LINCOLN, Neb. — Oh, Nebraska defensive coordinator Mark Banker will tell you what he remembers from last year’s Illinois game.
That one play. That throw, over the top, that set up Illinois’ game-winning touchdown with 41 seconds left.
“That game should have been over,” Banker said after practice on Tuesday. “We shouldn’t have been out there.”
The game that stings the most from last season, Banker said, is the 55-45 loss at Purdue, but he remembers that 14-13 loss to Illinois pretty darn well.
Mostly because that game was so weird, he said. Nebraska only gave up two scores, but the Illini scored late when they drove the length of the field with no timeouts and little time remaining. There was a blown officiating call that gave Illinois a fifth down at one point, too. It was just weird, Banker said. But more than anything, he remembers that pass play from Illinois QB Wes Lunt to Malik Turner for 50 yards.
“That really gets a bad taste in your mouth,” Banker said of the play.
When Nebraska lines up across from Illinois on Saturday, Banker said the defense better be ready for plays like that again.
“This team seems to start out strong,” Banker said of the Illini offense. “Then things go sideways.”
Some more notes from practice:
- Banker said he likes where sophomore DT Mick Stoltenberg is health-wise. He said Stoltenberg has had a good week of practice and seemed to be playing without pain.
- Both Vincent Valentine and Malik Collins are starting in the NFL now, but Banker said he thinks the defensive line has done well in their absence. He called Khalil Davis a “world-class athlete” on Tuesday, and said he’s also liked what he’s seen from the rest of the group, particularly Carlos Davis, Kevin Maurice and Stoltenberg. “These guys have gone in there and done a good job,” Banker said.
- Banker also mentioned the fact that Nebraska plays eight linemen on the defensive line helps keep players fresh and active throughout the game.
- Defensive line coach John Parrella said he thinks the line is coming together well. “Obviously, we’re 4-0 and we’re happy with that, but I know there’s no one that is content in that room,” Parrella said. “Every day is a quest to get better so we’re pleased, absolutely, but they have to keep getting better. To go where we want to go we have to keep getting better.”
- Banker thinks both junior cornerbacks, Chris Jones and Josh Kalu, could become shutdown corners this year. Banker said he hasn’t noticed any team staying away from one corner or the other, but said he’s confident in both of them.