Generating consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks, often without blitzing, has been a key part of Nebraska’s recent improvement defensively, according to John Papuchis.
But NU’s defensive coordinator indicated that getting to Minnesota’s quarterbacks (Mitch Leidner and Philip Nelson might split reps Saturday) could be more difficult this weekend, considering how much play-action passes and max-protect calls the Gophers have in their arsenal.
“They’re not going to let us just pin our ears back,” Papuchis said.
So Nebraska’s defensive line is expecting to be challenged. D-line coach Rick Kaczenski said he’s telling his guys to be aware of how Minnesota’s trying to move them while also maintaining their rush lanes and continuing to collapse the pocket. In other words: Don’t do anything fancy, just keep battling.
The Huskers have been productive pass rushers lately. They lead the Big Ten in sacks with 17 — and 13 of those have come in the last three weeks. The defensive line’s been responsible for much of that.
And it’s also led to the defense’s third-down success (Nebraska ranks seventh nationally holding opponents to a 28.95 conversion percentage), according to Papuchis.
“When you don’t have to always bring pressure to get heat on the quarterback, that obviously gives you a lot more coverage flexibility,” Papuchis said.
Other practice notes are below…
>> No decision yet on whether or not to play guard Chongo Kondolo, who’s been redshirting up to this point. O-line coach John Garrison said the staff hasn’t yet figured out if Kondolo will travel up to Minnesota, either.
NU has Ryne Reeves and Givens Price behind starters Jake Cotton and Mike Moudy, and the ability to move over center Cole Pensick if needed.
“We have options,” Garrison said, “and guys that are pushing guys.”
>> NU’s anticipating to see lots of pro-style formations Saturday, so linebackers coach Ross Els expects to play all six guys in the first- and second-team rotations. It’s David Santos and Josh Banderas at MIKE (middle). It’s Zaire Anderson and Michael Rose at WILL (weakside). And it’s Jared Afalava and Nate Gerry at BUCK (strongside). They’ve all taken reps with the top unit, mixing and matching to create continuity as best they can in practice, Els said.
>> Back to the Gophers’ ability to play-action pass effectively… Els said defending that kind of deception has been emphasized in practice. Minnesota’s attempted 314 run plays so far this year (second most in the Big Ten), so any run fake has the potential to fool the Huskers if they’re not disciplined. … Sidenote: Els thought his linebackers handled the play-action passing game of Illinois pretty well a few weeks back.