Nebraska went on the road last week for its first test of the season.
The Huskers passed that test with a 56-21 victory at Washington. Now they return home on Saturday for a different kind of test.
Can the Nos. 6-and 7-rated Huskers (3-0) keep their focus against South Dakota State, a Football Championship Series team that is 0-2 on the season?
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said that is a concern heading into Saturday’s game.
“Human nature is part of it, but we ask our guys to overcome human nature and push them along,” he said. “It’s always going to be a factor, but as a coaching staff and a coach you have to work and do something to help them overcome that, constantly talk to them about it, challenge them, and do different things to enable your team to move forward, so you don’t make a dip in the road.”
There is a history of FCS (formerly Division 1-AA) teams beating FBS (Football Bowl Series) teams.
Last year, on the same weekend, William & Mary downed Virginia, Richmond beat Duke and Villanova defeated Temple.
Then there is the biggest FCS upset ever. That came in 2007 when Appalachian State knocked off fifth-rated Michigan 34-32 in the Big House in Ann Arbor.
Of course Appalachian State had won two straight 1-AA national titles. The Jackrabbits, who didn’t score a touchdown in the first seven quarters of the season, are not really in the same category.
Pelini expects to see a great effort from the Jackrabbits on Saturday.
“Those kids are out to prove that they belong in a I-A program,” Pelini said. “You have to have respect for the game. I watch it every day at practice. You see guys that aren’t on the first and second team that are running scout team that make plays day after day against your starters.
“They challenge them every single day. You have to be ready to play. You have to have respect for the game of football to be at your best every single time you walk out there, or it will creep up and bite you.”
The Huskers will focus more on themselves than on their opponent this week, but that’s just the standard mode of operation for Pelini. The Huskers will treat this game the same as any other.
Pelini saw just that kind of attitude in practice early this week.
“We take the philosophy that we have to get ourselves better as a football team every day,” he said. “You have to challenge them in practice. You have to challenge them with game plans, with really execution and getting better every day.”
The Jacks are a team trying to gain some offensive consistency. Kyle Minett leads them in rushing with 155 yards in two games while quarterback Thomas O’Brien is 47-for-87 with one TD pass and five interceptions.
South Dakota State’s defense has given up 224 yards rushing and another 157 passing per game.
Pelini said the Jacks are fairly multiple on both sides of the ball.
“I think they are a well-coached football team,” Pelini said. “They play hard. They are a pretty physical football team. I think there are some things that they do well that we’re going to have to work hard at taking away.”
There might be some temptation to protect some of the top-line Husker players, particularly quarterback Taylor Martinez. Pelini said that’s not the way the coaching staff does things, and the NU players understand that you have to respect the game.
“If you start worrying about that, I think that’s when injuries happen,” he said. “You have to go play football, and we need to take a step and get better as a football team this week. That’s really our only concern.”
Nebraska receiver Brandon Kinnie said the Huskers just want to play football.
“I like to play football regardless of who we play. I think our team feels the same way,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who it is. I go through the same routine, do the same stuff and have the same mind set.”
Blackshirts handed out by Pelini
The Nebraska football team practiced for just less than two hours Thursday inside the Hawks Championship Center and on the Ed and Joyanne Gass Practice Fields as the Huskers finish up preparations for South Dakota State on Saturday. After practice, Head Coach Bo Pelini addressed the media and announced that 12 Blackshirts were awarded to Nebraska’s first-string defenders.
“It is a tradition and it is one that I believe in,” Pelini said. “You pick the time that you think is right.”
Pelini commented that he has been pleased with the attention by the players and the tempo throughout this week of practice.
“It was good,” Pelini said. “I thought the attention to detail was pretty good. We still have a few things to clean up, but I thought it was a good practice.”
Pelini has seen good things out of senior safety Ricky Thenarse. After sitting out last year due to injury, Thenarse has played a key role in NU’s secondary so far in 2010, and was among the defenders sporting black on Thursday.
“I think he has played well,” Pelini said. “I think he still has to work on some consistency at times. He has to make sure he doesn’t have any mental lapses. I think he has come a long way. Having sat out the whole year last year and came back, I think he has come back strong and I think he is playing some good football but I think the best is still ahead of him.”
Pelini also noted the improved blocking by Nebraska’s wide receiver corps, highlighted by the recent efforts of Brandon Kinnie.
“I think they‘re doing well,” Pelini said. “Big plays in the run game don’t happen if you’re not blocking down the field. You look at Roy’s touchdown the other day, BK (Brandon Kinnie) did a heck of a job on the corner and helped spring Roy. A lot of that is about effort. Obviously technique plays a part of it, but getting down, not being lazy and making sure you find people down the field. They’ve done a good job of it.”
The Huskers and Jackrabbits are scheduled to kick off on Saturday at 6 p.m. inside Memorial Stadium. The game is available through FSN-PPV.
Tickets available for K-State game
The Nebraska Athletic Ticket Office has announced that it has approximately 150 tickets remaining for sale for Nebraska’s Oct. 7 Big 12 opener at Kansas State. The tickets are $75 each and can be purchased in person at the Nebraska Athletic Ticket Office (Stadium Drive Parking Garage) or by calling 1-800-8-BIG RED.