LINCOLN, Neb. — After Nebraska’s loss to Oregon on Saturday, Huskers defensive coordinator Bob Diaco did the same thing he always does. He started to make video cutups for his unit.
Diaco makes two sets of cutups, one called the “plays that cause losing” and another called “the fight for every inch.” As he made these cutups and separated them, he noticed something.
“By the time I got done making the cutup, most of the plays on the one cutup, and I didn’t intend for them to be that way, were from the first half,” Diaco said after practice Tuesday. “And most of the plays from the second cutup were from the second half.”
Considering the Ducks scored all 42 of their points in the first half and were shut out in the second, the film split should come as little surprise. After key halftime adjustments, the group performed much better.
Nonetheless, what Diaco saw on Saturday is not what he wants from his unit, nor what he wants for the fans. But despite those first-half issues, he does see a team that is improving.
“I surely for anyone listening don’t want to minimize this in any way,” Diaco said. “I don’t want to come off that way. There is a weight and a gravity to this that I understand. I’m respectful of that and honor that opportunity, and it doesn’t look like it should look and the points don’t look like it should look. And that doesn’t make it any more or less real that we’re getting better.
“We are getting better and the games have gone the way they’ve gone. It got better and it will continue to get better.”
With that in mind, Diaco and his assistants are working to take the halftime adjustments and make them the reality in practice. He wants to eliminate the mistakes made in the first half against Oregon by highlighting what went right in the second.
“It’s just a work in progress and it’s a developmental piece that’s going to take playing in the games,” Diaco said. “You had an opportunity to see it. The players at times were playing and thinking they should be doing XYZ rather than falling back to their training. We had a chance to settle down and play one play at a time, get the call, execute your job, nothing more, nothing less, and see what happens. Sure enough, the plays looked better. Drives were put together. Stops were put together. Before long, a quarter ended and another drive. And then another quarter ended, and you had a chance to get a little bit of a surge there.
“For sure in teaching to say, ‘Hey, this is what it looked like.'”
More from Bob Diaco
• Another takeaway from the Oregon film for Diaco has to do with the pass rush. He saw plenty of opportunities for the Huskers to get off the field, opportunities they must capitalize upon going forward. Again, however, he acknowledged his unit is growing and facing an offense like the Ducks offers plenty of lessons.
“We are doing everything we can to try and help facilitate a growing, maturing and developing coverage,” Diaco said. “That’s a balance of some pressure of some 4-man rush and some 3-man rush. These offenses are built to find the ball. It’s like a shell game. Who has the ball? These offenses are built to create a lot of misdirection and a lot of problems in rushing the passer. They don’t take a lot of negative plays, these offenses and these style of offenses.”
• Northern Illinois, Nebraska’s opponent this coming Saturday, has started two different quarterbacks in the first two weeks. Ryan Graham started the opener against Boston College but sustained a sprained right elbow late in the game. Daniel Santacaterina started in Week 2 against Eastern Illinois, and will be the quarterback to start against Nebraska. However, Diaco said the change doesn’t much impact his approach.
“They’re actually very similar guys,” Diaco said. “They’re similar physically, either the same height or the same weight. The offense doesn’t seem to change at all based on one or the other. They both run that offense and manage it well. They both played a year ago so it’s really more of the same. The starter that played against Eastern Illinois started and played last regular-season game in 2016, so they both have played a lot of football and the offense is virtually the same.”
• Is Northern Illinois much different than Oregon and Arkansas State on offense? Not much, as Diaco sees it.
“I was a little shocked to see it but this is very little different style than the first two weeks that we’ve played,” Diaco said.
• Antonio Reed and Aaron Williams were both in green jerseys on Tuesday. Diaco had a reason for Reed, but Williams remained a little unclear.
“Antonio had a procedure that he wouldn’t have been able to be in contact but wanted to have a full-speed practice,” Diaco said. “Coach [Mike] Riley has a neat thing that if the players are good and just can’t have contact and contact would be something that would decrease them but other than that can go full speed, Aaron and Antonio were in that phase. They got full-speed action today. They practiced in the full scope of the work and were in the non-contact situation.”
So, does Williams know why he was in a green jersey?
“The green jersey was Coach Riley’s idea,” Williams said. “The idea behind that? I don’t know. You’ll have to ask him about that. Nothing is wrong. I’m good.”