September 29, 2008

NU focused on containing Daniel, Mizzou offense

If Saturday's game against Virginia Tech was Nebraska's first major test of the season, the Huskers will be jumping up a few grade levels this weekend when No. 4 Missouri comes town.

Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Chase Daniel and the Tigers' explosive offense was the main topic of discussion for head coach Bo Pelini during the weekly Big 12 coaches' teleconference on Monday. Heading into this Saturday's game, Missouri ranks second nationally in total offense (595.5 yards per game), scoring offense (53.8 points per game) and passing offense (404.3 ypg).

Individually, Daniel ranks fourth in total offense (371.5 ypg), passing efficiency (193.4) and passing yards per game (353). He also ranks sixth in passing yards (1,412) and seventh in passing (25.3 completions per game).

"(Daniel) is a good football player," Pelini said. "He gets the all out quick. They have a good scheme. They're well coached. They have a good mix of run and pass. They really stretch you out in a lot of different ways. They present a nice challenge for us. They're fairly unusual in what they do. It's a well thought out scheme, they're well coached and they have a lot of good playmakers doing it. It'll be a nice challenge for us."

Though Daniel is arguably having as good of a season as any player in the country, he's far from the Tigers' only weapon. Preseason All-American receiver Jeremy Maclin is averaging more than six catches and nearly 100 yards receiver per game, and also ranks fifth in the nation in all-purpose yardage.

Sophomore running back Derrick Washington ranks second in the country with 13.5 points per game, and tight end Chase Coffman is averaging seven catches for 95 yards per game.

"They're good across the board," Pelini said. "They have a good running game, they have a good passing game. Obviously it starts with the quarterback, and then you throw in Maclin. They've got a number of good football players that can hurt you. You can't just focus on stopping one guy. You'll get killed. It's got to be a team effort."

As potent as Missouri's offense can be, like Pelini said, it all starts with Daniel. One of the keys to Daniel's success Pelini addressed on Monday was the fact that he is hardly ever sacked during games.

Pelini credited good protection from his line and the fact that Daniel stands a bit further back from center (Pelini compared to a seven-step drop) as part of the reasons he's been so safe in the pocket.

He also noted that Daniel's quick release and ability to read coverages so quickly are what make him so dangerous to opposing defenses. So far, Daniel has been sacked just twice through four games.

"He has a quick release," Pelini said. "He has an outstanding presence about him. He goes through his progressions very well. He has a quick trigger. He gets the ball out in a hurry. You combine that with the stress they put on you scheme-wise, it's well though out. It poses some problems for you, and he's really good at what he does.

"He doesn't hold the ball too long. He goes through his reads 1-2-3 and he gets the ball out quick. He handles pressure pretty well. He's just an all-around good football player. He's a tremendous football player. He's as good as I've seen."

As for what the Huskers could do to get pressure on Daniel, Pelini said it would be more a matter of limiting his time and comfort level in the pocket that actually trying to sack him.

"I know you're not going to sack him a lot," he said. "It doesn't mean you can't try to affect him some. You've got to get some push up front and collapse the pocket some and make him uncomfortable. But you're not going to go into this game and have eight or nine sacks. Number one, they line him up deep back there (in the shotgun). Number two, he's very good at getting rid of the football and making quick decisions. They do a very good job of knowing how to handle him."

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