Nebraska gave up 11 third-down conversions on 21 Michigan State attempts last week. It was rare success against an NU defense that normally stiffens in third-down situations.
The Huskers had allowed a third-down conversion percentage of just 27.1 (third-best nationally) before the Spartans managed to keep their possessions alive more than half the time Saturday.
Defensive coordinator John Papuchis said the Huskers made a few too many mistakes (the blitz called on the second-to-last MSU touchdown wasn’t executed properly). But then again, Michigan State made extraordinary throws and catches, too, according to Papuchis. He also mentioned that the Spartans took advantage of their shorter yardage tries — MSU converted seven of its 10 third downs when it needed fewer than seven yards.
“It was a combination of them making plays and us not making plays,” he said. “Sometimes, that’s what it comes down to.”
Penn State’s offense ranks 96th nationally in third down success, converting 35.9 percent of the time.
Other practice notes are below:
>> An update on the injured offensive linemen, courtesy of coach John Garrison: Senior tackle Jeremiah Sirles and junior guard Jake Cotton both participated in portions of Wednesday’s practice. Same for senior Cole Pensick (knee), though the coaching staff seems to be concerned about the health of its starting left guard for Saturday. (Junior guard Mike Moudy’s still out).
>> The potential contingency plan for Saturday includes sophomore Givens Price, who would likely start if Pensick can’t go, Garrison said. Redshirt freshman Paul Thurston will travel to Penn State. He is taking second-team reps at center (behind junior Mark Pelini). … Sophomore Ryne Reeves played about 20 snaps at guard against Michigan State last weekend, so he’s an option, too.
>> Just a side-note: Garrison started chatting a bit about redshirting freshman David Knevel, a 6-foot-9, 305-pound offensive tackle. Knevel’s spend the year building upper body strength, and his potential is apparently high. Said Garrison: “He’s something else. He’s certainly got a lot of talent. He’s got a big future ahead of him.”
>> Nebraska’s continuing to search for the right guy to replace sophomore Daniel Davie (who’s out for the year) on the punt coverage team. Davie, one of the team’s top gunners, was often the first guy downfield. Junior Josh Mitchell, senior Stanley Jean-Baptiste, senior Andrew Green, sophomore Charles Jackson and sophomore Jonathan Rose are among the players working at that position.
>> Linebackers coach Ross Els talked a bit about Penn State’s zone running scheme, which isn’t overly complicated but tremendously effective. Plus, because the Nittany Lions have been committed to a specific style, they’ve seen several different strategies from opponents who’ve tried various ways to slow them down. “We’re not going to catch them by surprise,” Els said.
>> Sounds like the coaching staff is getting more confident in the top linebacker rotation (David Santos, Zaire Anderson and Michael Rose). Said Els: “Those three have done what we’ve been waiting for: somebody to step forward and earn the right to play a lot more than everybody else.”