LINCOLN — On Oklahoma week new interim head coach Mickey Joseph said his Nebraska team has picked up the pace in practice this week and is ready to play.
Nebraska enters the game as an 11-point underdog to the No. 6 Sooners, as Joseph leads the Huskers in his first game as the head man after the firing of Scott Frost on Sunday.
In his first press conference on Monday since being named interim head coach, Joseph said Nebraska would be changing up things in practice, including doing more live tackling.
Change it up they did.
During the Sports Nightly radio show on Thursday, Joseph said his team has responded as well as could be expected despite all of the coaching distractions.
Nebraska started the 2022 campaign at 1-2, including losses to Northwestern and Georgia Southern. NU has been plagued early on by defensive miscues and inconsistencies in all facets of the game.
Nebraska coaches instituted a change of pace in practice this week described in a word by Joseph as “fast.”
“We’ve been running around pretty good,” he said.
“But we pick the tempo up. Pick the tempo up. We were getting in and out of drills. We’re transitioning fast. I gotta tell you this week I’ve seen effort in practice. I’ve seen it because now coaches are pushing them, ‘Hey, let’s run.’ We run it, we move in and everybody’s screaming. So, practice has been shot up a bit faster.”
After Nebraska’s defensive performance against Georgia Southern, Joseph confirmed Black Shirts were taken back this week.
He said it’s not meant to be “negative,” but rather it is a chance for Nebraska to start over.
“We talked about a new era starting and we said everybody is going to have a clean slate,” Joseph said.
“So we are zero and zero. I’m confident that they will get them back. When we feel like you deserve to get the Black Shirts, we’ll give them back to you, but it’s a great tradition here. We’re going to keep the tradition going.”
Joseph said he met with team captains this week to share his vision for the team. He said they were all on board.
“They said, ‘coach, you know what, let’s go. We’re gonna ride with you, we’re gonna support you,’” he said.
“Because they understand. They know me. I have a good relationship with them, all four of them. They understood what I wanted to do and I know it’s gonna be a little different. I’m gonna be a little more feisty or I’m gonna be more in your face and I demand that you do things the right way. I gotta get you to play at a high level and sometimes getting in your face that helps. You got to be able to handle it, because in life, that’s what’s gonna happen. Sometimes, life gets in your face.”
Joseph spent part of the week talking to his players about the history of the Nebraska/Oklahoma rivalry.
Joseph was part of the 1990 Nebraska team that lost 45-10 in Norman, in a game where Joseph suffered a leg injury when he ran out of bounds and was slammed into the Oklahoma bench.
“You gotta respect what they’ve done in the past and you gotta respect what they’re doing this year,” Joseph said about the Sooners.
“I just try to explain to the kids what it means to the state of Nebraska. There is just no love lost between Oklahoma and Nebraska. But it’s a healthy rivalry.”
What hasn’t changed is team leadership.
“We have good leadership on our team with our players, and usually player-driven teams are the best teams,” Joseph said.
“So, we’ll put the ball in the players’ court right now. It’s saying hey, we need you to do things the right way. And I think for the most part they have done everything I asked them to do since taking over Sunday.”
Joseph was asked whether a lack of effort on the field was to blame to Nebraska’s rough start.
“I couldn’t tell you with the entire team because I don’t look at their grades when I was just a receiver coach,” he said.
Joseph said he took the time this week to speak individually to all the players, just to make sure they were OK mentally following the coaching change and to let them know he’s there to listen to their concerns.
“This is a high-character team,” he said.
“These are good kids. These are good boys. So, I’m not worried. It’s not going to be doing any finger pointing. Even when Frost was here, he didn’t allow that.”