LINCOLN — The result of McNeese State’s fourth play from scrimmage Saturday is what outsiders tend to remember about the performance of Nebraska’s middle linebacker.
By the time the football had settled into the hands of the speedy Cowboy running back, Josh Banderas was launching himself into chase-down mode, angling toward a ball carrier who’d caught the pass in a full sprint and eventually gained 12 yards. That fourth-and-1 play design — run-fake rollouts with dumpoff passes to backs and tight ends — was mimicked a few times, and NU’s defense didn’t always handle it well.
But subtle aspects of those plays — subtleties that can easily be overlooked in an untrained review — are exactly why Banderas won’t allow a few errors to taint his 10-tackle performance in the Huskers’ 31-24 win.
“It’s little things, like always. It’s eyes, it’s footwork, getting into the film,” Banderas said. “It was nothing drastic, that we missed every play, or every ’backer missed. It’s ‘your footwork could be better here’ and ‘you could shoot that gap better.’ It’s little things. It’s putting your eyes on the tight end a half-second sooner, and you’ll be good.”
He watched film and quickly recognized how fixable the mistakes were. And quite frankly, when considering he never left the field Saturday, the confident sophomore from Lincoln Southwest can point to enough positive moments that suggest he is improving at the rate NU’s staff had hoped.
Still, Saturday’s game offered humbling moments for Banderas as well as most other Huskers. As coach Bo Pelini pointed out Monday, the Huskers’ attention to detail across the board was not where it needed to be.
So that’s what this week has been about as the team prepares for Fresno State: Get back to that standard, where concentration lapses aren’t tolerated.
The defense’s expectations have not changed, Banderas said.
“We’re still on the same course that we set from day one,” he said. “As long as we stay on the path — the approaches we’ve been taking throughout fall camp and during the season so far — we’ll be where we want to be.”
It’s the message defensive coordinator John Papuchis has for Banderas.
Papuchis made a point to mention Tuesday that Banderas wasn’t the full-time middle linebacker until last month — that Banderas split time with David Santos last year before sharing the job with Michael Rose, who got the majority of the snaps at the end of the season. Banderas even worked a bit at outside linebacker last spring.
So there’s room to grow for Banderas — like learning how to properly apply schematic rules against play-action. The key: Keep moving forward.
“I just look for him to continue to get better,” Papuchis said.
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