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September 8, 2009

Pelini calls Husker effort against FAU 'soft'

If you were to just look at the scoreboard on Saturday night, most people would give Nebraska passing grades for their 49-3 victory over Florida Atlantic.

Press Conference takes
Watch the late hits: When the head of Big 12 officiating Walt Anderson met with the media in Dallas this past July, he let us know how much bigger of an emphasize college football will be putting on late hits to the quarterback. In Saturday's 49-3 victory over Florida Atlantic, NU was flagged once for a late hit to quarterback Rusty Smith that negated an interception by senior safety Matt O'Hanlon. Across the country it also became obvious it was being called much more than normal. NU head coach Bo Pelini said on Tuesday it's something that has team has definitely become more aware of and a rule like this really can change a game.
Three is better than two: Sophomore wide receiver Brandon Kinnie is not your typical junior college player. Unlike most JUCO recruits, Kinnie has three years of eligibility instead of two because he redshirted one season at Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College. When Kinnie looks at the decision for him to redshirt at Fort Scott, he admits at the time when the staff there decided to redshirt him he wasn't happy about the decision, but now he realizes how valuable it was. "I'm kind of glad that I got that and thankful for that," Kinnie said. "Now that I'm sitting here watching guys play, I don't know the offense as well, so I'm kind of sitting back and if I was a junior I'd really be upset because I'd only have a year left to play now, vs. I have two left to play and I'll know I'll have a year in the offense and I'll have the offense down."
River Ridge connection: Redshirt freshman safety P.J. Smith comes from one of the better high school football programs in the country. Smith played for River Ridge (La.) John Curtis High School just outside New Orleans. One of Smith's teammates in high school was USC starting running back Joe McKnight. Smith said on Tuesday that he does his best to keep in touch with McKnight as much as he can. "He had 14 carries for like 140 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday," Smith said. "I'm going to call him up today and check in with him. Joe, that's my boy." On Tuesday NU also got another commit from John Curtis High School in defensive end Walker Ashburn.
Situational time for Green?: On Tuesday Pelini was asked an interesting question regarding freshman quarterback Cody Green and possibly using him in more situational roles throughout the season. This theory makes some sense, but I don't think the NU staff is ready to make a decision like this, mainly because they have quite a bit of confidence in junior quarterback Zac Lee.
However, if you were to talk to NU head coach Bo Pelini it would be a much different story. What stood out to Pelini about the Huskers win over the Owls was first and foremost the amount of yards the Husker defense gave up. Despite holding FAU to just 3 points, the Owls still managed to rack up 358 yards on the Nebraska defense.

Pelini called the Huskers defensive effort "soft" and he said in order to compete with teams like Virginia Tech and Missouri in the near future, their play has to get better.

"I wasn't happy with how physical we played as a football team," Pelini said during his Tuesday press conference. "I don't think we played as physical as we need to play in any regards. Front to back. I thought at times you saw some good hits and some physical play, but overall, man-to-man 11 guys playing it I thought we played soft at times. That's an area we have to get fixed."

Particularly, Pelini said he wasn't happy about the missed opportunities NU didn't capitalize on defensively.

The Huskers managed to force three turnovers, but Pelini said there should've been more than that.

"I said going into the game we have to take advantage of the opportunities," Pelini said. "They don't come all the time. You have to take advantage when you get them and we let some slip through our fingers.

"That's a big area of emphasis for us and one that we have to take advantage of the opportunities."

When senior defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh heard Pelini call the defense's play soft on Saturday, he obviously didn't like hearing it, but he doesn't take personal either.

"It's kind of a catch 22," Suh said. "It looks good on paper, but if you go back and look at the film it wasn't as great as it looked.

"It stings, but I know what he means behind it. It's not necessarily somebody off the street or like you guys saying it."

The biggest area Pelini would like to see improved this week against Arkansas State is NU's overall pad level.

"We played too high," Pelini said. "Like on defense we played too high at times. We didn't play the way we've been practicing. We weren't coming off the football all the time. A little bit is the style of offense they played is a little bit different.

"We didn't play with great technique. We didn't attack blocks, we didn't attack blockers and we didn't come off the ball on offense with the type of tempo we need to. We weren't as crisp or sound or as physical as we need to be in a lot of regards.

Pelini did say that that even though he wasn't happy with some areas of Saturday's performance, this team has still come a long ways defensively in the last year.

But like always, Pelini still wants to see more from his football team.

"I think we are ahead of where we were last year, because we had light years to go last year," Pelini said. "Now, instead of maybe two galaxies maybe just one galaxy. We might be in the same solar system now (of where he wants to be)."

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