LINCOLN — Bo Pelini took the glass half-full approach after Nebraska's near-meltdown in the fourth quarter. His defensive coordinator's cup? Bone dry.
A team's biggest improvement is supposed to happen between week one and week two, John Papuchis said. He hopes so.
“We have really nowhere to go but up.”
After a bad — but not disastrous — first three quarters, things nearly turned ugly for the Blackshirts. Before Wyoming's final drive, Papuchis delivered a stern message to his players. Forget about your previous mistakes, he said. You can feel sorry for yourself tomorrow. Now it's time to “bow up” and get a stop.
“That, to me, was a really bad dream,” Papuchis said. “It was really close to being a nightmare.”
Nebraska enters 2013 with very few proven players on defense. It showed Saturday.
Inexperienced guys don't necessarily make mistakes on issues they practice, Papuchis said. It's adjusting to things they don't practice. In an opener, especially, the opponent is unpredictable. It's critical to make fast corrections.
“It was a real struggle on the sideline,” Papuchis said. “We made the corrections, but actually going out and translating it ... was a little bit of a struggle.
“For example, when they motion to empty (backfield) and they run quarterback run game, there's six gaps, right? There's five offensive linemen. When you run your (middle linebacker) out of there (with the motion man), you don't have enough players to fill up those six gaps.”
So there's a quick adjustment necessary. Pelini and Papuchis can either A) adjust their calls; B) call one defense the whole game and let your defenders feel comfortable. They chose the first option because they wanted to play their whole defense.
Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.
“Wyoming is good enough that if you don't play well, you're going to get exposed,” Papuchis said. “That's just the reality.”
High on the list of concerns is the pass rush, which wasn't good enough, coaches said.
Defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski said he was too worried about Brett Smith's legs. He should've cut his pass rushers loose more often. Yes, there's a lot of youth. But coaches entered the season saying they wouldn't use inexperience as an excuse, Kaczenski said. He must do a better job getting players ready.
“The time is now,” Kaczenski said. “Camp's over. This stuff is for real.”
Said Papuchis: “We're gonna line up and play again in seven days. It better be better than that.”
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Video: NU coach Bo Pelini at the postgame press conference:
Video: NU's Quincy Enunwa at the postgame press conference:
Video: NU's Jeremiah Sirles at the postgame press conference: