Nebraska football: Can Huskers get the extra inch they need against Purdue?
Nebraska will not stop pounding the rock, no matter what.
We’re not talking about running the football, although that will be a part of the game plan against Purdue on Saturday.
It’s about perseverance paying off.
“Coach [Tony] Tuioti really preaches that when you hit the stone 100 times, it may not crack on the 100th time or the 99th time, but that one time it does crack, that is when you feel accomplished,” defensive lineman Ty Robinson said Monday. “So I feel like it is just kind of that same goal. I mean we keep going week after week after week, pound, pound, pound and we end up losing, but one of these days that rock is finally going to crack and we are going to finally start winning games.”
It’s a message a team that has been a score away in all 5 of its losses this season can use.
“It’s about every play,” Huskers quarterback Adrian Martinez said. “We’ve had a couple of big moments where there was one play that stood out that may have seemed as if it lost us the game, but it’s the plays leading up to that. Each play matters. That’s how I take it. When it’s 1st-and-10, it’s important to fight for that extra yard to make it to second and whatever it may be, fighting for those extra yards could make a big difference on the next play.”
On defense, too.
“It is just those little details,” Robinson said. “Maybe sometimes not blowing a coverage, but maybe getting beat on a one-on-one or maybe a tackling issue as well. I mean, it is an easy layup tackle and you end up missing it or something like that, just to focus on the little details. … Play a little bit harder. I feel like we are playing with great effort, great intensity. It is just being locked in in those key moments, those key plays that are making us lose these one-score games, that are really going to be the turning point. So if we can start winning more of those key plays, then I feel like it will be a happier program.”
Demeanor is certainly one measure of a program’s success, but Nebraska coach Scott Frost says he’s seeing measures that mean more on the field.
“We’ve come up just an inch short too many times, but when I look at it the progress is obvious,” Frost said. “The team is playing hard and playing more physical. We are bigger, faster and stronger. There are some areas we need to fix, but I think people are recognizing the type of team we have and the level we are playing at. It’s up to us to make the plays when it counts to get over the hump.”
To do that, they know they need to keep a foot on the gas pedal.
“The majority of this team has seen seasons — and we have tried the other route obviously — and guys have mailed seasons in in the past and it obviously doesn’t work,” defensive lineman Ben Stille said. “I think that is a big part of it. Guys have been a part of it, and guys really want to change this season for the better.”
Although many of Nebraska’s close calls have come against highly ranked and highly regarded teams, the Boilermakers will in no way be a break.
“They are going to throw a lot of stuff at you,” Frost said. “You have to be ready. You have to be disciplined, and they’ve got some good players everywhere, but definitely a receiver that can beat you. So we have to have eyes on him and cover well and try to get to the quarterback. I think Purdue had a good chance Saturday [against Wisconsin]. I think they turned it over five times. It is hard to win that way. So I do not expect we will get that same effort from them. I expect them to come in ready to go. Another good Big Ten team. It will be a battle.”
The theme is clear: Expect every yard — no, every inch — to matter. Again.
“A part of that is the style of play,” Martinez said. “I believe that the level of play is very high in the Big Ten. A lot of teams have the ball for a long time for the 10 possessions, and then your possessions are cut down so you have to make every one of those possessions that you do have count.”