September 25, 2008

Thursday notebook: Pelini keeping Huskers focused

With just one more practice before Nebraska's biggest game of the season, head coach Bo Pelini is doing his best to make sure his team approaches Saturday's contest against Virginia Tech no differently than they have the first three weeks.


A primetime match up on ESPN, the Huskers will finally get their chance to play under the national spotlight for the first time under Pelini. But rather than treat the game as a season-defining showdown - which some might argue it is - Pelini is stressing the idea that it's just another game.


"It doesn't matter if you're playing in the back yard, you gotta take the same approach," Pelini said. "We try and tell them you're going to practice the way you're going to play. We put them through difficult situations in practice and stressful situations in practice so they can react the right way on Saturday.


"It's not about the crowd, it's not about the atmosphere, it's about once you go out there as a player you need to focus in on doing your job and playing with a great effort and intensity and being a physical football player. If we do that we'll be OK."


As much as he may try to downplay it, Saturday's game undoubtedly carries a bit more importance in the grand scheme of things than the Huskers' first three victories. Not only can it be a potentially huge stepping stone in building Nebraska back to national prominence, the Huskers will also have as many as eight recruits making official visits for the game.


As of Thursday, HuskersIllustrated.com has seven confirmed visitors in quarterback Cody Green, linebacker Keenan Graham, defensive tackle Corey Adams, defensive back Daytawion Lowe, running back David Oku, defensive tackle Thaddeus Randel and defensive back Alex Logan.


Pelini said having such a relatively large visitor list this weekend would benefit from the big game atmosphere expected on Saturday night.


"This atmosphere in this stadium is always good," Pelini said. "A night game will probably help a little bit. You get a little more time with them during the day. I'm hoping it's a pretty good atmosphere. It seems like people are excited for the game."


While there is plenty to worry about heading into Saturday night's contest, Pelini seems to be keep his and his team's emotions in check. Pelini said he was excited to see how the Huskers perform in their first major test, and if they play the way they've been in practice the past two weeks, he said everything should come out fine.


"I don't worry about the psyche," Pelini said. "That takes care of itself. We go day by day. Focus on ourselves and getting better and let the chips fall where they may. If we take care of our business and we prepare the right way and play with the effort and discipline necessary, then you're going to get good results."


So, does Pelini have any concerns at all about the Huskers or Virginia Tech? Well, there is one thing.


"Getting more points than they have. That's all that concerns me," he said. "I mean, is there anything in particular? Yeah. You know, there's always concerns. They're a good football team. They're well coached, they're physical. But I don't concern ourselves with them as much as I concern ourselves with how we play. What we do, us executing our game plan. If we do that, then we'll be OK."


-Robin Washut





Thursday's Practice Takes
Tech AD returns to Lincoln: Saturday will be Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer's first trip to Lincoln, but it will be the second time Tech Athletic Director Mike Weaver has been involved in a game at Memorial Stadium. Weaver was the offensive coordinator at Iowa State in 1973-Tom Osborne's first year as a head coach at Nebraska. NU beat ISU 31-7 that day in Lincoln. Saturday's visit to Memorial Stadium will be Weaver's first since that game.
Tech lacks long drives: To put Virginia Tech's offensive struggles through four games in perspective, the Hokies have had a total of nine scoring drives that have led to touchdowns. Of those nine drives, five have been 43 yards or shorter. Explosive plays have not been easy to come by for this young Tech offense that features a travel squad made up of 34 freshmen and sophomores out of their 70 total dressed players.
Injury report: Senior fullback Thomas Lawson appears to be the only player that will not play in Saturday's Tech game. Lawson had his appendix removed the week of the New Mexico State game and continues to recover from the injury. Defensive end Pierre Allen (foot), safety Rickey Thenarse (shoulder) and cornerback Anthony West (stinger) all practiced this week and should be ready to go for Saturday's game against the Hokies.
What's on tap next: The Nebraska football team held a 90 minute helmets only practice inside Memorial Stadium on Thursday. The Huskers will come back a short walk-thru practice on Friday afternoon to wrap up preparations for the Hokies.< td>



NU's size jumps out at Beamer


When veteran Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer looks up and down Nebraska's depth chart, one of the biggest things that jumps out to him is the physical size of the Huskers.


Beamer said it's hard to find a team anywhere in the country that is bigger than Nebraska.


"They have big guys that are strong, physical and tough," Beamer said on his weekly teleconference. "They've got of course a new staff, but they have 12 seniors that have been in that program and five more juniors that start. 17 of the 22 players have been there for awhile. I'm serious they are a big football team, their defensive end is 6-foot-7, their receivers are 6-foot-4 or five."


Beamer said he's also been very impressed with what he's seen from senior Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz on film. He said it's easy to see why Pelini and his staff are so high on what Ganz has accomplished through three games.


"Ganz is a good quarterback that is very, very accurate throwing the football," Beamer said. "He is athletic enough to run the speed option, he does that naked pass action and so forth. I know they like this kid. He is really, really accurate throwing the football."


-Sean Callahan


Quick hits


***Pelini finally reveled who has been playing as Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor on the scout team this week in practice, and no, it hasn't been Pelini. Freshman Kody Spano has been doing his best to emulate the versatile Taylor, and Pelini said he's given the Huskers a decent idea of what to expect on Saturday.


"(Taylor) is a hard guy to give that exact look, but Kody's pretty athletic," Pelini said. "I thought we had a good luck from the scout team."


***Pelini said junior safety Rickey Thenarse would likely see the field against the Hokies, as he was finally able to return to practice this week after missing the past three weeks with a shoulder injury.


"Rickey's practiced well," he said. "We'll see how the game goes. But I'm sure we'll see a little bit of Rickey out there."


***Pelini said he hasn't decided on who the captains would be for the game, but that they would know by Friday.


***Sophomore defensive Pierre Allen is slated to start after leaving the New Mexico State game in the first quarter with a foot injury.

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