December 3, 2009

Thursday notebook: NU ready for dual-threat McCoy

Nebraska's defense has faced its share of mobile, dual-threat quarterbacks over the course of the season. For the most part, the Blackshirts have shut each and every one of them down.

The Huskers will get yet another similar challenge on Saturday when they take on Texas's senior quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate, Colt McCoy.

With a team-high 111 carries for 368 yards and two touchdowns, McCoy comes into the Big 12 Championship game as the Longhorns' second-leading rusher this season. His ability to beat defenses through the air and the pass is undoubtedly one of the biggest reasons Texas is a win away from playing for a national title.

Last week against Texas A&M, McCoy became just the third quarterback in NCAA history to pass for more than 300 yards (308) and rush for more than 150 (175). That's why Nebraska is making sure it keeps an eye on McCoy at all times every time he drops back in the pocket.

"We've faced some good running quarterbacks, but he's probably the best one we've faced," defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said. "He's patient like (Todd Reesing) and he's got Tyrod Taylor's speed. You've really got to account for that all the time. He's such a good thrower and an accomplished quarterback in the pocket, but you've got to cover the running aspect of him as well. He's a tough guy to defend."

The last truly mobile quarterback Nebraska faced was Kansas's Reesing three weeks ago. In the Huskers' 31-17 win over the Jayhawks, Reesing was able to make some big gains on draw plays and scrambles, as he picked up 42 yards on nine carries and averaged 4.7 yards per rush.

As the game went along, NU changed up its defensive scheme and kept its defensive line back to contain Reesing's running instead of rushing the pocket. The Huskers finished the game without a quarterback sack, but they were able to shut down Reesing's rushing production for the rest of the night.

Whether or not the Blackshirts use the same approach at all on Saturday remains to be seen, but it looks like it won't be out of the question if necessary.

"I don't know if we're going to do that so much, but definitely you've got to be aware of his feet," sophomore defensive tackle Jared Crick said. "That's what we're going to do. The past couple QBs (we've faced) have been more mobile, so we've kind of altered our pass rush a little bit more. We're definitely going to keep the same approach, which is get after him.

"If he breaks out on us, as long as we're going hard and not playing soft I think we're going to fine."

- Robin Washut

Thursday's practice takes
Osborne weighs in on Bowden: Legendary former Nebraska head coach and current athletic director Tom Osborne definitely built up a rivalry with Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden over the years. At the same time, the two have also built up a strong friendship. After learning that Bowden announced he would resign from FSU after 34 years at the end of this season, Osborne released a statement regarding his thoughts on the situation. "I've been in communication with Bobby Bowden over the last few weeks and realize that this has been a difficult situation for him,'' Osborne said. "Football has lost a great representative, but at the same time Bobby, and all of us who know him and care about him, can reflect with admiration on his remarkable career."
Messing up the BCS: Anyone in favor of a complete BCS meltdown and move to a playoff format post-season should be rooting for Nebraska to knock off No. 3 Texas in Saturday's Big 12 Championship. Assuming No. 1 Florida beats No. 2 Alabama in the SEC title game, it will be a sticky situation deciding between teams like No. 4 TCU, No. 5 Cincinnati or even Alabama, for who gets to play for a national championship. The team who will likely be rooting the hardest for a Husker upset is TCU, who is off this week.
Injury update: Junior defensive end Pierre Allen (toe) practiced Thursday and is fully expected to play on Saturday. Other than that, Pelini said Nebraska is about as healthy as he could've hoped for this late in the season.
What's on tap next: The Nebraska football team conducted a two-hour helmets-only practice inside the Hawks Championship Indoor facility. The Huskers will conduct a short walk-thru practice on Friday before flying down to Dallas, where they will conduct their normal road game routine until Saturday's 7 p.m. CT kickoff.

Once again, Suh gets major honor

It really wasn't a question of whether Nebraska senior defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh would eventually be an All-American this season. It was simply a matter of when it would become official.

The day finally came on Thursday, as the American Football Coaches Association announced that Suh was among 25 players selected to its 2009 All-America team. His selection makes him the first Husker to receive the honor since safety Josh Bullocks and punter Kyle Larson made the team in 2003.

Also on Thursday, Suh was named first-team All-Big 12 by the Associated Press. He was the only Nebraska player to make the first team, but several Huskers were named second-team or earned honorable mention.

Head coach Bo Pelini said Thursday's announcements were all even more of a sign of the type of year Suh has been able to put together this season.

"He's earned it," Pelini said. "We're proud of him. He's had a great year, and I think he's getting what he deserves. It's good to see that they're recognizing him.

Suh was also one of six Big 12 players to be selected to the All-America squad, making it the most well represented conference behind the Southeastern Conference, which had seven. The other Big 12 selections were Texas's McCoy, center Chris Hall and safety Earl Thomas, as well as Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams and Oklahoma State tackle Russell Okung.

Texas's three selections tied Alabama for the most in the country.

Nebraska also now ranks fifth all-time in AFCA All-Americans with 44 players earning 49 selections. Ohio State (56 times/42 players), Notre Dame (56/49), Michigan (54/48), Southern California (54/47) are the only teams ahead of NU on the list.

- Robin Washut

Huskers focusing on ball security

One of the biggest reasons behind Nebraska's five-game winning streak has been its ability to take care of the football and rarely commit turnovers.

Even though the production in terms of yards and points has been anything but impressive, the Huskers' ball security has allowed them to take advantage of opportunities provided to them by their defense and special teams.

Going up against one of the best defenses in all of college football, there's little question that the emphasis on playing mistake-free on offense will be higher than ever in Saturday's Big 12 Championship.

"They're good defense," Bo Pelini said. "They attack the football, and we attack the football. We want to win that area of the game. We want to win the turnover battle. If we do, it's going to give us a good chance to win the football game. If we don't, it's always hard to win. It's something that both teams have been pretty good at, and we've got to win that area."

However, the task of taking care of the ball will be as difficult as its been all season going up against the Longhorns' defense. Texas ranks third nationally with 32 total takeaways on the year and is tied for second with 21 interceptions.

The Longhorns have forced a turnover in all but one of their 12 games this season, with that one game coming in a 35-3 win over Central Florida in which they held the Knights to just 151 yards of total offense.

Earlier this season, junior quarterback Zac Lee said there were roughly five plays in a game in which the quarterback has a chance to change the game one way or another. With such a daunting challenge ahead of him, Lee said he doesn't plan on trying to do too much with the football to make a big play.

"The quarterback has an opportunity to make something happen, but sometimes the best thing to make happen is to take off and run or make a good decision with it," Lee said. "I think that's one of the things that I've learned this year, too. There are bunch of plays in a game where a quarterback can make a decision that will swing momentum one way or another.

"It's on the quarterback's shoulders to make the right decision for the team and not force something that isn't there."

- Robin Washut

Quick hits

***Bo Pelini said he and his staff made it a point all week not to treat this week of practice any differently than they had all season, and the players responded by treating it the same way.

"Our approach wasn't any different than it's been any other week. Our guys know what we have in front of us. We don't treat this week any different than he have any other week, and our kids approach it the same way."

***Pelini clarified Nebraska's itinerary for when it arrives in Dallas on Friday. Following their normal walk-thru practice on Friday, the Huskers will fly to Dallas and then head straight to Cowboys Stadium.

Pelini said he wanted to give his players a chance to see the stadium before game day to help get rid of any awe factor that might occur.

"We're just going to go in an walk around and then head to the hotel," Pelini said. "I just wanted to make sure the kids saw it before we got over to the stadium on Saturday and take a quick look at it and walk around, and then we're going to head right to the hotel."

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