Nebraska is coming off a 37-21 loss against Wisconsin in which Badger running back Jonathan Taylor rushed for over 200 yards against the Huskers for the third year in a row.
Taylor and the Badger offense racked up 483 yards against Nebraska, and the Blackshirts looked helpless at points. Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander and inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud both stressed that tackling was an issue.
"I thought overall tackling, it was good, it wasn't as good as it needs to be,” Ruud said. “In the box tackling really wasn't too bad for us. I was a little disappointed with a couple of the zone tackles in space, I would like to see us be a little bit more aggressive with that.”
A bigger problem for the Blackshirts was a failure to step up when the offense struggled, which Chinander said has been “the same script” all year.
“There was times when we played really, really good, like you wanted to, [and] times where you didn't play really, really good,” he said. “...It's got to be complementary football, we have to all be working together.”
However, one positive for the Blackshirts was they were able to find playing time for some of the younger players on the team as well. True freshmen Nick Henrich, Ty Robinson and Myles Farmer all got snaps against the Badgers along with other younger players.
Chinander was pleased with how the freshmen performed, and said it was a great sign moving forward.
“You just played against Wisconsin who was very, very physical. It's a really good, really good football team. Really good offensive line,” he said. “You got reps against those guys and you aren't getting pushed around, you can play against anybody in this league.”
Now, the Huskers are looking ahead to Saturday’s road matchup with Maryland as they will attempt to take advantage of a struggling Terrapin team.
Chinander has experience going up against Maryland, as he faced off with the Terrapins in both 2016 and 2017 as the defensive coordinator at UCF.
However, a lot has changed for the program since Chinander last saw it.
“I think most of their skill players and stuff have moved on, there's a little similarity, but different coordinators, different head coach, different players,” he said.
One unknown for Maryland this year has been its quarterback situation. Junior Josh Jackson was the starter to begin the year, but has struggled with injuries. Junior Tyrrell Pigrome has done well to fill in, and there is no clear starter for Saturday’s matchup. Freshman Lance LeGendre has also gotten some time playing, and may even see some snaps against Nebraska.
Along with the multiple-quarterback system, the Terrapins have a couple of running backs who can make a difference. Junior Javon Leake and sophomore Anthony McFarland Jr. have combined for 1,081 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns on the season.
“[They’re] RPO heavy, got multiple quarterbacks playing the game, a little bit different type of an athlete with each quarterback,” he said. “...They got really good running backs, really impressed with their running backs. And you know, they create a lot of run pass conflict in their offense.”
Junior defensive lineman Ben Stille echoed this sentiment, saying the biggest key was to not let things get out of hand regardless of personnel.
“Yeah, they got two good backs, that's probably the biggest challenge,” he said. “[They have] mobile quarterbacks. They rotate guys in and whatnot. So that'll be our big challenge, just keeping the backs contained, quarterbacks included.”
Although Maryland (3-7, 1-6 Big Ten) has struggled this year and currently rank No. 10 in the conference in total offense, the Blackshirts will have to make sure they don’t make key mistakes, as they have in previous games.
“The thing that you have to keep emphasizing to these guys is we are beating ourselves right now,” Chinander said. “And it's not them, it's not me, it's we, we are beating ourselves. It's missing that tackle, missing those tackles, missing a few key assignments, not getting off the ball or not getting off the field on third down, it changes the game dramatically.”