LINCOLN — One of the main themes of the press availability Monday: three quarters.
Nebraska’s offense and defense were excellent for about 45 minutes.
But that third quarter was poor. And it let Colorado back into the game.
“We played three quarters of football, and unfortunately we didn’t play four quarters, so that’s what stuck out to me,” running back Dedrick Mills said.
Colorado didn’t change its scheme at all, Mills said.
It was their own fault they couldn’t move the ball.
“We were firing on all cylinders, and in that third, we just ended up making some dumb mistakes,” Stoll said. “It is what it is, and (we) take it as a learning moment and just move on from it.”
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Inside linebackers on the rise
In the immediate aftermath of Nebraska’s loss Saturday, Mohamed Barry thought he played the worst game of his career.
The senior captain backed off that statement Monday. He just didn’t make plays like normal, he said, alluding to feeling sick. But he added that his fellow inside linebackers really picked up the slack.
Juniors Will Honas and Collin Miller logged 51 and 46 snaps, respectively, while Barry was in for 60. Honas finished with a team-best nine tackles, and Miller mixed in six (including a 4-yard stop for loss). Barry had six tackles, including a sack.
“I feel like these guys, they’ve developed,” Barry said. “Everything we did this summer they’ve actually applied to the field. They’re playing with heart, they’re playing with passion, they’re playing with fire. A game that wasn’t my best game, they stepped up. And I thanked them for that.”
Slow start for tight ends
Nebraska tight ends have gotten off to a slower start in the passing game than they or their coach would like.
But sophomore Austin Allen said the group is helping the Huskers get the running attack going.
NU tight ends have combined for six catches and 78 yards through two games, accounting for just 17% of the team’s receiving yardage. Stoll was the only one to make a grab Saturday, snagging two balls for 4 yards. But Allen said the film showed Husker running backs finding room when Nebraska fielded multiple tight ends at once.
“Hopefully Coach (Frost) gets more trust in us being on the field so we can grow into not just being a run group out of a two-tight end personnel but more of a pass group,” Allen said. “... Coach will get us in the right stuff and he trusts us to do the right thing. So hopefully we’ll turn it around.”
Frost said the offense adjusts its looks based on defensive alignments it sees and where it can exploit mismatches. He said both Allen and Stoll are “doing a really good job” in all facets of the offense.
“Depending on what a team is giving us, we’ll have the best formation, the best guys out there that we think will help us move the ball,” Frost said.
Dicaprio Bootle admitted Monday he slapped his teammate, Cam Taylor-Britt, during Saturday’s 34-31 overtime loss to Colorado. It was intentional and motivational, and the kind a teammate might have done for Bootle a few years ago.
The junior corner wanted the sophomore safety to get his head back into the game after giving up the longest play in CU school history, a daring 96-yard flea flicker that caught Nebraska’s entire defense by surprise.
“There was still a lot of time left in the game and you can still make a play,” Bootle said. “You can make it right.”
CU receiver K.D. Nixon’s touchdown goes as a trick play, but a flea flicker is ultimately just a play-action pass, and Nixon’s “crack and go” route — in which Nixon moved as if he was going to block pursuing safety Marquel Dismuke but instead ran a deep route fooling both Dismuke and Taylor-Britt, now NU’s starting safety in the wake of Deontai Williams’ shoulder surgery.
“We just made a bad play, that was it, man, touchdown,” Taylor-Britt said. “Can’t do nothing about it.”
Later in the fourth quarter, Taylor-Britt forced a fumble on CU receiver Laviska Shenault, who was running back a kickoff. NU recovered the fumble.
“It wasn’t hard — he was holding it like a loaf of bread,” Taylor-Britt said.
Said Bootle: “He’s out there doing something you can’t teach. You can’t teach effort. He’s out there running after the ball carrier. He does what I expect him to do. Make a play.”
Altitude a factor
Taylor-Britt said Nebraska has to finish better and “play four quarters.” He conceded the altitude of Folsom Field — above 5,000 feet — may have contributed to NU’s fatigue late in the game. Frost said Monday he believed players were tired.
“Altitude kind of gets to you, but I wouldn’t say that was it,” Taylor-Britt said. “We just didn’t play to our full potential.”
Bootle did. The junior cornerback didn’t give up any of Nebraska’s big plays and he prevented a touchdown in overtime with a pass breakup. He slowed down Shenault, as well, one year after giving up two long receptions to Colorado’s best player.
“I’d go ahead and say I did my job against a pretty good receiver,” Bootle said. “But it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, everybody has to do their job and we’ve got to come out with that win.”
» Backup punter William Przystup — now NU’s kickoff specialist and backup placekicker — said he’s been working on field goals for all of three days. He said he could hit a 57-yard field goal in high school.
“It does? Well, that’s good to know,” Przystup said after learning the depth chart lists him as the No. 2 kicker behind Isaac Armstrong. He added that he needed to talk to NU graduate assistant Zach Crespo about it. “If so, then I need to practice a little more, get a little more work in and probably cut down on eating so much.”
Przystup transferred to Nebraska from Michigan State — despite punting in four games as a true freshman for MSU — because the Spartans signed a punter and Przystup figured the writing was on the wall. He was recruited by Frost when Frost was at Central Florida and wanted to be a part of the program in Lincoln.
» Frost is plenty impressed with Northern Illinois’ defense, which through two games is allowing 5.56 yards per play and 22.5 points per game.
“They’re like a swarm of bees or fire ants or something that you’re trying to block,” Frost said. “There’s movement on the defensive line all the time. There’s linebackers sprinting through the line of scrimmage through gaps. We have to be able to block moving targets this week. They’re going to load the box with that and make us earn it on the ground. So we need to complete some balls to our wideouts and be able to block them with movement and get some runs.”
NIU’s defense has struggled to sack the quarterback — just one sack in two games — but it has 13 tackles for loss against the run. That included six against Utah, which beat Northern Illinois 35-17.
» Nebraska is 5-1 all time in games against Mid-American Conference teams. The lone loss? NIU in 2017. Players said Frost talked to the team about the Huskies on Monday.
» NU did not nominate any players for Big Ten players of the week for offense, defense or special teams.