LINCOLN — Nebraska didn't find much luck between the tackles last weekend. Offensive line coach Greg Austin said Wednesday the main reason was because the Huskers opted not to try very often.
Sure, the assistant said, NU needs to complete blocks better on the interior to create wider running lanes. But the production there was better than it seemed.
"Every time we called an inside run, it was a 5-yard gain, mostly every time," Austin said. "Every time we ran to the outside, guys on the outside, not so much. We gotta continue to work inside, continue to call inside, continue to run inside, continue to finish our blocks."
What thrilled Austin even less was the six sacks Colorado managed against his unit. Of those, he considers as least two that happened on things the Huskers can control.
"It wasn't even a frickin' technique deal," Austin said. "It was a getting-your-ass-out-of-your-stance deal. We gotta improve on things like that. Easy fixes, but we gotta make sure we're doing it so that we can be an efficient offense."
Northern Illinois will present a new challenge. The unit Scott Frost described as "fire ants" is one where linebackers and linemen shift and exchange gaps, Austin said. So O-linemen need to have especially good eyes and be ready to block moving targets.
The coach said he hopes the line has a chance to show more depth in games soon, if the situation warrants. The backup right tackle is Bryce Benhart while Broc Bando is No. 2 at left tackle.
Tight ends got in own way
Like with every position, Nebraska puts in plays featuring the tight ends every week. Sometimes quarterback reads or defensive looks mean the ends stay quiet.
NU tight ends coach Sean Beckton said that wasn't the case Saturday, when the group's offensive production was summarized by Jack Stoll's two catches for 4 yards.
"The quarterback is ready to throw the football and you're not at the spot you need to be at," Beckton said. "That's on us. We make the quarterback look bad in those situations. Those opportunities that we had in the game, the quarterback's looking to throw the ball to us and we didn't do our job. So it's not always on the quarterback."
Though the tight ends haven't been much of a factor in the offense through two weeks, Beckton said playing fast and detailed is how he grades the film Sunday and where he offers corrections Monday.
Huskies tough on defense
Nebraska fans don’t have to be reminded what a Northern Illinois defense can do, since the Huskies stunned the Huskers in 2017 thanks to two pick sixes in a 21-17 victory.
NIU may have a different coach, but the Huskies’ story on defense remains the same. Northern Illinois loads up to stop the run, brings defenders from all angles and generally tries to bury ballcarriers behind the line of scrimmage.
Northern Illinois' aggressive defense will create some negative plays, but also present opportunities for big plays on offense, too. Offensive coordinator Troy Walters said NIU is a good opponent for Nebraska to play right now because the Huskies play hard and commit to their scheme. If NU does the same, it should play well.
"There’s going to be some negative yardage at times but there’s also going to be some big plays if we execute and we’re detail-oriented and we play fast,” Walters said. “… We’ve got to be dialed-in up front, dialed into their movements, and just play hard and play fast. If you play hard, all their slanting and everything they do, it’ll take care of that.”
Walters mentioned that, with a pressure defense, quick screens to receivers become more of an option.
“Teams that want to pressure us, we use that as an outlet,” Walters said.
» While Austin believed Nebraska had to run more inside, Walters said NU’s perimeter runs against Colorado were better. The Huskers have to do better, Walters said, at getting 3-and 4-yard runs in the first half so they can break bigger runs late in the game.
“Overall, we’ve just been average,” Walters said of the offensive line in terms of “moving guys, creating lanes.”
The offense as a whole, Walters said, has been average, but has practiced better this week.
» Walters mentioned Wan'Dale Robinson may play more running back.