Nebraska’s defensive eye is everything.
Eye training was essential in Nebraska’s 38-17 victory over the Hawks on Saturday against a North Dakota team known for trick play and various offensive concepts.
It wasn’t always easy for NU’s defenders to get the right read, move, or keep an eye on people, but they often did it.
Nebraska coach Scott Frost said, “Our kids did a great job of keeping an eye on it, being disciplined and not giving up on one of those things (the big play), so it’s a lot of gadgets and things.” you wouldn’t have noticed.
That is, except for North Dakota’s second quarter touchdown drive. The Hawks ran 16 plays in a seven-minute touchdown march. This includes two misdirection plays that upset NU’s linebackers and secondary.
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“It was a little difficult at first, but after the touchdown my eyes were right back in the same spot,” said defensive back Tommi Hill. “The second half is over and that’s when we showed it.”
While most of North Dakota’s scoring came in the third quarter, Nebraska’s defensive fundamentals were improving steadily at the same time. In his room in the half-time locker, team captain Garrett his Nelson told his teammates not to panic and not to stick to the task. This was tested immediately.
Isaiah Smith’s 63-yard run gave North Dakota the chance to score first, but the NU defense held up with a crucial 3rd down stop and Marquez Buford’s perfectly timed pass breakup. The Nebraska defense had his six pass breaks the entire game, and the discipline in their eyes helped North Dakota’s Tommy Schuster not wreck his own big play. Schuster only averaged 5.5 yards on his one completion.
But it wasn’t until North Dakota tied the game at 17-17 that the Husker defense had an eye for a great finish to the game. In North Dakota’s final four drives of the game, the Nebraska defense kept their lead safe, running 17 plays and gaining just 55 yards.
“You know, it was business,” Nickel Isaac Gifford said. “We went out there and knew we were doing exactly what we were supposed to do. I had to stick to.
North Dakota held the ball for 12 more minutes than Nebraska, but the extra time didn’t amount to extra yards. Nebraska beat North Dakota 437-306, and the Hawks gained just 28 yards in the fourth quarter, but they desperately needed a comeback.
Its success was inspired by the same thing NU’s defensive coaches and leaders preach week after week: eye training. Getting the right reads, putting the opposing team in front of their defense, and not pursuing plays too much can go a long way throughout the season.
Those fundamentals led to victory on Saturday.
“Good defense, being an elite defense, doesn’t let those big plays happen,” Nelson said. Just give one or two, get the ball back, do your job and tell the players: new defenses, new players, different pieces, understanding how to play each other and together on the field. when you work.”