The Nebraska football team practiced for just over two hours on the Ed and Joyanne Gass practice fields on Tuesday in preparation for Saturday's game at Michigan State. Defensive Coordinator John Papuchis addressed the media following practice with his focus on Spartan running back Le’Veon Bell.
“(Bell) is a tough, physical, downhill runner,” Papuchis said. “He runs well behind his pads, he’s punishing, and you want to make him run east and west as much as you can.”
Bell comes into this weekend’s game with 1,061 rushing yards on the season, including a 253-yard performance against Eastern Michigan in Week 4. Last season, Nebraska was able to limit him to 58 yards on 12 carries in its 24-3 victory over the Spartans. The Huskers will be looking to slow him down again this Saturday in East Lansing.
Papuchis also commented on some of Michigan State’s other offensive weapons, including a balanced receiving corps.
“The thing that jumps out to me more than anything (besides Bell), is their balance in terms of the distribution of catches across the board,” Papuchis said. “They have five different guys with between 22 and 32 catches. A year ago, Cunningham was their guy, and we knew we had to stop him going into the game. This year, they are a lot more evenly distributed across the board and that makes it a little more difficult to defend.”
Along with the receivers comes the quarterback who will be distributing the ball to them. Papuchis also expressed his opinion of the Spartans’ junior, first-year starter Andrew Maxwell.
“He’s a talented player, but it’s not easy in your first year of getting all the reps and all the starts. There’s a learning curve,” Papuchis said. “You can see his progress during the year, he continues to get better, and I think he’s going to be a good player.”
Maxwell will face a Husker defense that gave up only nine points last week against Michigan, earning the starters their coveted Blackshirts. Papuchis commented on what the requirements were for receiving the Blackshirts.
“Every year is a little different, but this year we looked at the guys who have defined their roles on our defense,” Papuchis said. “Those are the guys that got the shirts. Guys who are in a platoon role with someone else or are situational players haven’t yet, but I hope to add a couple after this week.”
Nebraska and Michigan State face off Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in East Lansing, Mich. The game will be televised on ABC with an ESPN2 mirror.