"This was the first game where our lack of communication hurt us and it always will," said Mattison.
"When you go a fast tempo that's one of the things they try to get done, and if you're not a tremendous defense (talent-wise) then you all have to be on the exact same page, all the time, every player," added Mattison. "And if one guy isn't or two guys aren't and they're not hearing it or aren't completely set on the check, then you're going to find cracks and those cracks become big."
Big plays weren't exactly at a premium for the Cornhuskers. Sure, quarterback Taylor Martinez and running back Ameer Abdullah both had runs of 18 yards plus and wide receiver Kenny Bell hauled in a 32-yard touchdown in the second quarter, but the Wolverines breakdowns didn't lead to a gashing of epic proportion. Even so, the performance wasn't good enough when the offense was sputtering. And so for a defense that had shown marked improvement on a week-to-week basis since the Notre Dame loss, giving up over 100 yards rushing and over 300 total yards of offense when the Wolverine's offense could only muster 9 points just isn't going to cut it.
"I don't believe we played at the same progress or the same way that we have been playing as far as moving forward," said Mattison. "We've got some things we've got to get corrected, and still work towards becoming a very good defense. There were times in that game where we did play, but as a whole we needed to play better to win that football game."
One weak link in a chain is too many, but Mattison isn't harping on the outlier that didn't get the memo. Instead he's looking at the entire piece of jewelry wondering why the rest of it didn't pass along the shimmer of light in order to make the entire defense shine.
"We've gone a period of about four weeks where we've been very pleased with not very many missed assignments, and when there aren't missed assignments it's not necessarily just that guy making it (the tackle)," said Mattison. "Somebody is making sure he doesn't miss an assignment. Everybody's job is to communicate and everybody's job is to take care of him."
Despite the issues in Lincoln, Mattison said the defensive coaches quickly pointed out and corrected what needed fixing. Moving forward, the long time defensive coordinator in his second stint with the Wolverines hopes to hear less in his headset in pre-snap situations and more from his players on the field in the winged helmets.
"Great defenses, they sound like a board room of a great company when you're out there," said Mattison. "Check right. Watch out for this. Make sure you're wide enough. That's when you really feel it."
To watch video of Mattison from his press conference Tuesday, press play below.