LINCOLN, Neb. — Northwestern is currently the worst statistical offense in the Big Ten, scoring just 14 points per game. But Nebraska defensive coordinator Mark Banker doesn’t really care. He sees lots of potential with the Wildcats offense.
“Last year we got burned early on by a quarterback run play and we had five guys chasing after him and we looked like Moe, Larry and Curly, plus two, running after him,” Banker said. “They’re not like Oregon, but they’re a different kind of good offense. They grind you down.”
Nebraska lost to Northwestern 30-28 last year, and though the Wildcats didn’t tear up Nebraska yardage-wise, they scored when they needed to, which is what worries Banker.
More than anything, Banker said, he’s learned how tactically sound all Big Ten offenses are, Northwestern included. He thinks Wildcats quarterback Clayton Thorson could hurt Nebraska with both his legs and his arm, and thinks Northwestern could be dangerous with both of its running backs, especially Justin Jackson.
To prepare, Banker is focusing this week on teaching more effective tackling, which he thinks the Blackshirts lack. Banker led three different tackling drills Tuesday and will roll out three different drills Wednesday.
“In the Big Ten I’ve learned you can’t take any game for granted,” Banker said.
Some other notes from Tuesday’s practice:
- Banker said he’s never seen as many 2-point conversations called in one game as last Saturday against Oregon. The Ducks went for two on every touchdown against Nebraska.”Those 2-point conversations, it’s like gambling in Vegas,” Banker said. “At a certain point you need to know when to go to your room.”
- Banker said he generally felt good about the way the Huskers defended the 2-point conversions, though they didn’t line up the correct way on at least two of them.
- Banker said the unsung hero of the defense is senior defensive end Ross Dzuris, who leads the team with 3.5 sacks already this season. “If before this season, to say he was going to lead the defense like he has, no I wouldn’t have said that,” Banker said. “He works really hard, he knows what he’s doing and he has a great passion for the game.”
- Dzuris, though, said this is the kind of season he expected to have. It’s the kind of season he was told he would have if he listened to the coaching staff. “I just listened to coach (John Parrella) and did what he told me and believed in it,” Dzuris said. Prior to this season, Dzuris had only started seven games. He’s now one of the Big Ten’s leading pass rushers.
- Senior safety Nate Gerry said Nebraska has a chip on its shoulder in this Northwestern game because of last year’s loss. Playing away from home for the first time will test Nebraska, he said, so the Huskers will have to start getting mentally prepared early this week.