Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey doesn’t see Nebraska’s 3-4 defense as a work in progress.
“I know they gave up 42 last week and 36 the week before, but they’re playing good defense and winning,” Carey said on the Mid-American Conference teleconference. “I see a really good Nebraska team. Big, strong, physical.”
With only two games to decipher Nebraska’s new defense, Carey and his staff have been watching film from Bob Diaco’s days at Connecticut.
Nebraska enters this weekend’s matchup ranked 122nd out of 129 FBS teams in total defense. The Huskers give up 531.5 yards per game, and 6.4 yards per play.
Northern Illinois is ranked No. 57 in total offense, averaging 433 yards per game and 5.5 yards per play.
Carey pleased with his group
The Huskies’ defense forced three turnovers against Eastern Illinois last weekend. NIU now has four takeaways on the year, plus five sacks on opposing quarterbacks.
Carey said his defense so far has been doing exactly what he wants it to: limiting the run game and forcing teams to become one-dimensional.
“They ran around fast and really limited the run game, and then that sets up to make an offense one-dimensional, and when you do that you can harass the passer and get turnovers,” Carey said.
Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee threw four interceptions against Oregon. Coaches afterward said they wished the Huskers hadn’t been so one-dimensional on offense, but had to be because of the 42-14 halftime deficit.
Sophomore steps in at QB
Northern Illinois quarterback Daniel Santacaterina made his second career start against Eastern Illinois. Santacaterina was beaten out in fall camp by Ryan Graham. Graham suffered an injury in the first game against Boston College, so Santacaterina, a sophomore, started the second game.
He was 23 for 34 for 252 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in the 38-10 win Saturday.
“I was really impressed how he played and was really happy for him,” Carey said. “He stayed ready during this quarterback competition. I don’t call him a backup because it was really tight with him and Ryan the entire time.”
Santacaterina will start for the Huskies against Nebraska. How he handles the crowd and big stage, Carey said, is a big deal.
“I think you gotta get your feet on the ground and get to playing football and pay attention to the small details,” Carey said. “We’ve been in other similar venues before, but not Nebraska.”
Northern Illinois at Nebraska
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Memorial Stadium
Radio: 103.1 FM