, two weeks until the UCLA game — is a lot to throw on the Husker coaches’ plate. Of course, that’s what they’re paid to do, isn’t it?