Nebraska’s first-year Defensive Coordinator received praise for his solid debut against Minnesota last week.
After all, the Blackshirts limited the Golden Gophers to 251 yards of total offense, which was their lowest output over the past six games of the regular season. Tony White’s 3-3-5 stack defense made it difficult for Minnesota to move the ball. Not to mention the Golden Gophers only averaged a mere 3.6 yards per play, including 2.2 on the ground.
Those are very encouraging numbers for the Blackshirts as they face their biggest challenge of the season. Colorado’s offense posted video game numbers on TCU’s defense. Everyone was in awe of quarterback Shedeur Sanders’ performance. He threw for a school record, 510 yards and four touchdowns.
Throughout the game the gunslinger had time to locate his targets, from the protection up front. However, that’s what White’s scheme thrives in. The 3-3-5 stack is designed to provide pressure with the most athletic defenders on the field. Having three defensive linemen, three linebackers and five defensive backs, the scheme should match up well with the Buffaloes high-powered attack.
The Horned Frogs were able to sack Sanders four times though, and that has Big Red Nation optimistic about slowing down Colorado. Nebraska had three defenders generate a sack in game one, including edge rusher Blaise Gunnerson, defensive tackle Nash Hutmacher and linebacker Luke Reimer.
It’s no mystery that White needs to keep Colorado’s explosive offense on the sidelines. Coach Prime will likely have Sanders throwing screens and three-step drop back passes to counter the Huskers’ pass rush. Nebraska’s defensive line will need to set the tone early on. Getting pressure, batting down passes and doing whatever to be disruptive will be vital. Emotions will be high because of the temperature of this rivalry. That means there’s bound to be some taunting, unnecessary roughness, unsportsmanlike conduct and excessive celebration calls.
White needs to show last week’s success was no fluke. The Blackshirts definitely have something to build on from game one. Still, the secondary will have slim margin for error. White will likely have his unit in cover 1 and cover 3, keeping one safety closer to the line of scrimmage, and dropping the other back in coverage.
The 3-3-5 is a high risk, but high reward defense. If the Blackshirts can’t get home on their blitzes, and Sanders has time to go through his progression, it could be a long afternoon for the secondary. Everyone will have to execute tackling out in the open field, because one missed stop can lead to six points.
There’s no denying Colorado’s Travis Hunter will be the best player on the field Saturday. The former five-star prospect has the ability to do damage out of the slot and take the top of the defense. Which is why the Blackshirts need to locate him before the snap on every play.
Film study and practice approaching this clash is going to be critical for Nebraska’s defense. It’s going to be up to White to exploit the areas of weakness in the Buffaloes’ offense, and put the Blackshirts in the best position to be successful.