October 30, 2008

Pelini not thrilled about NU's week of practice

A pattern seems to have developed during the past few weeks in that if head coach Bo Pelini was happy with Nebraska's week of practice, the Huskers generally went out and played well come game day.

How much credibility the potential pattern actually holds is debatable, but if there is any validity to it, Thursday wasn't a very good sign for the Huskers.

Pelini was less than enthused about NU's performance in practice this week, saying mistakes have plagued the Huskers the past four days. While he didn't go as far as to call it a bad week, the fact that he noticed a drop-off could be a point of concern for Husker fans.

"We can't afford some of the dumb mistakes we've been making against this football team we're getting ready to play," Pelini said. "We need to play better and cleaner. I've been saying it forever: our best football is still out there for us to play. There's a lot of improvement that needs to be made and can be made, and we've just got to continue down the same road."

Pelini said the mistakes the Huskers made in practice this week were no different than the ones they've made all season. While Nebraska has been able to get away with making some of those errors in games, Pelini said the season could be much different if his team would've been able to clean up its play at certain points.

"If we wouldn't have made those mistakes, we'd probably be sitting here at 7-1 right now," Pelini said. "But we're not, because we didn't play clean enough against Texas Tech, we didn't play clean enough against Virginia Tech. We got beat against Missouri. We didn't play well. But we've got to take care of our business to give ourselves the best chance to win the football game."

To summarize Pelini's take on the past week of practice, he appeared somewhat disappointed in the Huskers' performance on Monday and Tuesday. On Tuesday, Pelini didn't have to speak to media after practice, but said he was glad he didn't have to talk because of how displeased he was with the practice as he walked off the field.

Wednesday's practiced seemed to b much better, as Pelini said he was happy the improvements he saw from the previous two days. On Thursday, though, it appeared the Huskers' performance left something to be desired.

Even so, Pelini said he was confident about how Nebraska would play against No. 4 Oklahoma on Saturday.

"I thought we started off slow during the week and we finished it up better," Pelini said. "I think we'll go down there and we'll play well against a good football team. I think the kids are excited and the attitude's good. We've just got to take it from the practice field."

-Robin Washut

Thursday practice takes
Media invited after all: Earlier in the week there was some stir created by the media that nobody was invited to cover the 1971 "Game of the Century" reunion in Norman on Friday night to capture this historic event. Oklahoma sent out an email on Thursday and it turns out media will be able to attend on Friday for a short interview opportunity at the Switzer Center from 6:30 to 7 p.m. before the private dinner begins at 7. I can't imagine how good some of those stories will be around that dinner table on Friday.
History lesson: Oklahoma wide receiver Ryan Broyles returned his first career punt back for a touchdown last week against Kansas State. With the 1971 "Game of the Century" reunion going on in Norman this weekend, you would think Broyles would be very familiar with arguably the player who has one of the biggest punt returns in college football history-Johnny Rodgers. Surprisingly, Broyles said he's never heard of Rodgers-the former Heisman Trophy winner from Nebraska. Hopefully "The Jet" will bump into him on the sidelines and give him an OU vs. NU history lesson.
Injury update: Pelini confirmed that linebacker Phillip Dillard and wide receiver Menelik Holt will be the only two players that won't travel to Norman due to injury.
What on tap next: The Nebraska football team conducted a 90 minute helmets only practice inside Memorial Stadium on Thursday. The Huskers will depart for Norman on Friday via charter plane.

Sooners defense has struggled without Reynolds

When you take away the leader of your defense, it's obviously not going to be an easy thing to adjust to. The last few weeks Oklahoma has been playing without linebacker Ryan Reynolds, and his presence has clearly been missed.

In last week's win over Kansas State, the Sooner defense gave up 550 yards on defense, including 478 yards through the air passing from KSU quarterback Josh Freeman.

Earlier this week Pelini said it's been pretty clear that the loss of Reynolds has been something that hasn't been easy to adjust too.

"I think Oklahoma is going through some things right now, losing Ryan Reynolds hurt them," Pelini said. "It kind of hurt their cohesiveness. He was a leader for them. I think they just gave up some big plays, which is uncharacteristic of how they play there, but they just turned a couple guys loose. It looked like they had a couple blown coverages, a couple loose assignments. It hurt them."

On the flip side, Nebraska's defense is going to find out what it's like this week to be without their vocal leader at linebacker. Junior Phillip Dillard suffered a high ankle sprain last week in the Baylor game and the early speculation is he'll be out for at least the next two games.

-Sean Callahan

Quick hits

***If Oklahoma does have a weakness, it would have to be its kickoff coverage team. On the season, the Sooners have allowed opponents to average more than 25 yards per kickoff return and two returns for touchdowns. Thus, sophomore Niles Paul could be a big factor on Saturday if he's able to break a kickoff return or two loose.

"Obviously special teams and field position are going to be a big part in it," Pelini said. "Niles has been a guy who's stepped up for us, and we need that to happen again."

***Pelini said sophomore linebacker Latravis Washington had his best week of practice of the season, and may finally be healthy enough to see his first playing time on defense of the season this weekend.

"He's had a good week of practice, and we'll see how the game goes," Pelini said. "But this has been his best week and he's healthy and feeling good."

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