Husker notes: Mario Verduzco gets ’emotional’ thinking about Noah Vedral’s touchdown

Husker notes: Mario Verduzco gets ’emotional’ thinking about Noah Vedral’s touchdown
Noah Vedral got to knock some rust off last weekend when he played against Bethune-Cookman. It was his first game action since last season when he was UCF's backup quarterback. (CHRIS MACHIAN/THE WORLD-HERALD)

LINCOLN — Nebraska quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco said there was a plan for all the Husker quarterbacks to get snaps in NU’s win over Bethune-Cookman. But coach Scott Frost — the final decision-maker on which quarterback plays when — wanted Wahoo Neumann graduate Noah Vedral to get his shot inside Memorial Stadium since Andrew Bunch had already played multiple games.

Vedral scored on a 20-yard touchdown run. There were a few missed opportunities, too, and the first thing Vedral told Verduzco after the game related to the rust he shook off with his handful of drives.

“It’s no secret how much playing in that stadium means to those guys in Nebraska,” Verduzco said. “And then with the family here. I kind of get emotional just talking about it, but I knew that was really, really important to him. That was great.”

Starter Adrian Martinez has been pretty terrific too in recent weeks, completing 75.6 percent of his passes over the last three games. Martinez has improved at fitting passes into tighter spaces and changing his arm angles, when necessary, on shorter screen passes that are a staple of Frost’s offense.

“He’s feeling just more comfortable,” Verduzco said. “Despite every new experience is a new experience, there’s still some things that he sees and he’s picking up on — clues in the environment — that allows him to predict what’s going to happen.”

Verduzco said Martinez is getting more comfortable with his receivers, too.

He cautioned Martinez on trying to force passes on third-and-long, as he did on his one interception against BCU.

Teaching tool for O-line

Greg Austin finally has new material.

Nebraska’s offensive line coach had some video from the Michigan game last month to show his reserve players. He has practice observations to share and technique to teach. But nothing beats a full half where the backups show what they have — or haven’t — learned in live action like they did against BCU.

“It was very, very, very big,” Austin said. “There was some good things and there was some not-so-good things across the board. Those are the halves that you always hope that you receive at the beginning of the year so you can really bring those guys along and you’ll always have that film available to you to show those guys where they came from and where they are.”

Those players, from left to right, are junior Christian Gaylord, sophomore John Raridon, senior Cole Conrad and redshirt freshmen Trent Hixson and Matt Sichterman.

Austin said Conrad, who started the first four games this season at center, is “slowly but surely” recovering from an injury. But the coach added that NU is “most comfortable” with a starting five of Brenden Jaimes, Jerald Foster, Tanner Farmer, Boe Wilson and Matt Farniok.

How will NU stack up?

Much has been made this week about the similarities between Ohio State and Michigan. The Wolverines dismantled Nebraska. But since then, Nebraska’s found an identity, it’s won two football games, and coaches on Wednesday said they’re excited to see how their team stacks up now against one of the top teams in the conference.

“I think we’re more prepared to go into a game like this compared to a few weeks ago going up to Michigan,” running backs coach Ryan Held said. “But hey, at the end of the day, you flush last week, you move on to this week. We’re playing a great team, so it’s kind of, ‘See where we’re at.'”

Offensive coordinator Walters compared Ohio State’s defense to Michigan’s. But said he thought his offense would be ready to go.

“We’ve had a good week of practice, our last three or four weeks have been good, we’re getting better each day and each week and so I’m looking forward to go against a great Ohio State team on the road, hostile environment, and seeing what we can do.”

Running is key

Walters said what you’d expect him to say about Ohio State’s defense.

The Buckeyes are deep, they’re athletic, they’re big, they create havoc and issues across the depth chart.

“They didn’t play well against Purdue but that’s not the team that we’re gonna play,” Walters said. “We got to be ready for a good defense.”

Two of the main keys for this weekend’s test, Walters said, are running the ball and getting chunk plays.

“We got to be able to run the ball against Ohio State, you can’t be dropping back 50 or 60 times and think you’re going to be successful,” Walters said.

Held said they really like the 1-2 punch of Devine Ozigbo and Maurice Washington. Washington was not in pads after practice. He was taken out of the Bethune-Cookman game after getting hit hard on his 11-yard touchdown run.

Getting “explosives” are equally as important, Walters said. It’s difficult to put 12- or 15-play drives together against the Buckeyes.

“We have to find explosives here and there in the run game and the pass game,” Walters said. “That’s gotta be important for us, to get some chunk yardage.”

Quick hits

»  Austin said he’s following the success of former Husker teammate and quarterback Zac Taylor, who is the QB coach for the 8-0 Los Angeles Rams and a popular name in head-coaching speculation.

“He’s doing a dang good job,” Austin said. “I talk to him from time to time. Can’t get better than undefeated, right? He’s doing a good job. I’m happy for him.”

» Defensive lineman Freedom Akinmoladun said errors are decreasing in workouts as they are in games. Penalties and penalty yards have both decreased in each of the last four contests.

“It feels like everything’s clicking, and there’s no mistakes when we go on the field in practice,” Akinmoladun said. “Everything’s just clean.”

» The theme this week in the tight end room is to understand everything that’s happening before a given snap, said coach Sean Beckton. Last week’s game was a breakout for the position — Jack Stoll had a 37-yard grab while Austin Allen and Katerian Legrone logged their first career catches — though Beckton said Kurt Rafdal wasn’t targeted twice when he was open.

“We tell those guys every week we have plays in the game plan,” Beckton said. “Whether we hit them or not, just do the best you can as far as your technique and running your route and let the quarterback throw the ball where he needs to.”

Everything Husker fans need to know about the Ohio State Buckeyes

A preview of Ohio State, the first opponent of the Scott Frost era ranked in the top 10 of the AP poll at the time it plays Nebraska.

* * *

Record: 7-1 (4-1 Big Ten)

Offensive yards per play: 6.75 (15th nationally)

Defensive yards per play: 5.88 (89th nationally)

Turnover margin: plus-6 (T-17th nationally)

Penalty yards per game: 75.9 (120th nationally)

Coach

Urban Meyer (77–9 at Ohio State)

Regardless of your personal opinion about Meyer, he’s undoubtedly one of the most successful head coaches in college football’s modern era. He’s 181-32 as a head coach, with stints at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and now Ohio State. He’s won three national titles, two at Florida and one in 2014 with the Buckeyes. In seven seasons at Ohio State, Meyer has won 77 games and lost just nine. This summer he was investigated for keeping former assistant Zach Smith on staff despite Smith’s long list of domestic abuse allegations. Meyer was suspended for the first three games of this season. There is speculation this will be Meyer’s final season at Ohio State, though he denied that Monday.

Offense

Type: Spread, pass-heavy

Coordinators: Ryan Day, Kevin Wilson

Day took over as interim head coach while Meyer was suspended. Wilson left Indiana amid speculation of player mistreatment in 2016 and was hired by Ohio State. Both run one of the top offenses in the country. The five-year average of Ohio State’s recruiting class ranking is No. 2 on most recruiting websites, so OSU has more speed and talent than it could ever need. That includes quarterback Dwayne Haskins, running backs Mike Weber and JK Dobbins and receivers KJ Hill and Parris Campbell.

Defense

Type: 4-3

Coordinators: Greg Schiano, Alex Grinch

Ohio State’s defense isn’t as great as it’s been the past few years, but that doesn’t mean it’s nothing to sniff at. They allow 22.9 points and 390 yards per game. They are without Nick Bosa, who after getting hurt decided to sit out the rest of the season and prepare for the NFL. The Buckeyes still boast a strong defensive front, with sophomore Chase Young and junior Dre’Mont Jones, who together have 10 sacks this season.

Players to watch

Haskins: He completes 71.1 percent of his passes and has 30 touchdowns and five picks. The redshirt sophomore beat Joe Burrow for the starting job and is already over 2,800 passing yards this season. He’s not as much of a run threat as JT Barrett, but he’s much more accurate, especially downfield.

Dobbins: Ohio State’s run game has struggled lately, but Dobbins still has 521 yards rushing with four touchdowns. He’s also caught 15 passes for 164 yards. The true sophomore is a bruiser who is difficult to pin down, particularly at the line of scrimmage.

Young: Another sophomore, Young is a former five-star recruit who has eight sacks in his career. He has 8.5 tackles for loss this year with 4.5 sacks. He lines up at defensive end.

They said it

“I think there is urgency. I’m not saying it feels bad, but there is a tremendous amount of urgency. We understand November. We understand where we’re at. We understand what’s at stake, and we understand our shortcomings. So urgency is probably the key word around here. Hard to say I’ve ever seen a group of staff work as hard as we’ve worked, so try to fix the issues and same with our players.” Meyer on his team’s attitude following the loss to Purdue.

“I don’t want to comment much on Ohio State, but you start to get used to doing the things that make you a winner that winning becomes a habit. The expectations are that you’re going to win and when you have a team like that you always seems to find a way to get it done. I’ve seen it happen on a lot of teams I’ve been on, that when you go in not just believing you’re going to win, but knowing you’re going to win you find ways.” Scott Frost on Ohio State’s recent dominance in the Big Ten.

Three stats

118: Ohio State has scored 118 points in the last two games against Nebraska.

Zero: Urban Meyer has never finished a season with a losing record as a head coach dating back to 2001.2011: Nebraska has not won a game on the road against a ranked team since 2011. The last time was a 17-14 win at No. 12 Penn State.

Schedule

Sept. 1 vs. Oregon State, W 77-31

Sept. 8 vs. Rutgers, W 52-3

Sept. 15 vs. No. 15 TCU, W 40-28

Sept. 22 vs. Tulane, W 49-6

Sept. 29 at No. 9 Penn State, W 27-26

Oct. 6 vs. Indiana, W 49-26

Oct. 13 vs. Minnesota, W 30-14

Oct. 20 at Purdue, L 49-20

Nov. 3 vs. Nebraska

Nov. 10 at Michigan State

Nov. 17 at Maryland

Nov. 24 vs. No. 5 Michigan

In midst of hot recruiting streak, Husker coaches reinforce what sells prospects on Nebraska

LINCOLN — In the midst of a busy recruiting stretch, Nebraska coaches reinforced why their message is resonating with high school players Wednesday.

Offensive coordinator Troy Walters said Scott Frost’s scheme is exciting for any skill player who can line up all over the field. Nebraska sells itself, Walters added, with its fans, tradition and academic support.

“When we get speed, when we get all the guys that fit what we’re trying to do, it’s one of the best offenses in the country,” he said. “It showed last year at UCF. It’s an opportunity to come be a part of something special.”

The Huskers are up to 20 commits for 2019 after receiving three verbal pledges in the past week from receiver Darien Chase(Washington native), offensive tackle Bryce Benhart (Minnesota) and defensive back Javin Wright (Arizona). Another may join the fray Thursday afternoon when all-purpose running back Wandale Robinson from Kentucky announces his intentions.

“We want guys that want to come and love football, are tough-minded and want to work,” Walters said. “Because it’s not going to be easy to get to the top.”

Offensive line coach Greg Austin said many recruits who visit campus sit through Friday night meetings before games and get a “back stage” glimpse at what their college experience could be like.

A newer pitch to future Huskers also emerged in recent weeks, with true freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez ranking 17th nationally in total offense at 294.9 yards per game and flashing his potential.

“That’s the cornerstone, then you just build off of that guy,” Austin said. “He’s a damn good player. I mean, who wouldn’t want to play for him? I’d want to play for him. … Every guy that we recruit, they can see how special that guy is and how special he’s going to be.”

Maryland fires football coach DJ Durkin day after reinstatement

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — DJ Durkin’s return as Maryland’s football coach lasted one day.

Durkin was fired Wednesday evening, just over 24 hours after being reinstated by the school.

Instead of resolving the issues facing the flawed program, the decision by the University System of Maryland board of regents on Tuesday to retain Durkin and athletic director Damon Evans created a different set of problems in the wake of a player’s death and discontent engulfing the football team.

Several state officials called for Durkin to be fired, and one called the decision to retain him an “embarrassment.”

Maryland President Wallace Loh fired Durkin after conferring with the leadership of the Student Government Association, the Senate Executive Committee, deans, department chairs and campus leadership.

“The overwhelming majority of stakeholders expressed serious concerns about Coach DJ Durkin returning to the campus,” Loh wrote in a statement.

“The chair of the Board of Regents has publicly acknowledged that I had previously raised serious concerns about Coach Durkin’s return. This is not at all a reflection of my opinion of Coach Durkin as a person. However, a departure is in the best interest of the University, and this afternoon Coach Durkin was informed that the University will part ways,” Loh wrote. “This is a difficult decision, but it is the right one for our entire University.”

Durkin’s dismissal comes while he was in the third season of a five-year, $12.5 million contract he signed in December 2015. He will be owed about $5.5 million, according to buyout terms of his contract.

Matt Canada is expected to resume the role of interim coach. Maryland is 5-3 heading into Saturday’s home game against Michigan State.

Hired after serving one season as defensive coordinator at Michigan, Durkin had a 10-15 record at Maryland. The Terrapins went 6-7 in his first season, losing to Boston College in the Quick Lane Bowl, then fell to 4-8 in 2017 while coping with injuries to three different quarterbacks.

Durkin began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Bowling Green in 2001 after playing four seasons there as a defensive end and outside linebacker.

He served three years as an assistant coach at Stanford from 2007-9 and was at Florida from 2010-14, spending the last two years as the Gators defensive coordinator.

Durkin was placed on administrative leave Aug. 11 while board of regents waited for the results of an investigation on the culture of the program.

After receiving that report, the board decided to bring him back, saying he was “unfairly blamed for the dysfunction in the athletic department.”

Prior to the news of Durkin’s dismissal, Gov. Larry Hogan demanded the board and Loh participate in a public meeting to explain how they arrived at the conclusion to retain the coach.

“The University System of Maryland has let down the University of Maryland community and the citizens of Maryland,’ Hogan said in statement, “and now is the time to fix it.”

Hogan wasn’t the only politician looking for answers.

Del. Maggie McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, planned a hearing on Nov. 15 in Annapolis to “shine more light” on the decision-making process that led to the retirement of Loh — who announced Tuesday his decision to step down in June 2019 — while the coach and other athletic staff remained.

“Obviously the regents had their press conference, and it actually has raised a lot more questions and is getting quite a strong reaction from policy makers, legislators and frankly, even the public,” she said. “I’ve heard words like ‘perplexing,’ ‘shocking,’ and so I do think we need to bring kind of the decision-making process, shine more light on it, and see what happens.”

Hogan’s opponent in the November election, Democrat Ben Jealous, wrote in a statement, “The University of Maryland has become a national embarrassment for putting the agenda of a few wealthy football boosters ahead of the health and safety of its student athletes.”

The decision did not sit well with students, either.

On Thursday, the Executive Board of the Maryland Student Government Association planned an on-campus rally after saying it was “outraged with the decisions made by the board of regents.”

That likely won’t be necessary anymore.

Durkin and Evans were on the job when offensive lineman Jordan McNair collapsed on the practice field on May 29 and died of heatstroke on June 13. The attorney for the family has said Durkin should have been fired and is reviewing legal options.

In the wake of McNair’s death, the board of regents called for an independent investigation into McNair’s death and an external review of the football program.

Several media outlets reported that at least three players walked out of a team meeting with Durkin on Tuesday, and offensive lineman Ellis McKennie blasted the board of regents’ decision on Twitter.

Loh’s leadership was addressed in both investigations, and he did not emerge completely unscathed.

“He should stay and I’m urging him to do so,” said Senator Jim Rosapepe (D, College Park). “Academics need to come first. His decision can and should be reversed.”

Nebraska at Ohio State

When: 11 a.m. (Pregame: 6 a.m.)

Where: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio

Radio: 103.1 FM

We strive for accuracy. Report a typo, inaccuracy, or mistake here.

Share: