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If Nebraska's defense is going to take a step forward this week, a big area where it has to start is with communication.
Too many times this season we've seen the defense have problems getting lined up and communicating defensive calls. When that happens, the defense is not mentally dialed in which leads to breakdowns and guessing.
"I think communication is the biggest thing," redshirt freshman defensive end Avery Moss said. "If we all just got lined up and whoever sees the call says it to somebody and we all relay it to each other, than we can all get it and already be set. Communication is the biggest thing overall for us so we all get the call."
However, something that sounds so simple can be difficult. When opposing teams run no-huddle and do a lot of shifting and motioning before the snap it's confused the Huskers at times this season.
Having a bye week will hopefully help slow some of that down, as NU was able to get some extra work in those areas.
"Execution, and I know you guys get sick of hearing that word, but that's what it comes down to," head coach Bo Pelini said on Monday. "It comes down to fixing us. At times we've been our own worst enemy with our alignment, our communication, our execution and at times our fundamentals and technique have gone out the window."
Another area going forward that needs improvement is keeping composure after a bad play happens. A year ago that was a problem, and obviously it's been a huge issue this season.
When opposing teams have made big plays against the Husker defense, NU has not reacted well and lost focus during key moments.
"Every game has adversity and in these last few games we've had adversity and it seems like can really never get over that adversity," Moss said. "It seems like we just stay in the midst of it and let it consume us for a while in a game. I feel like once we get over that adversity that's when our defense can really strive and we can lock down somebody for four quarters."
For Pelini, he knows this defense has a ways to go still, but he's seen improvement over the last week.
"I just approach it as a coach and look at it where you are and where you want to go," Pelini said. "Not looking at it with rose colored glasses or a negative way or a positive way or any way - just black and white. This is where we are and this is where we need to get to."
Good on good
One of the ways Nebraska has tried to improve their defense in practice the last week is more good-on-good, meaning the No. 1 offense and the No. 1 defense square off with each other in live work.
To me this makes sense, because you aren't going to get better going against your scout team. In order for this defense to take some big steps in practice they have to face a legitimate Big Ten offense.
My guess is you'll see Nebraska do more good-on-good throughout the season on Tuesday and Wednesday's. That was something Tom Osborne's teams always did on Tuesday's for at least 10 to 15 minutes.
Scheelhaase flirted with NU
I can still remember seeing former Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase at Nebraska's camp in June of 2007.
At the time, Scheelhaase was being recruited by the Huskers heading into his junior year and NU had an early connection to him through former offensive coordinator Jay Norvell, who played at Iowa with Scheelhaase's father Nate Creer in the early 1980's.
Scheelhaase later attended Nebraska's 2007 game against USC and also Pelini's first Red-White game in 2008 and NU's summer camp again later that summer. During the Red-White game visit Scheelhaase talked about Nebraska's great history.
"The best part of it was before the spring game when they played that pre-game video," Scheelhaase said. "They showed Tommie Frazier, and all of the past great players, and when they showed coach Pelini from when he coached there the first time the crowd got amped-up. That is one of the best feelings you can have."
However, NU chose Cody Green over Scheelhaase, as Green committed to the Huskers to the Huskers on July 9, 2009 and Scheelhaase chose Illinois on July 16.
Three and out
***Hard to believe Nebraska and Illinois haven't played in football since 1986. However, before moving from the Big 12 the Huskers rarely played Big Ten teams in non-conference games other than Minnesota and Iowa.
***It's a coin flip if quarterback Taylor Martinez plays this week. My early gut feeling tells me we don't see him on Saturday. If he doesn't practice on Tuesday or Wednesday there's a very slim chance we see him.
***This three game stretch in October is absolutely huge for Pelini to turn things around. NU should be favored in all three games and if they can come out of it with a 6-1 record showing signs of improvement November will be a very fun month. If they lose one of these three games or still look shaky on defense, all bets are off. Buckle up.
Sean Callahan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and he can be heard each day at 6:50 am and 4:50 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 TV in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap Tuesday's at 7 pm.