Huskers begin prep for Michigan State

No. 19 Nebraska hit the indoor practice field for nearly two hours on Tuesday in preparation for No. 10 Michigan State.

LINCOLN, Neb. - Taking off Monday, No. 19 Nebraska returned to the practice field on Tuesday afternoon in preparation for their upcoming matchup with No. 10 Michigan State.

Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis, who saw his defense hold Illinois to just 14 points on Saturday, spoke with the media.

One of the more interesting topics Papuchis was asked to hit on was his thoughts regarding the development of the defensive line through five games.

“I think the biggest measuring stick is how efficient we have been in terms of running between the tackles,” said Papuchis. “We have gotten considerably better against the run, but I feel a big part of that is there has been very few successful runs in between the tackles. That is credit to Maliek [Collins] Vincent [Valentine], Kevin Maurice and Kevin Williams.”

This season Michigan State is No. 20 in the country in rushing yards, averaging 252 yards per contest.

Nebraska CB Josh Mitchell briefly talks MSU:

Cook’s a different quarterback:

Sometimes all it takes for a player is one game, one performance to change their career. Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook was held to just 15-of-31 passing the last time the Spartans played Nebraska (although most would agree he showed what he was capable of in the game). The Huskers will be squaring off against a whole different quarterback since last November.

After a 300-yard and three touchdowns performance against Ohio State in the Big Ten title game last season, Cook has been one of the better quarterbacks in the country.

“He played really well against us and that is when I noticed how good he really is,” said Papuchis. “I thought he played really well in their run winning the Big Ten and Rose Bowl.”

This season, the junior is throwing at a 69.2 percent competition rate – up 10.5 points. In just four games, he’s throw for 837 yards and nine touchdowns to just two interceptions. The argument can be made he’s had mostly cupcakes on the schedule besides for Oregon, but he also hasn’t played all 16 quarters.

“He’s a really good player. He’s very decisive and gets the ball out in a hurry. Strong arm. Pretty accurate thrower,” said Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini. “I think they do a good job. I think he really understands what they’re trying to do offensively. He makes good decisions. He has a quick release. I think he’s a tremendous player.

“I think the receivers do a good job of if they’re first route is covered, trying to stay alive and move. You have to lock on. You have to be very disciplined. I think they do a nice job of just trying to find holes. When you have a quarterback who can throw the ball into some tight windows like he can, I think his receivers do a nice job of staying alive. You see it happen on multiple occasions.”

When looking at Cook’s rushing numbers and build, it’s easy to assume the 6-foot-4, 218-pounder isn’t a threat when the pocket breaks down, Papuchis says think again.

“He is actually a lot more athletic than people would give him credit for,” Papuchis said. “What he does a great job of is buying time for himself in the pocket. His mobility doesn’t always translate to rushing yards. But what he is able to do is give ground, avoid pass rush and feel the pocket and step up in it. That he does a really good job of.”

Alex Lewis talks about MSU and blocking for Ameer Abdullah:

Harvey’s practice donuts:

* Nebraska practiced for nearly two hours and from the looks of it, the practice was inside as storms hit the Lincoln area.

* Linebacker David Santos didn’t dress on Tuesday and had a wrap around his right knee. In addition, receiver Bandon Reily (hamstring) continued to be out. Running back Ameer Abdullah (bruise) and Josh Mitchell (knee) did practice on Tuesday. Mitchell reported he was “feeling good.”

* Nebraska offensive lineman Alex Lewis says Michigan State likes to try to funnel things inside up front and that defensive end Shilique Calhoun will test him as a offensive lineman. “I have to be quick with my hands,” said Lewis. “He’s a great player and he knows how to play football. It’s going to be a great challenge to see where I’m at.”

* Nebraska safety Corey Cooper says the Spartans are extremely balanced and that there isn’t one guy on the MSU offense that you can stop to shut down their offense. “It’s a great opponent we got, one of the better teams in the country,” said Cooper. “It’s an opportunity to make a statement. We understand what's at stake.”

* Jack Gangiwsh remains the swing defensive end, but Joe Keels is set to “play some” according to Papuchis. Behind Keels, A.J. Natter could receiver reps at the defensive end spot.

Similar to last week, Big Red Report will post an “extra time” with Papuchis thread in the member’s Red Zone later tonight.

*** Credit to Darion Miller (Big Red Report contributor HuskerDrummerGuy) for providing the video content. ***

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