LINCOLN — Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said his defense's style of play should help it defend some of the bubble screens and swing passes that have been prevalent in Ohio State's offense.
During the Buckeyes' 17-16 win over Michigan State last weekend, quarterback Braxton Miller completed 12 passes to junior receiver Philly Brown. Nine of those were caught either behind or right at the line of scrimmage, averaging 4.7 yards per play.
The Huskers will be ready for that aspect of the OSU passing game, Pelini said.
“We play pretty aggressive in coverage,” Pelini said. “We're going to challenge routes and challenge everything that they do. I think our style of play lends to that. We don't play real soft in our coverage. It'll be a good challenge for our guys on the outside.”
NU's defensive backs perhaps have challenged opposing receivers a little too much or a tad bit too physically — at least according to officiating crews in the season's first five games.
Nebraska has been called for defensive pass interference eight times, including five in the last two games. The Huskers were flagged for the same foul eight times last year and 12 times in 2010.
But senior safety P.J. Smith said he and his teammates don't plan to adjust their style of play. And they've not been encouraged by the coaches to change, either.
“We're going to keep playing aggressive,” Smith said. “If they throw the flag, they throw the flag.”
The way that Nebraska tired out Ohio State's defense during a second-half comeback last year won't be easy to duplicate against an improved unit.
After totaling just 37 rushing yards in the first half against the Buckeyes last year, NU tallied 195 yards on the ground after halftime en route to a 34-27 win in Lincoln.
But running backs coach Ron Brown indicated that the Huskers' opponent has gotten better, making a point to compliment the OSU players' endurance this season. Film study shows that Ohio State's defensive line has lost some weight, Brown said.
“We're expecting them to be in better condition and (to) play quicker,” Brown said.
When lined up in a shotgun formation, Ohio State's quarterback will clap his hands just before the ball is snapped, but that won't have any impact on Nebraska's defensive line and its ability to rush.
Miller's pre-snap clap is an “indicator,” Pelini said, comparable to a quarterback picking up his foot and placing it back on the turf. It lets the center know it's time to snap the ball.
“Every team has something different,” Pelini said.
Moss misses practice
Freshman defensive end Avery Moss was not suited up for Thursday's practice, but he's expected to travel with the team to Ohio State.
Moss was “sick” Thursday, Pelini said.
Safety Courtney Osborne, also out of uniform Thursday, won't play Saturday with an undisclosed injury. He's expected to return after the bye week, Pelini said.
True freshman receiver Jordan Westerkamp, who appears to be redshirting, “tweaked” a knee ligament, but is “fine,” Pelini said.
— Jon Nyatawa
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