Published Sunday, September 15, 2013 at 12:01 am / Updated at 1:10 am
FOOTBALL
Defense looks to keep focus in tough times

LINCOLN — The successful plays by the UCLA offense weren't the most demoralizing sights as Nebraska assistant coach Terry Joseph watched from the Memorial Stadium press box Saturday as the game slipped away.

What hurt just as much as the Bruins' 31 points and 298 total yards in the second half was the Huskers' reaction at times.

“The toughest thing to see was when they made a play — which they're going to do because they're a great offense — is that our body language went down,” Joseph said. “And then it started getting contagious: Now it's two guys' body language, and pretty soon five, and all of a sudden it's play after play after play.”

That change in faith went right along with the Huskers' inability to curb the momentum that UCLA was building on its way to a 41-21 victory.

“We were just looking for something positive to happen,” NU defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski said.

The Huskers have committed to youth at a number of defensive positions and Saturday brought the first real dose of adversity for a host of true freshmen and redshirt freshmen. It not only exposed some of the growing pains but also punctuated the need for the few available veterans to stitch up any wounds as fast as possible.

Senior cornerback Ciante Evans said the mood remained positive for his NU defensive mates, despite the turn of events, but that the Huskers may have lost a sense of urgency or focus.

“I didn't see 'em get down,” Evans said. “But you could just tell guys were like, 'What's going on?' And me, as a captain, I've got to step up, but I didn't make any plays, either.”

Nebraska has its largest share of upperclassmen in the secondary. But Joseph said the safety play probably wasn't as good as it could have been, and Evans, Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Josh Mitchell missed chances at some plays at the nickel and cornerback spots that could have made a difference — “so there was enough blame to go around.”

“One of the big things we've got to change, considering how young we are, is we've got to get somebody to take control and make a play when we need to make a play,” Joseph said.

There were times in the second half Saturday when Nebraska had just three seniors on the field. There were times a year ago when they had as many as seven or eight.

Kaczenski waved that off Saturday when talking about potential candidates to make a difference.

“We've got guys,” Kaczenski said. “Somebody's just got to step up. That's part of the game. Youth's not an excuse. We're going to prepare those freshmen just like we do fifth-year seniors. They've got to be ready to go. There's nothing wrong with a young guy stepping up and making a play.”

True freshman linebacker Josh Banderas, making his second career start against UCLA, said the youngsters aren't afraid to do it, and said the first half against the Bruins showed the capability of the defense.

He also said players didn't look at each other as rookies or veterans Saturday in determining who should take over.

“We were together as a family and we just looked to each other,” Banderas said. “It wasn't necessarily to one person. We just looked to our left and to our right and we just tried to keep each other up.”

Banderas said he didn't see confidence waning as the NU lead turned into a deficit and then into a hopeless situation.

“Obviously you don't like it when you lose, but everybody was still up,” he said. “We're still out there playing football. Everybody's having fun. That's why we're here, that's why we're putting in the work. We love this game. So I think everybody had a good attitude.”

As with Joseph, Kaczenski was hard on his own unit, saying the defensive line could have set up the linebackers and defensive backs to make plays by putting more pressure on UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley and hurrying some throws, as the Huskers had done early on.

As a result, UCLA started dictating how the game was going.

“Then we were on our heels and we stopped playing, and we were more surviving instead of playing,” Kaczenski said. “They took advantage of that and just played more physical than we did in the second half up front.”

* * *

Video: Postgame analysis with Sam McKewon:



Video: NU coach Bo Pelini at the postgame press conference:



Video: NU's Taylor Martinez at the postgame press conference:

Contact the writer: Rich Kaipust

rich.kaipust@owh.com    |   402-444-1042    |  

Rich Kaipust is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and covers Nebraska football and some general assignment tasks, including the College World Series and U.S. Olympic Swim Trials.

PHOTO GALLERY AND VIDEO »

 

< >
SPOTLIGHT »
2013 college football preview
View our 2013 college football preview, a 26-page, three-part section filled with coverage of the Huskers, Big Ten conference and more.
Big Red Bowl Retrospective
See complete historical results, game recaps and photo coverage from the Nebraska Cornhuskers college football bowl game appearances, from the 1941 Rose Bowl up to today.
Big Ten football recruits
The World-Herald's Big Ten recruiting database contains every football recruit that signed with a Big Ten school from 2002 to 2011, complete with color-coded interactive map representations, player information, high-concentrations recruiting clusters and more.
Devaney Center timeline
Check out a World-Herald timeline to see the evolution of memorable moments at the Devaney Center, complete with photos, videos, memorable quotes and more.
Follow OWHbigred on Twitter
Looking for the latest Husker sports news from The Omaha World-Herald and Omaha.com? Follow us on Twitter!
Husker scholarship distribution chart
Want to see how many scholarships NU has invested at each position? Wondering how the Huskers have appropriated their offers by class? Check out our handy chart to look further into how Bo Pelini has built his team.
Husker Signing Day 2013
The World-Herald's top-notch coverage of the Nebraska football's class of 2013, complete with videos, photos, articles, live recruit interviews, interactive components and more.
Husker turnovers: A slippery slope
Bo Pelini has coached 68 games at Nebraska. When NUís turnover margin is positive or even, the Huskers are 35-2. When they lose the turnover battle, theyíre 13-18. Why hasnít Nebraska joined the nationís elite? More than anything, itís turnovers.
Interactive: Bo Pelini's contract
View an interactive PDF of Pelini's revised contract signed by the NU football coach, complete with brief summaries of the legalese and insight into the document's finer points.
Interactive: Darin Erstad's contract (2012)
View an interactive PDF of NU baseball coach Darin Erstad's contract released in August 2012, complete with brief summaries of the legalese and insight into the document's finer points.
Interactive: Tim Miles' contract
View an interactive PDF of Tim Miles' contract signed by the Nebraska men's basketball coach on May 4, 2012, complete with brief legal explanations, comparisons to other Big Ten coaches and more.
Omaha.com's Big Ten coverage
Delivering the best news coverage and analysis of the Big Ten Conference, from Omaha.com and other top news outlets from around country.
Husker Recruiting: Changes shrink NU's sphere of influence
For decades, the Great Plains represented fertile recruiting ground for Tom Osborne's football program. Restoring that lost tradition won't be easy.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Shoreline Golf Club
$40 for 2 Players, 18 Holes of Golf with Cart ($85 Value)
Buy Now
BRT ON TWITTER »
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT »
< >