Nebraska (2-1) ended its non-conference schedule in resounding fashion with a 44-8 win against Northern Illinois (1-2) last week. Now, the Huskers shift focus to their first Big Ten game of the year, a road trip to Champaign, Illinois to face the Illinois Fighting Illini (2-1).
“I like the intensity and it’s going to kick up a notch,” senior defensive tackle Darrion Daniels said. “...Going into conference [play], it will add on fuel to the fire. It’s going to intensify not just our play, but the competition will be better.”
The first Big Ten game for the Huskers comes on the road where the Huskers have struggled to get a win under Frost. Nebraska has yet to win a game on the road under Frost with its last road win coming in a 25-24 win at Purdue on Oct. 28, 2017.
To break that streak, Daniels said the key is preparation and bringing the same passion as at home.
“It’s preparation, just being able to do everything full speed with our eyes closed, that’s the best way to go into hostile territory,” Daniels said. “Really just bring the same energy that we bring to practice and the same energy we bring to home games.”
One area the Huskers will need to play well is on run defense as the Fighting Illini have one of the better running backs in the Big Ten in senior Reggie Corbin. After missing their game against Connecticut with an injury, Corbin ran for 144 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown in last week’s loss to Eastern Michigan.
The Huskers’ run defense has been one of the strengths of the team so far this season as they rank in the top 20 in the country in rushing yards allowed per game with an average of 82 yards per game. A lot of this is due to the strong defensive line play and the hard work of defensive line coach Tony Tuioti.
“We interviewed a lot of guys and from a fit with our coaching staff standpoint he was the best of anybody we hired,” Frost said. “...He hasn’t disappointed at all, I think he has made that group better, and really a lot of guys better from the top to the bottom.”
“Coach T[uioti], he has experience in special ed teaching and he kind of takes pride in that because he is able to break it down for us,” Daniels said. “You know, D-linemen, they think we’re slow, so for him to break it down and bring it to a level where it’s literally white and black it’s huge.”
The work done by the defensive line, and specifically Daniels, has also helped the linebackers since it makes their jobs easier.
“When you see our front defensive linemen holding up these offensive linemen and those gaps just start to widen up, and you just kind of see the ball clear and you can play fast because you know you have the defensive linemen there, it helps us a lot,” junior linebacker Collin Miller said.
In other news, Frost awarded a scholarship to senior defensive back Jeremiah Stovall for his job as a solid special teams player for the last few seasons. Frost also mentioned he was close to making a decision on who would receive the other available scholarship.
Also, in Saturday’s game, none of the helmets had their traditional area codes on them. Frost said it was his decision but he was coy on his reasoning. He also said the area codes would likely not be back this week.
The Huskers face the Fighting Illini on Sept. 21 in Champaign, Illinois at 7 p.m. with television coverage provided by BTN.