Turnovers

Freshman cornerback Quinton Newsome falls on a fumble during a drill in practice Wednesday. The defense as a whole has forced more turnovers during training camp, coaches and players say.

LINCOLN — There are two sides to the excitement surrounding NU’s growth on defense.

On one, you have giddy defensive coaches and ball-hog defensive backs. On the other, you have some frustrated offensive coaches.

“The entire defense is flying around,” offensive coordinator Troy Walters said. “They’re flying around, they’re creating turnovers. That’s one thing as an offense we gotta do better of is protecting the football. Because those guys are trying to strip it and create turnovers and the young secondary, they’re giving us trouble.”

Walters said it’s about 50 percent the defense making plays and 50 percent the offense not protecting the ball. Nebraska was 83rd in the nation in turnover margin last year and hasn’t cracked the top 50 since 2016, when it was 36th.

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“We catch a ball, we might run 20 yards down the field, those guys are pursuing and trying to knock the ball out,” Walters said. “I don’t care if you run 20 yards, you’re running back to the official holding that ball. The hopes and dreams of Nebraska football is that football, and so we gotta hold on to it like our life depends on it.”

Quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco said his unit threw four interceptions in Nebraska’s last scrimmage.

“Adrian (Martinez) threw one that he wishes he had back. His eyeballs were a little bit goofy,” Verduzco said. “Noah (Vedral) threw one, the receivers were probably not in the position they needed to be, so if we know they’re wrong, we shouldn’t throw the ball to make a bad play worse.”

The other two came from tipped balls at the line of scrimmage. And Verduzco took note of that. The assistant often deflects questions about any other aspect of the team beyond his quarterbacks. But he noticed how quickly the defense snatched those tipped balls out of the air.

“I don’t know that last year we would’ve gotten those, just because the aggressiveness was maybe a little bit different than it is now,” Verduzco said. “But man, those guys went after those two balls in there like sharks on chum. It was awesome.”

Walters said because of the way the defense is playing, the offense has to bring it every day.

“Or else they’re gonna make us look real bad,” he said.

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Chris Heady covers Husker football and is the Nebraska men's basketball beat writer. He started at The World-Herald in 2017. Follow him on Twitter @heady_chris. Email: chris.heady@owh.com.

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