Nebraska passing still needs improvement

Terrence Nunn / senior wide receiver

In his first game as a Cornhusker, Sam Keller wasn't asked to go out and win the game.

With the running game piling up yards, the senior quarterback just needed to manage it.

Keller's 14-of-25 passing for 193 yards was a competent effort, but room for improvement was evident. Nebraska receivers Terrence Nunn and Frantz Hardy combined for three dropped passes, and the accuracy of Keller's passing was occasionally called into question.

The Huskers now have a game under their belts, and a tougher test awaits them at Wake Forest this weekend. But offensive coordinator Shawn Watson doesn't feel any more at ease even after a 52-10 blowout against Nevada.

"There's enough stuff when you watch film, no matter how well you did, there's enough things you have to get better at," Watson said. "We've got a lot to improve, and I think a team should always make its most improvement between week one and week two, so we'll see how that goes."

Watson was very pleased with the physical play of the offense, particularly on the offensive line. Keller pointed out at Tuesday's press conference that, early in the game, he was getting rid of the ball quickly and not taking advantage of the line's dominating play.

Once the running game was established, Keller began to find a rhythm in the pocket, and the passing game featured fewer errors. Mistakes will be much more costly against Wake Forest, a team with a reputation of forcing turnovers and capitalizing on another team's mistakes.

"I think with Wake Forest, you just have to take what they give you because they are very strong," Keller said. "They are very fast up front and their defensive backs have a lot of experience.

"This is going to take on a whole new animal, especially when they are at home. You just have to be ready for all sorts of circumstances."

Keller will have a new weapon with the return of senior wide receiver Maurice Purify, who will return to the playing field after sitting out the season opener for disciplinary reasons. Purify will not start the game but will likely still see significant playing time.

A big-play wideout who enjoyed a breakout season in 2006, Purify adds another wrinkle to the Huskers' passing attack but will have to earn back his starting position. He considers his conditioning to be around 90 percent, a result of missing out on 10 team practices during fall camp.

Purify's ability to turn a short catch into a big gain could have a big impact against the Demon Deacons, whose secondary will be more versatile than Nevada's. For the rest of the receiving corps, cutting down on dropped passes and tipped balls will be necessary to escape Wake Forest unscathed.

"There's nothing different than what we normally do (to improve)," NU Coach Bill Callahan said. "We go back to the chalkboard. It's just a matter of tweaking the passes we have in the game plan, adjust the protections against the blitzes we're going to see and go out and practice it."

jonathancrowl@dailynebraskan.com