Wyoming test puts young defense to test

LINCOLN — Coming off the 2012 season, Nebraska coaches knew that if NU was to get better on defense it would have to lean on a group of young players in its front seven and a deep and talented secondary.

When Wyoming came out with three- and four-wide receiver sets in Lincoln Saturday it seemed to play right into Nebraska's strength in its secondary.

In the end, NU struggled to get pressure on Cowboy quarterback Brett Smith all game long, finishing with just one sack by Randy Gregory and giving up two touchdowns in the final six minutes.

Nebraska yielded a lot of ground — 602 total yards, including 383 through the air by Smith and four touchdowns.

It was the fourth most total yards ever given up by Nebraska in Memorial Stadium, and the eighth highest total yards in program history. It was the most total yards given up by Nebraska since Ball State in 2007.

What's more, NU allowed Smith to get loose for 92 yards on the ground, while Wyoming running back Shaun Wick finished with 101 yards and a touchdown.

Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini said he knows his defense can still be good.

"It wasn't very good tonight," he said. "I don't know if it was playing in a first game for a lot of those guys and the adjustments that needed to be made, but they caught us in a couple plays.

"There were a couple things we didn't react very well to and a couple times we just didn't make plays. I think we'll learn from it. I haven't changed my assessment of what this team needs to be defensively. I still think we're going to be just fine."

Defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski said his defensive line has to play better if Nebraska is to meet its own expectations. Nebraska started Jason Ankrah, Vincent Valentine, Avery Moss and Thad Randle on the front four, but shuffled in players all game long.

"Everything starts up front," he said.

"There aren't any great teams that have a bad defensive line. There's some breakdowns. There's not a lot of gray area. There's a lot we need to do if we want a great season."
Wyoming Head Coach Dave Christensen said he was pleased with how his offense executed the game plan.

"Our whole goal in this football game, and we talked about it all the way going into it, we needed to be in the football game going into the fourth quarter," he said.

"We didn't need to have a lead at halftime. We needed to be in the football game in the fourth quarter, because the pressure is not on us. Pressure was all on them, and we got it to where we wanted it, but we didn't take advantage and make the plays to get it done."

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