The Huskers have their eyes on Bruins' QB Brett Hundley as they rev-up the Red engine preparing for UCLA on Saturday.
The team practiced in full pads for about two hours Tuesday. When the day's work on the field was finished, Defensive Coordinator John Papuchis took up the Hundley talk with the media.
“I think what’s good about Brett Hundley is that he is efficient,” Papuchis said. “He doesn’t make a lot of bad decisions with the ball. When things aren’t there, he pulls it down and can hurt you with his feet. He’s effective in the running game, and he has the ability to throw the ball well, so you have to make sure you’re very balanced in the way you defend him.”
Hundley passed for 305 yards and four touchdowns in UCLA’s 36-30 win against Nebraska at the Rose Bowl last season. However, Papuchis and the Nebraska coaching staff have had 12 months to go over every second of the game film.
“Over the course of spring and summer preparations and this week, I’ve probably seen that game film 20 times,” Papuchis said. “We’ve studied it inside and out. We’ve studied how they tried to attack us, where we were vulnerable, where they exposed us in some areas and the things we did well. We’re just trying to fix a lot of the things that hurt us in that game and trying to make sure those things don’t creep back in this week.”
In the Bruins’ lone game this season, Hundley racked up 274 passing yards and two touchdowns, while adding two more scores on the ground to beat Nevada, 58-20. One key to their victory over the Wolf Pack was converting on nine third downs, the same amount that they converted against Nebraska a year ago. This season, the Huskers have given up only five third-down conversions in 24 tries, something that Coach Papuchis is proud of.
“I think we’ve done pretty well on third down,” Papuchis said. “I hate the idea of having to pressure every third down and be in man coverage all the time, because we can’t get a four-man rush. Our four-man rush the other night was good. It allowed us to play more coverage and force the ball out quickly, because we got some good pressure.”
A player who has shown his ability early on to put pressure on the quarterback is Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory. The sophomore transfer from Arizona Western Community College has five quarterback hurries in his first two games as a Husker. He joins another newcomer, freshman defensive tackle Maliek Collins, on a young defensive line that has promise to be a force for years to come. Papuchis explained what he thinks Collins will have to do to take the next step and see more snaps in the future.
“Maliek Collins has played well when he’s had his opportunities,” Papuchis said. “He knows that one of the things that’s going to get him on the field more often on Saturdays is his consistency during the week. He’s explosive and talented, but there are some things as a young guy that he has to clean up. As time goes on, I could see his role increasing.”
NU will face the UCLA Bruins on Saturday at 11 a.m. CT.