Even with all that happened to the Nebraska football team in the past week, from the UCLA comeback to the hot water for Bo Pelini, assistant coach Rich Fisher said Friday that the Huskers have come out OK.
And Fisher hopes it will show against South Dakota State.
“We saw some good energy this week,” Fisher said at the Big Red Breakfast. “I think Saturday when they walk out on that field you’re going to see a different vibe.”
Pelini started the week by saying the Husker staff would look for ways to ease the pressure on players, noting that their body language wasn’t always good during the 41-21 loss to the Bruins.
Although Pelini did not offer specifics, he did alter the practice schedule going forward so the Huskers would have Mondays off and practice on Sundays instead.
Fisher told a crowd of 175 at the Ramada Plaza Hotel and Convention Center that the schedule change would give players a chance to “be college students for a day, which they don’t get an opportunity to do.”
“I honestly believe, and it’s my personal opinion, that the stress for some of these kids to win ’em all, to win a championship, it’s a lot,” Fisher said. “We’ve talked to them about that. And so our goal as coaches now is to obviously create a little bit different environment for them to feel like the weight of the world’s not on their shoulders, that this game is fun.
“It should be fun. You’ve got to play it that way. And obviously it didn’t look to me like they were having a whole lot of fun.”
Fisher said the staff spent plenty of time trying to figure out what went wrong as the Huskers blew a 21-3 lead at home to UCLA.
The offensive execution was good until about midway through the second quarter, he said. Then, not so much.
“For whatever reason we didn’t finish,” he said. “As coaches, we’ve got to look at ourselves and see why that happened.”
The degree of difficulty went up this week as Deadspin released the profanity-laced Pelini audio from after a 2011 game.
In light of the controversy, Fisher said he senses from NU players “a desire and a passion to want to play hard” for Pelini and the staff this week. That eased some initial concerns.
“Any time a situation arises where you have had a disgruntled fan — whatever you want to call him or her — that obviously has an agenda against your head coach, it affects a lot of people,” Fisher said.
“It affects the players, obviously. Earlier this week, I can tell you in my (receivers) room that I had some guys … that weren’t quite sure what was going to take place. And that’s difficult.
“But you know what? I’m still here. We’re still here. Our goals haven’t changed.”
Ľ Fisher said of South Dakota State, a Football Championship Subdivision member: “This is going to be a Super Bowl for them. We’re going to get their best shot. But we understand that, we respect them, and we’re going to be equally prepared.”
Ľ Fisher said he uses the 94 percent catch-to-drop ratio of NFL star Larry Fitzgerald as a benchmark for his receivers. Of Quincy Enunwa, Jamal Turner and Kenny Bell, he said, “those guys that have been playing the most are all operating at above 90 percent.”
Ľ Look for some possible snaps Saturday for redshirt freshman receiver Alonzo Moore, who has been recovering from a shoulder injury.
Ľ Another receiver trying to make a comeback is Taariq Allen, who suffered a torn ACL last season. “I know he’s frustrated,” Fisher said. “He wants to be the player he was before, but he’s not quite there yet.”
Ľ Fisher was showing NU-UCLA game clips when he had some fun commenting on the first-quarter interception and 34-yard return by Stanley Jean-Baptiste, a former receiver who moved to cornerback in 2011: “That’s a former wide receiver there. I take all the credit for this.”
Ľ Fisher wasn’t going to be the one to announce if Tommy Armstrong or Ron Kellogg will start at quarterback if Taylor Martinez sits out Saturday. Fisher simply said: “Both those guys will play.”