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September 14, 2010

Five things we learned on Tuesday

Each Tuesday during the fall Huskeronline.com will sum up the weekly press conference with a "five things we learned" feature.

Nebraska will get ready to take on a 1-1 Washington team in Seattle on Saturday. Here's the latest buzz from the Huskers as they get ready to hit the road for the first time in 2010.

1 - NU wants a quality non conference win

If Nebraska wants to move forward as a program, it's starts with taking care of business in the non conference. Since 2002, NU has only gone undefeated twice in non conference play. On the contrast if you look at the Huskers from 1993 to 2001, NU lost just one non conference regular season game over that entire period.

The point I'm trying to make is from 1993 to 2001 NU played or competed for a national championship nearly every single year. This 2010 Nebraska team has those same aspirations and in order for that to happen a perfect record in the non conference is a must.

You can even argue that the two years the Huskers won all their non conference games in 2003 and 2005 they really didn't face a quality team those years. Their marquee non conference win over Penn State in 2003 was against a team that finished 3-9, while their victory over Pittsburgh in 2005 was against a Panther squad that finished 5-6 in Dave Wannstedt's first season back in college football.

If Nebraska would've won their game at Virginia Tech last year, their odds of landing a BCS at-large bid would've been much greater. A win over the Hokies would've established some early season creditability, just like a win at Washington on Saturday will do. If the Huskers don't win in Seattle, most national experts will write them off until they can prove they can win a big meaningful game on the road.

2- Locker is as good as NU has seen in a while

Nebraska has faced their fair share of talented quarterbacks over the last few years, but according to defensive coordinator Carl Pelini Washington's Jake Locker may be the best.

To put that in perspective, the last three years the Huskers have seen high round NFL draft picks like Josh Freeman, Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy, but Locker appears to be more talented than all of them.

At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds Locker has the size pro scouts dream of, but he also has the arm strength and athletic ability to go with it.

Senior safety Rickey Thenarse compared Locker to a combination of current NY Jets starting quarterback Mark Sanchez and Tampa Bay Buccaneer quarterback Josh Freeman. Sophomore defensive end Cameron Meredith said Locker reminds him a lot of former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, only a much a better throwing version of him. There's no question the Huskers will have their work cut out for them on Saturday.

3 - Extra emphasis on ball security

Nebraska fumbled the ball eight times in Saturday's 38-17 win over Idaho. In some ways the lack of focus and ball security reminded me of NU's loss to Iowa State a year ago.

Head coach Bo Pelini has made it pretty clear to his team that this has to get cleaned up in practice this week. On Monday, Pelini said he had his team do some extra ball security drills in practice just to let them know how important this phase of the game is.

NU was able to get away with it last week against the Vandals, but there aren't very many Big 12 games you are going to win when you put the ball on the turf eight times.

4 - Paul will return kicks again

It was almost kind of a surprise that senior wide receiver Niles Paul wasn't returning kicks in any of Nebraska's first two games against Western Kentucky and Idaho.

On Tuesday Paul said he will once again go back to being NU's primary kick return specialist for Saturday's game at Washington. The main reason Paul wasn't back there in weeks one and two was Pelini wanted to see what some other guys could do back there.

If there's one thing we learned out of Pelini's experiment, it's that sophomore Tim Marlowe is more than a viable kick return option for the future once Paul graduates.

5 - Green should continue to see time in every game

The last two weeks Nebraska has worked in sophomore Cody Green into the game at quarterback in the second quarter .

Pelini said on Tuesday expect that to be the case for this entire season if the situation allows it. Pelini said it's important to continue to keep Green sharp every week, because you never know what could happen with the quarterback position. If something where to happen to redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez, Green has to be ready to go.

Quote of the day

"He's as talented of a quarterback that we've faced in the three years I've been here. He makes great decisions, he's got a very strong arm, knows when to pull it down and run and he knows when to thread the needle. He's got a very good receiving corps to work with, but he'll hurt you as bad with his legs as he does with his arm. He's very difficult to defend and it will be a great challenge for us."

-Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini on Washington quarterback Jake Locker.


Funniest moment of the press conference

"The thing that left an impression on me was we got beat pretty bad. Back when I was playing (at Ohio State) we had a bunch of punts blocked. It was a nightmare."

-Head coach Bo Pelini reflecting on his last trip out to Washington as a player for Ohio State in 1986.



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