Nebraska’s coaches took time this spring to analyze the way Michigan attacked NU’s defense on third down last year.
In that 45-17 UM win, quarterback Denard Robinson completed 5 of 8 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown on third down. Michigan needed at least six yards on all but two of those plays.
Nebraska was prepared for a pass in most of those spots — but the routes the Wolverines ran splintered the Huskers’ matchup zone coverage a bit, defensive coordinator John Papuchis said. And that’s why NU extensively examined the Michigan game during the offseason.
“Some teams, if they study how we match routes enough, can kind of manipulate some of our adjustments,” Papuchis said. “But then we have to counter it.”
Cotton’s catching is product of repetition
Ben Cotton is typically seen as the blocking expert of Nebraska’s tight end duo. But he’s caught seven passes for 70 yards this year and hasn’t dropped a pass thrown within catching range since last year’s Northwestern game.
Cotton uses a thorough pass-catching routine devised by Husker assistant Ron Brown to try to prevent another drop from happening.
“Coach Brown always has us in the offseason catching 300 balls a day, five days a week, for 10 weeks, for two offseason periods in the offseason,” Cotton said. “You calculate that and that’s 30,000 balls you can try and gain an advantage on someone else that might not be doing that type of plan.”
Martinez ponders pregame movie
Quarterback Taylor Martinez had an idea of how to burn some time and nervous energy before Saturday’s 7 p.m. kickoff vs. Michigan. And it wasn’t a nap, but a Saturday matinee movie.
“I don’t know how that’ll fly with Bo,” tight end Kyler Reed quipped of his coach, Bo Pelini. “We usually don’t see one on Saturday.”
Reed said it’s common for Martinez to pitch ideas to coaches on a variety of football and team-related matters.
“He comes up with weird ideas you wouldn’t expect,” Reed said. “He likes to do things his way, so he likes to think of things to do. I don’t know if he’s creative, but he’s different. He talks with Coach Beck. He’s the quarterback. Things he sees. Things he likes to do. Coach Beck works with him on that.”
Heard could see more carries vs. Michigan
Offensive coordinator Tim Beck said sophomore I-back Braylon Heard has been impressive in his limited number of carries in recent weeks, and could earn more vs. Michigan.
“He’s been very good at getting a chance to get in there and make plays,” Beck said. “It seems every time he touches the ball, he’s gaining five, eight, 10, 12 yards. We probably need to get him in there a little bit more at times.”
Mitchell’s ankle almost fully recovered
Sophomore cornerback Josh Mitchell said he’s close to 100 percent healthy after suffering an ankle injury that sidelined him at Northwestern last weekend.
Mitchell, a full-time starter for Nebraska this year, expects to play Saturday.
“Just going to finish doing my rehab and get ready for this game,” Mitchell said.
In other injury news, senior I-back Rex Burkhead and sophomore defensive tackle Chase Rome did not practice. True freshman quarterback Tommy Armstrong — who’s redshirting this year but has traveled with the team — watched Tuesday’s practice in street clothes.
Defensive tackle Kevin Williams said he’s ready to go this week after missing the Northwestern game. Williams said his injury was not related to his previously injured knee, but he declined to say what it was.
A Holland, Ohio, native, Williams said he hopes to square off with Michigan center Jack Miller, who grew up in nearby Perrysburg.
Former Millard South QB emulates Robinson
Nebraska is using sophomore Millard South graduate Bronson Marsh to emulate Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson in practice this week. Marsh played scout team quarterback at times in 2011, too.
“Bronson’s a shifty dude, man,” Williams said. “He gives us a good look.
Reed says it was his fault on Martinez loss
Remember that fourth-and-3 play Saturday at Northwestern where Taylor Martinez was buried for a 10-yard loss?
Reed said Tuesday that one was on him.
The senior tight end was lined up on the right side, started coming back to his left and ran into two pulling offensive linemen. That blew up a quarterback keeper that Martinez was running to his right, with an untouched Wildcat defender dropping Martinez midway through the third quarter before he had a chance to do anything.
“That was just strictly on me,” Reed said. “I looked at the call wrong, I guess. I ran the wrong way.”
How much trouble did Reed get in for the miscue, which spoiled an NU drive that had reached the Northwestern 28 with the Huskers trailing 21-10?
“Not as much as I expected it to be,” Reed said. “I expected to get hit pretty hard as soon as I got to the sideline. I don’t know if half the people knew what happened until later.”