LINCOLN — Wisconsin ranks first in the country in time of possession.
That could be exceedingly dangerous for this Nebraska team. Frost’s offense is not set up for long, slogging drives. Nebraska wants to score either on an explosive play, or have an explosive play set up an easy score in the red zone.
So even if Nebraska’s offense runs to perfection, that’s a long time out there for the defense against Wisconsin’s brutal offense.
It also puts pressure on Nebraska’s offense to actually score when they do have the ball.
Nebraska is expecting to have 55 to 60 offensive plays.
“We told the guys on Monday that each play we’ve got to execute at a high level,” offensive coordinator Troy Walters said. “As coaches we gotta put our guys in the best play possible and there’s different ways to do that, but we need to make sure we’re on our game and make sure that we’re not wasting plays, so to speak.”
Walters said touchdowns beat Wisconsin, not field goals.
"We can't afford to have a bad play," tight ends coach Sean Beckton said. "We gotta try to execute at a high level, all 11 on offense, on every single play. And that's been our motto pretty much across the board with the entire offense this week."
Moving the ball on the ground is expected to be difficult for the Huskers facing a top-five rushing defense. With the status of rusher Wan'Dale Robinson in doubt for Saturday, running backs coach Ryan Held listed Dedrick Mills, Wyatt Mazour, Rahmir Johnson and Brody Belt as backs who have had good weeks of practice.
"I really like my room right now," Held said. "They're working hard. We're going to strive for five — five-plus yards a carry. And anything above that's a bonus."
Young center is learning
The best part about Cam Jurgens, offensive line coach Greg Austin said, is he wants to be coached.
Which is why, recently, he’s been explaining to the redshirt freshman center why he is asking him to do certain things.
“With Cam I’ve had to explain the 'why' of a lot of things,” Austin said. “Guys don’t really understand, fully understand, what they’re doing until they fully understand the 'why.' Like, why do I have to do this? Why do I put my hand here? Why do I step here? Why do I have to have my eyes here?”
Jurgens is coming along with those answers, Austin said.
And he mentioned that, because of some failure this season, Jurgens is getting better. Mistakes he made in the Indiana game, he didn’t make in the Purdue game.
“He’s a kid that’s gonna learn from his mistakes — sometimes you call them growing pains,” Austin said. “If you’re gonna make a mistake, then you gotta grow from it. So that’s what you love about the kid is he’s always looking to get better, and he’s always trying to improve his game. He wants to be coached.”
Bright future in Hickman
Chris Hickman has yet to record any statistics through two college games. But he did some things against Purdue that has Nebraska coaches ready for more.
The true freshman tight end from Omaha Burke was in for the second series against the Boilermakers. He lined up to the left of the quarterback in the backfield for one play and was later the target of a pass that was ruled to be a lateral out of bounds. His best moment was as a kickout blocker on a run when he moved a defender 10 yards downfield.
"That's what we've seen all during training camp, and we work at it daily," Beckton said. "But it showed up on film, and it's promising to see him going out and executing at a high level there. We expect him to continue moving forward."
Walters, the offensive coordinator, said Hickman could eventually be a "hybrid-type guy" for the Huskers. At 6-6 and 215 pounds, he's already splitting time between receiver and tight end. If he plays in a game, he'll know ahead of time the packages in which he will be featured.
Hickman can still play in two more games and retain his redshirt eligibility under the four-game redshirt rule.
"He's shown exactly what we thought he would show," Beckton said.
» Rutgers tight end transfer Travis Vokolek has made "major steps" this fall as he sits out, Beckton said. He was already a natural route runner and striker but has a better understanding of angles and landmarks as a blocker.
» Tight ends have keyed in on Wisconsin outside linebackers Zack Baun and Noah Burks, who own a combined 17.5 tackles for loss (nine sacks) this fall. Nebraska is simulating the 'backers with some of its quickest scout team players, Beckton said, to put the tight ends in stressful spots as blockers.
"You never can simulate completely what type of player (Baun) is," Beckton said. "So we're excited for the challenge and we know he's going to come out and play hard. Because every game we've watched as a tight end group, he's come off the football and made plays off the edge."
» Nebraska has offered scholarships to at least 11 junior-college players in the last two weeks. Beckton said none of those happen before coaches do their due diligence on each prospect.
"For us as a staff, we're evaluating everything," Beckton said. "Where a kid came from, his family background. Has he had any issues? Why is he in junior college? All those questions come up prior to us really, really investigating and throwing an offer out."