Huskers prepare for Texas

Nebraska prepares to face the defending national champion Texas Longhorns.

Nebraska hit the inside of Memorial Stadium today as they hit the meat of preparations for their up-coming contest with the Texas Longhorns. It's easy for fans and even us media to get caught up in the defending national champs, because, well, that's what we do. For the coaches and players, though, this is another day, another team, just another practice.

All you have to do is throw a team out there and Nebraska will prepare for them the same as they would prepare for any other.

Whether it's the La. Tech or USC, Michigan or Maine, the staff looks at match ups and what they have to do to win on both sides of the ball.

The only problem with that, especially when it comes to a team like Texas, there are match up problems everywhere.

While the Huskers have gotten plenty of credit for having some high quality backs, Texas has a couple of their own. Sophomore Jamaal Charles and senior Selvin Young are one of the most potent one-two combinations in the conference. "Charles is a sprint champ, but both of them have tremendous speed," Defensive Coordinator Kevin Cosgrove said. "They do a really good job at getting on the edge, so we have to do an even better job containing that."

Another weapon Cosgrove's defense will have to confront is redshirt junior wide receiver Limas Sweed. He may not lead the conference in either receptions or average yards per game, but nobody has been better at getting into the end zone. Eight times the big-bodied wideout has made it in for scores, making him one of the most lethal weapons in the conference.

"He's big-time. He's just a big-time guy," Cosgrove said. "He's a tall receiver with great speed. He's just a big weapon for them."

That will be a theme over the week as everyone will get to hear about the many players for Texas, who came out of high school laden with stars by their name, touted as one of the best at their position in the country.

Nebraska's faced a similar team, though, who has a few stars themselves. It's that game with the OTHER team from the national title game, which, according to coach Cosgrove, can only help them right now. "We are playing both teams that played for the national title last year, and both are pretty similar in talent," he said. "We played USC pretty tough for awhile, but we just didn't finish."

"Against Texas, we are going to have to put together a complete four-quarter game."

The good news for Nebraska's defense is that junior linebacker Corey McKeon, who suffered an ankle injury against Kansas State, is expected to be ready to go for the game. Coach Cosgrove said that McKeon came out to practice today, but when in for treatment before practice was over. Asked if he would play in the game, Cosgrove didn't hesitate, saying "He'll play. Absolutely he'll play."

Another bright spot for the defense is someone who hasn't just emerged onto the scene, rather they continue to progress at a positive rate. Freshman defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh once again established himself as a playmaker inside, notching another sack against K. State, along with grabbing an interception.

For Suh he just wants to play, but the blackshirt is on all defensive player's minds who don't have one. As for the defensive coordinator who hands those out, he said Suh is on his way. "He doesn't have one yet, but he's playing very well," he said of the team's leader in sacks. "He's much improved from when he first started. He plays more urgently now, and a lot of that has to do with his understanding of what we are doing."

"He's a heck of a football player."

Another that has continually impressed from the start of the season hits you from the other side of the ball, but despite the fact that he's not a Suh-like 340 pounds, for his position, he's no small challenge for defenders.

Quietly junior wide receiver Maurice Purify has steadily became one of if not the main weapon for the passing game for the Huskers. While the Nebraska has gotten it's traditionally consistent play from the likes of Nathan Swift and Todd Peterson, it's Purify who seems to be the punch.

It's not punch you can teach either, as offensive coordinator and QB coach Jay Norvell would tell you. Some of it is just something he has. "He's got size, leaping ability and a lot of natural ability when it comes to catching the ball," Norvell said. "He also adjusts to the ball very well, and all of those qualities you really can't teach."

"He's a talent and we are awfully glad to have him here. We just want to see him continue to improve."

Through seven games, without starting even one of those games, Purify is second on the team in receptions with 16, behind Terrence Nunn, who has 20 catches on the year. He's also second to Nunn in receiving yards, but only by three total, Nunn with 336 on the season, while Purify is at 333. However, Nunn averages just over 16 yards per catch, while Purify averages over 22 yards per, and Maurice has two touchdowns to Nunn's one.

Purify himself said of his own progression, that he's glad the coaches did it the way they have in bringing him along a little more slowly, rather than how he wanted to get into it when he first arrived. "Coming in, I just wanted to learn the whole thing and go out there and play," Maurice said of the entire offense. "But now I am glad they took their time working this stuff in."

"With what I know of the playbook, I am 100% confident in what I can do. But if they threw the whole thing at me right now and said we were going to run it all, I'd probably have a problem with about 10 percent of it. It's been good learning as I have been going. I am real comfortable with how the season has gone."

Nebraska will obviously be accentuating as much as they can the weapons they have, and on both sides of the ball. That will accompany, of course, a strategy to minimize the kind of impact the other team has, and on both sides of the ball as well.

Nebraska resumes full practice tomorrow, will practice in no pads on Thursday and do their walk through on Saturday. The weather reports have the area cooling down rapidly, Lincoln and the surrounding region dropping to highs in the 40s leading up to and including the game, along with chances of snow.

Check out the Texas vs Nebraska video/audio archieve. We keep you up-to-date all week as Nebraska prepares for the Horns.

Bill Callahan

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Stewart Bradley

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Jay Moore

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Zac Taylor

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Cody Glenn

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