No team likes the idea of being questioned in regard to the intensity in
which they play. They can handle comments about execution and maybe even some Xs
and Os. But when the word "soft" gets thrown around, players and maybe even
coaches take that with a certain amount of angst.
It was certainly not the comments which motivated Head Coach Bill Callahan to put his team in full pads this week, for the first time during the regular season though. The outcome of the USC game probably had a lot more to do with it than anything anyone could have said.
After a very intense week of practice following that loss, Coach Callahan
feels his team is ready to go. "I'd like to think that. Based on how we
practiced this week, I certainly would," he said in regard to the team
approaching this game more excited than they did against USC. "But like I have
said earlier, talk is cheap – you've got to go out and prove it. You have to be
able transfer your practice performance into game performance. So, we'll
While the Huskers are likely not to see the ground-pounding attack the likes of which they saw against the No. 1 Trojans, they are going to see a fairly proficient attack through the air. Sophomore quarterback Nate Davis ranks amongst the top one-third of all Division 1 QBs in passing efficiency, throwing eight touchdowns against only one interception, while averaging almost 270 yards passing per game.
That's obviously not lost on the Head Coach who sees Davis as a real threat to make plays. "He does an awful lot. He's a productive quarterback," he said. "He has the ability to make plays outside the pocket, and the thing about it, he has such a strong arm he can pick up the deep defenders, because he has excellent vision, and he can "rope" it.
"It's just not like he can throw a 20-yard scramble. He can throw it 40, 50, 60 yards, so that's what makes him dangerous – that he can get out of the pocket, get flushed or move all the way from the boundary to the wide field and throw it clear across the field or down the field and make big plays.
Pressure on the quarterback is something Nebraska has struggled with since
the beginning of the season. In three games the "Blackshirts" have only taken
the QB down behind the line of scrimmage twice. To make matters worse, starting
base end, junior Zach Potter is questionable as he hasn't practiced the last two
days. Coach Callahan is still optimistic, though, that his status will change
once Saturday arrives. "We're counting on him playing," he said. "He's been
day-to-day and he continuing to get better, so we'll see what he's like
Two other players also dealing with injuries are junior running back Cody Glenn and senior cornerback Zack Bowman. Bowman continues to nurse a tweaked hamstring from the USC game and the exact nature of Glenn's injury is undisclosed. Coach Callahan said of both, however, that neither has been ruled out to play against Ball State as both are also considered "day-to-day."
One player who isn't day-to-day is junior left guard Andy Christensen as he was lost for the season, stemming from a knee injury incurred blocking downfield against USC. There are a host of candidates available to take that spot over, but nothing concrete as of yet. "We're still going to evaluate it tonight, but it's been a good week of practice for all those guards," Callahan said. "Slauson, Hickman, Huff, Williams and Jordan Picou – we've used all sorts of combinations and we're going to look at the film tonight and see where we are at, but it's been a great competition so far this week."
Junior Matt Slauson is currently slated to start at right guard, but has played left guard along with both tackle spots. Junior Mike Huff has started double-digit games at right guard, which makes him one of the more experienced linemen available, who isn't currently sitting at the top of the depth chart. Sophomore Jacob Hickman has been seldom-used, but has experience practicing and playing every spot on the interior line. Senior Jordan Picou has more experience at center, backing up current starter Brett Byford, but he has taken some reps at guard as well. Redshirt freshman Keith Williams got some reps against Nevada , but has yet to see significant time on the field.
Personnel issues aside, Coach Callahan said that he's looking forward to this weekend, because the entire team is just eager to get another game in and put the last game well behind. "We just want to play again – just take it a game at a time," he said. "Unfortunately last week wasn't our best, so you want to go out and do your best this week. That's what we plan to do is go out and perform well. That's our expectation each and every week when we take the field is to do our best and go out and win.
"We expect that. We expect that as a team."
The team will go through their walkthrough tomorrow and kickoff for Ball State is scheduled for 11:30 A.M. central time. The game will be aired on Fox Sports Net – Pay-Per-View.
Also, Nebraska will be inducting its newest members into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame tomorrow. The Hall of Fame Class of 2007 will be introduced to the Memorial Stadium crowd on Saturday during the Ball State game, which kicks off at 11:30 a.m.
Click HERE for the official release on who is being inducted this year.