The Nebraska Inside Slant

The Nebraska Inside Slant

Everything that has been dominating the headlines this week, leading up to Nebraska's game with Wyoming.

INSIDE SLANT

Through three games, Nebraska's defense has some very un-Pelini like statistics.

The Huskers are ranked 61st nationally in rushing defense (132 yards per game), 78th in passing defense (232.7 yards per game), 67th in total defense (364.7 yards per game) and 66th in scoring defense (24.7 points per game).

"Yeah, I don't worry about that," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said flatly. "I've been here before. Like I said, I don't really buy into statistics."

Nebraska had the nation's No. 1 scoring defense in 2009, and ranked among the nation's best in most defensive categories in 2010. With three All-American-caliber players returning this season, expectations were high.

But Nebraska's sorely missed one of those three players -- injured cornerback Alfonzo Dennard -- and a green secondary has taken its lumps early this season. Gaining confidence is of utmost importance for the young players, which may explain why Pelini is taking a very even-keeled approach to his team's early defensive lapses and showing no signs of panic.

"It's all part of the deal. It's all part of the process," Pelini said. "It's why they put 'Coach' in front of our name; it's to stay with it. You don't panic, you don't sit there. You look at it for what it is, and you work to get it fixed and you just stay the course.

"That's what I've learned over a long period of time. You don't make rash adjustments. You do hold guys accountable. But you don't chuck what you do, because you know what you're doing works, and you've got to trust in that."

By no means was Pelini pleased with allowing 38 points to Washington on Saturday -- including 21 in the fourth quarter, after Nebraska had built a 44-17 lead.

"I think the guys relaxed a little bit," he said. "We kind of got away from some of the things that we were doing. I just didn't like the way we finished."

Going into Nebraska's next game at Wyoming, Pelini said he's most concerned with players playing with technique and improving communication. Everything else, he says, is fixable, and the Washington game can be a useful learning tool.

"I feel confident that some of the things that happened to us will make us better," he said. "I think we can really, really grow from the things that happened, both good and bad, on Saturday. I've been there. I've been doing this for a long time. I feel like that game will help us in the long run."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Nebraska is facing a Wyoming team coached by former Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Christensen, whose spread offense caused NU coach Bo Pelini's defenses fits in 2003, when Pelini was defensive coordinator, and again in 2008, Pelini's first year as head coach. Missouri was 4-4 against NU under Christensen, averaging 26.8 points a game and topping 40 points four times, including 52 in Lincoln in 2008.

--Nebraska will be playing in 29,086-seat War Memorial Stadium in Laramie -- the smallest stadium the Huskers will have played in since 1971, when Hawaii's Honolulu Stadium had a capacity of 23,500. Since then, the smallest crowd to see a Nebraska football game is 30,150 at Oklahoma State's Lewis Field in 1991. Since 1990, Nebraska has played only 11 games in front of crowds of 40,000 or fewer fans.

--Elevation at Laramie is 7,164 feet -- the highest of any FBS football school. While in the Big 12, Nebraska played every two years in Boulder, Colo., which has an elevation of 5,430 feet, but the many freshmen and sophomores on this year's team haven't played in higher altitude. One exception is freshman Kenny Bell, a Boulder native. "If you play the right way, it's not a big deal," he said. "Hydration is going to be a big thing, but our strength and conditioning staff is going to have us ready to go. The altitude and elevation won't play a factor."

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: One week, coaches were defending what fans deemed a struggling offense that couldn't move the ball consistently. The next, coaches are trying to temper excitement. "You can't ride a roller coaster," NU coach Bo Pelini said. "If we start thinking we arrived offensively, we're going to get our butts kicked next week." Pelini, however did offer praise for the performance of sophomore quarterback Taylor Martinez in the victory over Washington. "I loved his demeanor and how he handled the game. He played really, really well in that game," Pelini said. "I saw another level of confidence and a guy who was totally in control of the situation and offense. He prepared extremely well and I was really happy with Taylor on Saturday."

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Nebraska will be counting on its dime defense more against Wyoming than against any remaining team on its schedule. The Cowboys, led by former Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Christensen, implement a spread offense that will often use five wide receivers. That presents a significant challenge for a young Nebraska secondary that's awaiting the return of veteran cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who's missed the first three games with a pulled quad muscle. "Obviously I think it hurts you, because in my opinion, I don't think there's a better corner in the country. I think he's that good," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. "But I think it's also given us an opportunity to look at other guys. You're 3-0, you've looked at a lot of guys, you've given guys opportunities, and guys are gaining experience. Hopefully it makes you stronger over the long haul."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "That has been a fight for a while and it was good to see him do that. He thinks he can score every time he gets the ball. We all know that is unrealistic." -- Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, on quarterback Taylor Martinez sliding to avoid hits Saturday against Washington.

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