The Nebraska football team continued its week of preparation for Saturday's Legends Division game against Minnesota on Tuesday. The team practiced in shoulder pads and helmets for just under two hours outside on the Ed and Joyanne Gass Practice Field.
Defensive Coordinator John Papuchis addressed the media following practice, first commenting on the decision to practice in half pads.
“It’s been a physical six or seven weeks,” Papuchis said. “When you look at Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan and Northwestern, each week has been a physical game. In my opinion, Penn State was one of the most physical teams we’ve played since I’ve been here, and we have to be smart with our guys and make sure we still have something left in the tank for this last stretch.”
Papuchis then shifted his attention to Saturday’s opponent, Minnesota, and their freshman starting quarterback, Philip Nelson.
“He’s tough and he’s athletic,” Papuchis said. “He runs the offense pretty well for a freshman, and he brings an athletic dimension to what they do. He’s one of those guys that just finds a way to win games.”
As Papuchis mentioned, Nelson’s best attribute is his dual-threat ability to make plays in both the pass and run games. In the four games that he has started for the Gophers, Nelson has averaged 153.8 passing yards and 41.2 rushing yards per game. He has also thrown six touchdown passes over those four games, which include victories against Purdue and Illinois. Minnesota’s success has been due to much more than just Nelson, though. Papuchis also commented on the team’s impressive record after last season’s 3-9 finish.
“They’re a pretty good football team over there,” Papuchis said. “They’ve won six games now and they are a much better football team than the one we played a year ago.”
With Saturday’s game being the final home game of the season, Papuchis also noted the significance of this game for the seniors playing their final game in front of the Sea of Red at Memorial Stadium.
“It started to hit me as the season started winding down that some of these guys aren’t going to be with us anymore,” Papuchis said. “PJ Smith, Will Compton, Alonzo Whaley, Courtney Osborne, Cameron Meredith, Baker Steinkuhler, Eric Martin and all of the seniors are a big part of what we do. It goes beyond football with the relationships that you build. I’m happy that they’re finishing their year with some success, but a part of me is also sad that this is our last home game with those guys. I’m sure Saturday will be a pretty emotional day.”