November 3, 2009

Tuesday notebook: Green gets passing grade

It wasn't the greatest debut ever, but all in all, Cody Green will take it.

In his first collegiate start, Nebraska's freshman quarterback helped lead the Huskers to a 20-10 win over Baylor on the road and snap a two-game losing streak. His numbers were pedestrian at best (12-of-21, 128 yards and an interception), but his performance was enough to give NU the victory, which at this point in the season takes priority over all else.

On Tuesday, Green and offensive coordinator Shawn Watson both agreed that the Dayton, Texas, native still had plenty to work on, but Green was a much harsher critic than his coach.

"(I was) a little harsh on myself," Green said. "It was just me and Ben Cotton watching it together. I think if you ask him, I was a little harsh on myself. I was out there going, 'Oh man, I really don't want to watch this play, but all right, let's watch it.' It actually wasn't that bad sitting there with (Watson) on Monday. He reassured me that, yeah, I did a really good job, but still made some mistakes. But he can understand that."

Watson said Green still has a long way to go before he fully takes control of the offense, but that Saturday's win was a nice starting point to build off of for the rest of the season.

"He has a lot to learn," Watson said. "There's a lot of things. You know, the first time you walk out onto the field it's obviously different than practice. You can't simulate a game. He had a valuable learning experience in that game… He had a good performance. He had some errors and some things he's obviously going to have to work through, but that was to be expected. We knew that. We just have to keep working with him."

"It's a place to start for him. There's a lot of things he's got to continue to improve on, so it's a starting point. That's how I'm referring to it."

Despite leading Nebraska to a win, Watson would not come out and name Green as the starter for this week's showdown with Oklahoma. Watson said it would once again be based on who had the best week of practice between Green and junior Zac Lee.

However, Watson did not rule out the chance of using both quarterbacks either in a two-quarterback system or even having both Green and Lee on the field at the same time.

"That's definitely not outside the realm of possibility," Watson said. "We'll see how this week goes in practice and what our best combination would be, and if that's one, we would consider that."

As for Green, even though he was harder on himself than anyone, he said he felt he played well enough in his debut to get the starting job against the Sooners.

"It was a W," Green said. "Still, I made some mistakes, of course the interception and the fumble. Those two turnovers were costly and could've turned the game around. Thankfully we have the defense that's just being a beast of a defense right now. Those Blackshirts are really showing out right now."

Tuesday practice takes
No fast starts: Nebraska's chances of getting an early lead against Oklahoma might not be too promising, as the Sooners have yet to allow a single point during the first quarter of the their past 10 games. During that span, OU has outscored its opponents 79-0 in the first quarter. Considering how last year's game went, these numbers certainly don't bode well for the Huskers heading into this weekend's showdown.
Crick getting star treatment: In the wake of his record-breaking performance against Baylor last week, sophomore defensive tackle Jared Crick has been the center of attention for both national and local media the past two days. For a kid from Cozad, Neb., all the attention has been a bit overwhelming, but Crick has taken it all in stride. "It's an honor, no doubt, but it's awkward," Crick said. "All of us up front really did a great job, and just to single out one person for this award, it's awkward for me. I'm honored, don't get me wrong, but four of us deserved it up front."
Injury update: Redshirt freshman tight end Kyler Reed missed his second straight practice on Tuesday with a knee injury. Also, redshirt freshman linebacker Micah Kreikemeier was seen leaving practice out of pads and on crutches. Sophomore cornerback Alfonzo Dennard practiced in a green no-contact jersey as well.
What's on tap next: The Nebraska football team conducted a two-hour full-padded practice on the grass fields North of Memorial Stadium and inside the Hawks indoor facility on Tuesday. NU is scheduled to come back on Wednesday for another two-hour full padded practice.

Watson to remain on the sidelines

After coming down from the coaches' box to the sideline for the first time this season to work directly with Green on Saturday, Watson said he would continue to coach from the sideline at least for the next few weeks.

Watson said he felt it was more important than anything to be able to talk with Green face-to-face and help him better understand what's happening on the field. Receivers coach Ted Gilmore will continue to coach from the press box in Watson's place along with running backs coach Tim Beck.

"I want to be able to help the quarterback and be down there to help the unit," Watson said. "We are playing a lot of younger guys. I have a responsibility to be down there and help them… I think it's important. That's why I'm down there. He's got to learn how to manage and stay poised. That's the big thing for any quarterback, is learning how to manage situational football."

"It's always good to be down there. I like to be the eye of the hurricane. With all these things going around him, just being the steady hand and help him through."

Green said having Watson down on the sideline was very helpful in allowing him to better recognize defensive schemes and just have someone to go to when he needed help.

"It helped tremendously," Green said. "It's kind of like having a father figure. Instead of him being in the press box where I can't see him, I can just go straight to him on the sidelines and ask him directly, what did I do wrong or what was the read I should've made, or what does he think the defense is doing because I can't see on the field, because he can see it. It just helped out tremendously."

Huskers looking to make up for last year's blowout loss to OU

Last season's trip to Norman, Okla., was definitely one to forget for the Huskers.

After giving up 35-unanswered points in the first quarter, Nebraska limped away with a 62-28 loss in what was one of the most one-sided defeats in recent Husker memory.

However, revenge won't be the main motivation for NU when the Sooners come to Lincoln on Saturday. Instead, the Huskers just want to show that they can match-up and compete with Oklahoma.

"Yeah, anytime that happens, forget the first quarter, how about the four quarters?" head coach Bo Pelini said. "They took it to us. Is it something to prove? No, what are you going to prove? They proved what happened last year. This is a different year. It's another opportunity and we need to play better."

For the players who were on the field for last year's game, the biggest task has been trying to completely block out the loss and have confidence that they could hang with the Sooners this time around.

"We made a lot of mistakes and they made the most of them," senior defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. "We definitely want to limit those and eliminate them, if at all possible. Last year's game was last year's game. We have a different team in a sense, not necessarily different schemes, but different than that situation. Hopefully we don't put ourselves in a hole."

Quick hits

***Pelini did not rule out the chance of freshman running back Rex Burkhead making back into Nebraska's lineup by the end of the regular season, as his broken foot has healed well the past few weeks.

"Maybe for the last game of the year (against Colorado)," Pelini said. "In that time frame. Obviously, for sure for the bowl game."

***Watson said he's preparing the offense for a type of game this weekend that would resemble more of an NFL game than a college football showdown. Because of Nebraska and Oklahoma's exceptional play on defense this season, points will likely come at a premium for both teams.

"This will be a game like an NFL game," Watson said. "It will be a physical, hard-knocking football game. It's one of those games where it's important to win on normal downs. We've got to do a great job and win on normal downs and stay in a manageable third-down situation."

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