LINCOLN — Nebraska's offense shrunk the game plan and altered its implementation during practice last week in an attempt to eliminate the unforced errors that were keeping the Huskers from reaching their potential.
Offensive coordinator Tim Beck settled on a theory early last week: The Huskers were doing way too much. Too many plays, too many formations. There were unnecessary presnap motions and shifts complicating matters, as well.
“It wasn't their effort. It was just sometimes making little detailed mistakes that would hurt us,” Beck said. “That fell back on me. We tried to simplify what we do, get better at it. And it showed.”
When Beck reviewed the 41-21 loss to UCLA, he realized there were several plays called repeatedly that the Huskers hardly had practiced. The ones they'd worked most on were barely used.
“I might have called one play three times in a game and we practiced it nine times —- and practiced this play three times but called it nine times,” Beck said.
Beck indicated that he was trying to prepare his guys for every game circumstance during the week — instead of zeroing in on a specific set of plays to perfect. He wanted every contingency plan covered in practice because he thought his players, a veteran group, could handle it.
They couldn't. Not yet, anyway.
“We just took a step back, took a deep breath,” Beck said.
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He began last week by developing a game plan for attacking South Dakota State, writing on a whiteboard all the run plays and pass plays that he thought might work. Then he trimmed that list, and cut the possible formations in half.
“Instead of running 10 plays five times (in practice), it's five plays 10 times,” Beck said. “We're better at it. They seemed more confident (Saturday) because we were doing what we practiced.”
Had the Huskers needed to make drastic adjustments — because of the way the Jackrabbits defended certain plays — Beck was confident they would have been able to.
The plan ended up working from the start.
Nebraska totaled 645 yards during Saturday's 59-20 win — eclipsing the 300-yard mark through the air and on the ground for the first time ever. And all that was without starting quarterback Taylor Martinez, who watched it unfold from the sideline.
But the Huskers didn't need Martinez's presnap audibles, his improvisational ability or even his big-play threat Saturday. It didn't matter who was at quarterback.
Nebraska still mixed in several formations early on, alternating between run and pass calls often enough to keep South Dakota State off-balance.
But senior Quincy Enunwa said the “big-picture” concepts of the Huskers' offense never needed to be altered. So the group remained confident that it would start finding a rhythm again.
“We saw the mistakes we made last week knowing that it was a lot of little things,” Enunwa said. “I think our offense is doing pretty well, but we can do a lot better than what we are.”
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• Video: Nebraska coach Bo Pelini talks after the game:
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• Video: Nebraska QB Ron Kellogg talks after the game:
• Video: Postgame analysis with Sam McKewon:
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