Allowing just over 400 yards and 30 points per game, Nebraska’s defense remains a work in progress under first-year defensive coordinator Bob Diaco.
The former Iowa player expects those numbers to improve when the Cornhuskers’ tackling improves, which is also a work in progress.
Diaco said he found the deficiencies in the tackling skills of Nebraska's players to be "alarming," when he arrived on campus last spring.
The Cornhuskers shifted to rugby-style tackling techniques a year ago in hopes of reducing helmet-to-helmet collisions, techniques that changed following Diaco’s arrival in Lincoln last spring.
"I had no idea until we went to our tackling drill in the first full practice of spring football and found players were spectacularly frustrated during the drill because they’re willing and talented enough to tackle, they’re tough enough to tackle, but they didn’t fundamentally know anymore how to tackle at all," Diaco told the Lincoln Journal-Star.
That resulted in a renewed focus on the fundamentals of tackling as part of a transition taking place within the Cornhuskers program, although the results haven’t translated into on-field success just yet as Nebraska moves from a 4-3 defensive alignment to a 3-4 look.
"It’s a year-long process and a years-long process to get the defense built back to being great," Diaco said.
That starts with tackling.
"We've been working on that one thing," Diaco said. "It's been present in every single day in every practice."
Working overtime: Northwestern’s 31-24 win at Nebraska last weekend was the Wildcats’ third straight overtime victory, a first for any program at the Football Bowl Subdivision level.
Clayton Thorson’s score on a fourth-and-one play was the difference, allowing Northwestern to add to its collection of overtime wins that started with a 17-10 win over Iowa and was followed by a triple-overtime victory over Michigan State.
"I think our guys have some confidence now in close games," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "I could see the look in their eyes in overtime that we were going to win the game."
Purdue moves on: The football will be in Elijah Sindelar’s hands for the rest of the season for Purdue.
A four-game starter, Sindelar moved to the top of the depth chart after David Blough suffered a dislocated ankle that will sideline him for at least the next six months in last week’s win over Illinois.
"Elijah has worked hard to get better at doing the things we need him to do as far as decision making and touch on his ball as he runs our offense," coach Jeff Brohm said. "He’s ready for this."
Blough, who had started the Boilermakers’ last two games, underwent surgery Tuesday and likely won’t return to the field until June.
The 6-foot-4 Sindelar has completed 53.3 percent of his passes for 939 yards this season, throwing seven touchdowns and five interceptions. He brings a strong arm and tends to maintain more of a pocket presence than Blough.
Last-second decision: Penn State coach James Franklin found himself with a teaching moment after Michigan State kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired Saturday, handing the Nittany Lions their second straight loss.
Franklin spotted Penn State’s Koa Farmer walking off the field right after the kick, and he chased the player down, telling him to get back on the field and shake hands with Michigan State players.
The Nittany Lions’ coach described Farmer as "an awesome, awesome young man," who made a poor decision.
The pair talked on Sunday, and Franklin said he hopes everyone in his program learned a lesson in sportsmanship.
"What was going to happen, that’s not what we’re about," he said.
Rutgers is rolling: A win at Illinois did more than end a 16-game Big Ten losing streak for Rutgers. It allowed second-year coach Chris Ash’s team to turn a corner.
The Scarlet Knights have won three of their last four games, and at 4-5, Ash believes things are headed in the right direction.
"It is exciting to think about what we can build here in this area," Ash said. "It’s loaded with recruits and an outstanding fan base. I think we can create an environment that is loud and makes a difference."