LINCOLN — Nebraska’s pass rush against Idaho State was pretty good Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
The Huskers, who had nine sacks in three games coming into the day, sacked Idaho State quarterbacks seven times — including 2.5 by defensive end Eric Martin — in a 73-7 victory over the Bengals.
It’t tempting to look at that statistic and think the Huskers had a great rush going. Idaho State coach Mike Kramer didn’t see it that way.
“It wasn’t so much the pressure, it was more the coverage,” Kramer said. “The coverage was outstanding. Nebraska did a good job squatting on our routes and driving on our slant passes, and slant passes are a big thing for us. When they’re able to play over the top of our shoulders like that and collide as the ball arrives, it’s tough to complete any slant passes.”
The Bengals’ quarterbacks combined to go 21-for-43 passing with two interceptions. Forty-three of the team’s 73 plays were passes.
“We knew they were going to throw the football a lot,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. “Our style is to get up into people’s face and play a lot of press and get our hands on receivers. That’s going to happen.
“You could see my reaction about how I felt about a couple of those (interference) calls, but that’s how we play. Yeah, you’re going to have to live with that some, but I’m not one who likes to see our guys playing off and not aggressive in the back end because you’re going to give up a lot of yards throwing if you play that way.”
The Huskers also picked off two Idaho State passes. Junior Ciante Evans returned one of those picks 29 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.
Nebraska secondary coach Terry Joseph said he’s seen huge improvement from Evans.
“He’s a guy who is really understanding what we want from that position and he was in position to make a big play and take it to the house and score,” Joseph said. “I preach to those guys, 90 percent of the time the team that wins the turnover battle is going to win the game and if we can score on defense, that only adds to it.
“It was a big play for him and I was happy he got it because he’s worked his tail off since I got here.”
Sophomore cornerback Josh Mitchell also made a big play with an interception that halted an Idaho State drive.
The lopsided score allowed the Huskers to play just about every defensive back that was dressed to play, including freshman Charles Jackson.
“The score starts to go that way you can get a lot of guys reps,” Joseph said. “Charles Jackson got a lot of reps. Stanley (Jean-Baptiste) got to play deep into a game, and then you get some of those back-up safeties in there and it just gives us more ammo for later in the season. When you get into Big Ten play, you have to know you’re going to lose some guys so you have to have them ready to go.”
Joseph saw things as a coach that he’d like to get cleaned up, but he was happy to see the Huskers play so many players and only give up one big play late in the game.
And getting three turnovers is always a plus for a defense.
“To get three takeaways, I think we’re moving in the right direction.” Joseph said. “The guys have to understand that mistakes will have bigger consequences as we move into playing teams in our conference.”
Defensive coordinator John Papuchis has seen some good things from the backfield, including safeties Daimion Stafford and P.J. Smith.
“I think we’re playing better,” Papuchis said. “Daimion and P.J. are playing well at safety. Josh Mitchell and Andrew Green, those guys are playing solid. We’ll have a much better test next week, but I like where they’re at right now.”
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