November 4, 2008

Tuesday notebook: Murillo ignoring criticism

After being torched by Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford last weekend for 311 yards and five touchdowns through the air, Nebraska's defensive backs took the majority of the heat for Nebraska's defensive performance.

While senior cornerback Armando Murillo is well aware that he and the rest of the Husker secondary played far from their best football against the Sooners, he said he and his teammates aren't listening to the outside criticism of their play.

"You can't listen to that stuff," Murillo said. "(People outside of the team) don't know what's going on, like what's in the play calling. They don't really know, so you can't pay attention to that stuff. That's just like me going to watch a ballet recital and being like, 'Oh this girl did amazing,' but the judges might not think that because they know what they're doing.

"If you don't know what's going on, you can't be the judge of that. You ain't no coach. If the coach says something, then it's a different story, because he knows what he's talking about it. I just don't pay attention to it."

Murillo said NU's secondary is using this week as a chance for a fresh start as they prepare to take on another high-powered passing attack in the Kansas Jayhawks this weekend.

He said the mistakes the Huskers made against Oklahoma were many of the same ones they've been making all season. While he was obviously frustrated that they're still making those mistakes - which include not reading receiver routes and zone assignments correctly and looking in at the quarterback instead of the receiver - Murillo said he was confident the secondary would correct them by the end of the season.

Murillo said the Huskers not only want to prevent a repeat of last week, they especially don't want a repeat of last year's game against Kansas, when the Jayhawks put up 76 points and 354 yards passing.

"I just remember it starting off as a pretty good game, and then after that, when they started to score, it just happened fast," Murillo said. "It was a good game, and then just out of nowhere it was like we couldn't do anything to get our momentum back. It just started snowballing, and we couldn't get it back. That's all I remember.

"When you get in any situation like that, you've got to try to get a big play. Something to just get the momentum back anyway you can. But sometimes it don't happen, and that snowball keeps rolling."

-Robin Washut

Tuesday practice takes
KU running game a threat: Because of all the emphasis opponents have put on stopping Kansas' passing game, NU defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said the Jayhawks' running game has been overlooked this season. Behind junior Jake Sharp, the Jayhawks have rushed for an average of 146.6 yards per game. Sharp, a three-time Kasas state long-jump champion in high school, leads the way 647 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground this season. "He's good," Pelini said. "He'll find your mistakes if you make them."
A lesson in ball security: Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said sophomore running back Quentin Castille has been carrying around a football throughout the Huskers' practices and everywhere else he goes around campus to help improve his ball security. Castille has two fumbles in his past two games, including a costly one at the goal line last week against Oklahoma.
Injury update: Junior linebacker Phillip Dillard and senior offensive lineman Lydon Murtha sat out of Tuesday's practice with injuries. Junior safety Matt O'Hanlon practiced, but wore a precautionary green no-contact jersey. Senior running back Marlon Lucky fully participated in the practice.
What's on tap next: The Nebraska football team conducted a 90-minute practice in half-pads inside Memorial Stadium on Tuesday. NU returns with another 90-minute practice in full pads on Wednesday.

Hickman frustrated with mistakes

Senior center Jacob Hickman knows full well that the same mistakes continue to plague Nebraska's offense, he just doesn't know exactly what they are and why they're happening.

And that's what frustrates him the most.

Whether it's missed blocks, turnovers or crucial penalties, Hickman said the fact that the Huskers haven't been able to clean up their mistakes heading into the 10th week of the season has been one of the most discouraging aspects of the season.

So far, Nebraska has committed 18 turnovers (10 fumbles, 8 interceptions) and has averaged eight penalties for 68.7 yards per game.

"You can't make the same mistakes, but that's kind of been the theme of the season," Hickman said. "It's one of those things that if I knew why they're happening, it'd probably be a lot easier to avoid them. It's part of the game, anytime you're going to have mistakes. It's just unfortunate that ours tend to be kind of severe. I guess that's just the way the chips fall sometimes. You've got to roll with it, and we've just got to do a better job of responding to them when they happen."

Hickman said if the Huskers could figure out why they continue to make the same costly mistakes every game, their record on the year would likely be much better than 5-4. This being his senior season, the fact that NU has been its own worst enemy has been the disappointing thing of all.

"When you want to win a game and those things hold you back, it does frustrate you," he said. I know it's frustrating for me, but it's frustrating for everyone. I know I make mistakes, and I get frustrated with myself more than anybody else.

You can't sit there and point fingers because, you know, 'Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.' Nobody's throwing any stones at all. You've got to reflect on yourself first. I know I need to fix a lot of things, and if I get those fixed that's one less thing we've got to worry about."

-Robin Washut

Wortman has career day in terrible loss

Following a game in which senior linebacker Tyler Wortman should have been celebrating the best performance of his collegiate career, he instead spent most of his interview session Tuesday focusing on the negatives from Nebraska's loss to Oklahoma.

Starting his first game of the season in place of injured MIKE linebacker Phillip Dillard, Wortman finished second on the team with 10 tackles and three tackles for loss.

Though obviously upset with the Huskers' performance as a team on Saturday, the Grand Island native said he was still somewhat pleased with his individual performance, especially since he'd been expecting games like this to be happening all season.

Because of the spread offenses the Huskers have faced this year, Wortman was often times the odd man out in NU's nickel and dime packages, which use only two or one linebacker in favor of more defensive backs.

"It was really gratifying," Wortman said. "It was something that I'd been expecting to do from the beginning of the season, and because of the different types of offenses we've faced and hadn't been able to. Just the role that I took helped me be in positions where I was able to make a lot of plays and play really well."

As the Huskers prepare for Kansas this week, Wortman said he expects his role to remain the same until Dillard gets healthy enough to return to practice. However, he said he expects NU to again use more nickel and dime packages to counter the Jayhawks' potent passing attack.

-Robin Washut

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