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August 28, 2008

Thursday notebook: Pelini prepping for opener

Less than two days from his first game as Nebraska's full-time head coach, Bo Pelini already has a pretty good idea of what his pre-game routine will be this weekend.

Tomorrow, Pelini said the Huskers would start the day as usual by watching film and then going through a walk-through session of Saturday's game plan. After that, they will have a team dinner and then head out for a movie. Pelini and his coaching staff will then return to the stadium for meetings to cap off the night.

On Thursday, Nebraska went through a shortened practice in jerseys and shorts. Though the practice was mostly based on mental reps, Pelini said he was pleased with his team's focus.

"There was great attention to detail," he said. "I liked what I saw from the guys. I think they're zeroed in and they're ready to go."

As for game day itself, Pelini said he wasn't worried about waiting around for the 6 p.m. kickoff on Saturday. In fact, he almost prefers it.

While at Louisiana State, almost every home game Pelini coached was a night game.

"It's easy for me," he said. "I've been doing it for a long time now. We played almost all night games at LSU, so I have a lot of experience doing that. I think it's good for us. It's something I've been a part of and I think I have a pretty good idea how to manage that."

Pelini also said he was anxious to see the atmosphere inside of Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Though he experienced it first hand as NU's defensive coordinator in 2003, Pelini said he's expecting fans to be even more excited for the start of the new season.

He did add that come kickoff, he probably wouldn't be paying much attention to the crowd, as he generally is too focused on the game to notice much else. Linebackers coach Mike Ekeler, who coached with Pelini at LSU and Oklahoma, said Pelini probably wouldn't notice if there were one fan or 80,000 once the game starts.

Even so, Pelini said he was eager to experience a Husker game day once again.

"If I remember, back in 2003, I imagine it's going to be pretty loud," he said. "It's the best fans in the United States. They're excited it, seems like. It's going to be a great atmosphere."

-Robin Washut

Thursday practice takes
Size advantage: What immediately stands out when you breakdown Western Michigan's defensive line vs. Nebraska's offensive line is the significant size advantage the Huskers have up front. Nebraska's line average 302 pounds across the board, while the Broncos weigh in at 261 pounds across their defensive line. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that Nebraska plans to run the ball quite a bit on Saturday night.
Freshman kicker:Western Michigan will come into Lincoln with a true freshman kicker in John Potter. In a tight game, a missed field goal or two could play big for momentum purposes. I hate to break the news to Potter, but kicking in Memorial Stadium is going to be a lot tougher than what he saw in high school
Injury update:Pelini said senior right tackle Lydon Murtha is expected to play after injuring his arm earlier this week. Murtha was held out of Thursday's practice, though Pelini said it was his decision and that Murtha wanted to practice. Other than that, Pelini said there were no major injury concerns heading into Saturday's game.
What's on tap next: Nebraska practiced for 90 minutes in helmets only inside Memorial Stadium on Thursday. The Huskers will come back for a short walk-thru practice on Friday afternoon.
Bronco playmakers have Pelini's eye

Western Michigan's offense will come into Lincoln with a trio of playmakers. Wide receiver Jamarko Simmons had 84 catches for 980 yards and six touchdowns in 2007, while tight end Branden Ledbetter had 38 catches for 550 yards and six touchdowns.

At running back, Brandon West has proven to be an all-purpose threat, rushing for 848 yards on 183 carries to go along with 45 receptions for 365 yards receiving.

Pelini said all three of these Bronco playmakers have opened his eyes when he breaks them down on film.

"They have a number of skilled guys," Pelini said. "They have some good receivers, their quarterback is a good player and obviously they have some running backs. They have some guys that when you put the ball in their hands they can cause you some problems. It's going to be a heck of a test for us."

-Sean Callahan

Watson to watch game from above

One face you won't see gracing the sideline on Saturday will be that of offensive coordinator Shawn Watson. That's because Watson has opted to call games from the coaches' booth in the press box this season.

"I really rather as a play caller be up in the box," Watson said. "You can see it up there. You can't see it on the field. You're taking an interpretation. I don't want to be in a position where I regret looking Sunday going, 'Aw jeez, if I'd known that picture was this…' So I'd rather it be my eyes. My eyes, my hands."

A potential problem with Watson not being on the sideline is that he won't be down on the field to work with senior quarterback Joe Ganz. However, Watson said he will still have plenty of interaction with Ganz from the box, and that he has entrusted the on-field coaching with Ganz to receivers coach Ted Gilmore.

More than anything, though, Watson said he's comfortable not being on the field because of Ganz's maturity and composure during games.

"Joe and I are on the same page," Watson said. "We've spent so much time together, we've got the same mind. And I've got a great coach down there with him in Ted Gilmore, who's been with me forever. We know each other inside and out. I don't bat an eye to that because of Ted and because of Joe."

-Robin Washut

Quick Hits

***In case you worried about his lack of presence during Nebraska's fall camp, fear not. Larry The Cable Guy was back at practice in full force. Donning a t-shirt that read, "If you mess with me, you mess with the whole trailer park!", Larry watched his beloved Huskers from the sidelines on Thursday.

He apparently even gave Pelini some advice heading into his head-coaching debut in Lincoln.

"He said 'Git-R-Done,'" Pelini laughed.



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