LINCOLN — There is no question that turnovers have been a problem for the Nebraska football team this year.
The Huskers have lost 10 fumbles while recovering four. NU quarterbacks have thrown five interceptions and the Nebraska defense has picked off three passes.
That leaves the Huskers at a minus 8 for turnovers this season. That’s last in the Big Ten in that category and 104th nationally.
“It’s an area we focus on and talk about,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. “Obviously we’ve got to protect the ball better and we’ve got to take advantage of our opportunities when we get the opportunity to get the ball out. That comes from execution.”
The Huskers had three intercpetions and lost a fumble in their last game, a 63-38 loss at Ohio State. They had six fumbles but lost just two the game before in a victory over Wisconsin.
“I feel like we should just focus on doing your job and taking care of yourself,” I-back Ameer Abdullah said. “A lot of times we find ourselves trying to do too much and that’s when you get interceptions, fumbles, false starts. We just have to focus on each play one at a time instead of just trying to make the big play every play.”
Ball security was a focus for the Huskers throughout the bye week.
“We focused on ball security, consistency and just techniques,” Abdullah said. “A lot of times we get out of our techniques and that’s when we get those fumbles, false starts and have a breakdown mentally.”
The Huskers are hoping to cut down on those mistakes and turnovers when they start the second half of the season Saturday at Northwestern.
“We’re not very pleased with the turnovers,” Abdullah said. “We turned the ball over a lot in the first six games. One thing we’ve done pretty well is we haven’t given up when we’re down and when we’re ahead we’re always playing hard.”
Rex Burkhead was back at practice Monday after injuring his knee in the third quarter against Ohio State.
Burkhead has 392 yards on 43 carries this year. Abdullah leads the Husker rushing attack with 527 yards on 86 carries.
Abdullah said none of the I-backs are concerned with how many carries they get.
“We play to win. Whatever’s necessary to win then that’s what we’re going to do,” he said. “We never focus on how we’ll split up carries or anything. We want whoever is in to be the most effective at the time.
“If it’s Rex at the time, then we need him in. If it is me at the time then I have to be ready to step up. We don’t really think about what we’re going to do to limit his knee or whatever. We’re trying to win out. That’s what it’s about right now.”
Pelini said he has confidence in all the backs to get the job done.
“As I said all along, I feel good about Ameer and I feel really good about Braylon (Heard) and also what Imani (Cross) can bring,” Pelini said. “Trust me when I tell you Rex is a special player. He means a lot to our football team.”
Kickoff return problems
Abdullah had 128 yards on eight kickoff returns against Ohio State. That seems pretty good af first glance, but when you look at it another way Abdullah was overwhelmed a couple of times by Ohio State tacklers.
That forced the Hsukers to start drives in extremely poor field position.
“I feel like we got beat physically,” Abdullah said. “Physically they beat us to the point of attack. The kicker was hanging it up there pretty high. They did various things. I feel like we just didn’t play tough enough. That’s something we really have to change this week. We can’t put our offense in on drives starting at the 6-yard line. That’s too hard.”
Abdullah doesn’t think that it’s a lack of toughness with the Husker blockers on kickoffs. He sees it in practice all the time.
“I know how tough we are and what we can bring to the field,” Abdullah said. “ I feel like some games we don’t bring that. When we do bring that, I feel like we’re a very tough team. I’m just hoping that everyone’s coming to compete this week in practice and really bring that toughness.”
Bob Hamar is sports editor for The Independent.