Nebraska offensive coordinator Matt Lubick and defensive coordinator Erik Chinander met with members of the media over video conference following practice Tuesday to preview the upcoming game at Iowa.
Lubick addressed the media first and noted the importance of converting third downs.
“That is something we practice all of the time,” he said. “Part of it is game plan. Part of it is manageable situations. We have had a lot of third-and-longs. The percentage of converting a third-and-long as opposed to converting a third-and-short is not good. That’s a big part of it is doing better on first and second down so our third downs are more manageable situations.
“It is something we stress everyday. For example today we had two third-down periods. We will do another third-down period tomorrow. It is something you have to practice. I am a big believer that you can win or lose games on third downs because if you don’t convert on third down it’s a turnover and if you do convert you keep the ball. It leads to big plays and a whole bunch of other things. Third downs are one of the things that wins or loses football games.”
In looking at the passing game, Lubick discussed what has gone well and what needs improvement.
“Inconsistencies across the board and it starts with the coaches. How can we put guys in better situations?” Lubik said. “Anytime you lose a football game, you have to look within. Putting guys in situations that they can handle and making sure it’s the right guys in those situations. That is something we talk about everyday. Against Illinois in particular, just inconsistent. They did make it challenging throwing the ball down the field on some of the long yardage situations because the safeties are 20 yards deep and everyone is dropping and they force you to lay it off but when they do force you to lay it off we have to convert those and run for first downs. We had a couple of those either a guy might not be in the right position or throw is a little off.”
Lubick also discussed the running game, in particular depth at the running back position.
“You’ve got to have more than one running back because it’s the nature of the position that guys get banged up,” Lubick said. “I think we have depth. You always like to have a guy that can carry the ball 20 times a game and some guys get better the more they carry it. I’m a big believer that you have to have at least four running backs that can play. And when I say ‘they can play’ I mean they can be trusted to carry the ball, pass protect, make plays with their hands and we feel that we have that. You just don’t know what is going to happen because It is one of those positions that is most prone to injury. So that’s something that we feel like we have depth and when one guy goes down, it really is next man up.”
On the other side of the ball, Chinander noted the defense’s need to prevent third-down conversions.
“We need to get ourselves in more third-and-long situations,” Chinander said. “The third-and-three and third-and-fours are tough on everybody. Obviously the playbook is wide open. They could run the ball. They could pass the ball. It’s no excuse. We need to get off the field. We have to do a better job at rushing the passer and caging the quarterback. We have to do a better job of sticking with our guy in coverage. We just have to be able to get off the field on third down.”
Chinander was also asked about what the run defense needs to do to help limit opposing rushing attacks.
“The number one thing that has to be done is eliminate big plays,” he said. “There are games where you would have good run defense if you would eliminate a couple big plays but you can’t say ‘well we played good except for those two plays’ because then you didn’t play good. It’s just about everybody doing their job every single play. So the number one thing is eliminating the big plays. Up front we have to do a better job at tackling off the line of scrimmage and not giving extra yards. Those hidden yards are back breakers too.
“We have the right players. We have good players. We have good kids. We have to get them more ready to play football. I have confidence in them that they can do this.”
The Huskers kick off against Iowa on Friday at Noon(CT). The game will be broadcast on KBBN 95.3 FM with coverage on the Huskers Sports Network beginning at 10 a.m.