By Randy York
If you look at the latest NCAA offensive rankings, Nebraska hardly jumps off the page … 44th in third-down conversion percentage, 51st in total offense, and 90th in time-of-possession comparisons. But stats can be misleading because the Huskers are also 9th nationally in rushing (252.1 ypg), 22nd in scoring (35.9 ppg) and here’s something you just can’t find on a stat sheet – the Huskers are, well … they’re unique offensively, and that’s a definitive advantage in their first year in the Big Ten Conference. “We’re different than everybody we watch on film,” Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck told 400 fans Wednesday at the monthly Husker Athletic Fund Luncheon at Lincoln’s Downtown Embassy Suites. The Huskers are also younger than most any other Big Ten offense with only five seniors among their top 25 players on the depth chart – wide receiver Brandon Kinnie, left tackle Jermarcus Hardrick, center Mike Caputo, right tackle Marcel Jones and fullback Tyler Legate. Jones introduced Beck at Wednesday’s luncheon, and his offensive coordinator feigned surprise, saying the first two years he knew Jones, he was so quiet and laid back, “I didn’t even know he spoke,” Beck quipped.
Beck explained Nebraska’s consistency after the Huskers put together their most complete game of the season, offensively, defensively and on special teams in a 24-3 win over Michigan State last Saturday. “As we’ve gone through the conference, we’ve obviously learned a lot from some of these teams in terms of what they do,” Beck said, adding that he’s proud of “what we’ve done offensively in staying the course and continuing to play physical and just hanging in there and doing what we do … sometimes setting teams up for the second half and trying to do something different for every team that we play.”
Being different to watch on film gives Nebraska a built-in advantage. “There’s a certain amount for us as coaches to prepare,” Beck said. “I don’t want to use the word guessing, but there’s a certain amount of how they’re going to try to stop you. Not a lot of teams, for example, run the option. So anytime we go into the game, it’s new (for opposing defenses).” Using a vast array of different offensive looks makes the Huskers harder to prepare for. “But to really know how they’re going to play us, we won’t know until we do it,” Beck said. “So it’s kind of one of those things that people say they wish we would start a little bit faster, but sometimes it’s a feeling out process to see what they’re doing, how they’re doing it and how we’re going to be able to attack them.”
The last few games, the Blackshirts have played so well that Nebraska has been positioned “to set ‘em up and be able to wear ‘em down, and I think our tempo has helped us … make some plays later on and convert when we need those conversions.” Beck hopes Nebraska’s defensive mastery continues because in Northwestern, the Huskers will be facing a team that reminds Beck of what his own offense does. “You can tell they’re playing for their coach,” Beck said. “They’re going to play hard. They have a bunch of overachievers, hard-working guys … blue-collar guys. They run the football. They’re smart. They do some unique things in certain situations, so we have to come to play. They’re going to be a good challenge, just like it is every week in the Big Ten.” Beck also told Nebraska donors and fans that he’s thought all along that the Huskers “could be a very, very good football team. But we have to play well. We can’t take plays off. We have to play one quarter at a time and one game at a time.”
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