Defense Ready to Shine on National Spotlight

You only get so much credit for strong defensive performances at home. Especially when those performances come against the likes of Florida Atlantic and Arkansas State, neither currently a mainstay amongst the collegiate elite. Virginia Tech may not be USC, but few, if any, want to play in Blacksburg during the Fall. That's what Nebraska has to do, and it could be an obstacle or an opportunity.

Saturday is a big day for the Nebraska football team.  No matter how much Head Coach Bo Pelini downplays it, the players and coaches realize what is at stake when Nebraska faces Virginia Tech.  "It's important just because of the fact that Nebraska hasn't beaten too many ranked opponents,"  said Senior Safety Matt O'Hanlon.  "For us to go on the road against a ranked team, it's going to be big for restoring the tradition, and especially important for this season." 

Nebraska will take on the Hokies on national television, providing an opportunity to show off the vastly improved defensive unit.  After allowing an average over 28 points per game in 2008, Nebraska's defense has allowed just three and nine points in two games this season, and has showed signs of great improvement. 

However, playing against a top 15 team provides a great challenge for the Husker's defense.  Junior linebacker Blake Lawrence understands what is at hand.  "It's great to have a challenge like Virginia Tech.  Their line always comes out and brings it and they have a lot of threats on offense." 

Lawrence seen here helping on a tackle against Ark. State

But the chance to play in front of a national audience means the Huskers can show the country what the Nebraska blackshirt defense is supposed to look like.  "There's a special feeling that comes with being a blackshirt and being on the defense for Nebraska." said Nebraska linebacker Blake Lawrence.  "We need to match the amount of intensity they had in the ‘90s and make sure that blackshirt tradition comes all the way back for this team." 

Despite averaging six points allowed in two games this season, Coach Bo Pelini has stood by his policy that the defense has to earn the blackshirts on the field.  Despite not physically having the blackshirts, Nebraska's defense has the mentality that it takes to earn them back.  "There's always that feeling that you're the blackshirts."  said Lawrence.  "A defense that is known to be intense and cause turnovers and bring it every game.  That's something that we don't only stress during big games, but every game.  This is just another opportunity to show what the blackshirts are about." 

The defense has shown signs of becoming the dominate defense that Coach Pelini wants it to be.  The Huskers intercepted two passes and forced one fumble in the first game against Florida Atlantic, and has played with tenacity in both games.  "We're starting to become a more physical defense as Coach Pelini preaches to us every day." said O'Hanlon. 

Saturday is just the next step in restoring the blackshirt tradition to Nebraska football, and the defense is ready for the task at hand.   Virginia Tech has averaged 38 points per game in their two games, and put up 35 points in the win vs. Nebraska last season.  Coach Pelini and the rest of the coaching staff are aware of what they're up against this weekend.  "They have good talent."  said Pelini. "They're a very well coached football team and a physical football team.   Kind of what Coach Beamer has always been known for." 

Saturday is definitely a big day, and the nation, Nebraska fans, and the Nebraska football team will all find out how close the Nebraska defense is to restoring the blackshirt tradition.  "Every week is a measuring stick."  said Pelini.  "We got to measure ourselves according to where we want to be and how we're executing.  That's the way it is."


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