Nebraska defensive coordinator Erik Chinander on Tuesday readily agreed that his defense — and the Huskers in general — face some pressure Saturday night when they host No. 9 Michigan at Memorial Stadium.
He’s glad for it.
“You always embrace it," Chinander said. "I told the guys the other day, we have a saying on gameday that we don’t feel pressure because we know what we’re doing. You don’t know what you’re doing until you’re prepared for Saturday. I told the guys, there is pressure this (week). It’s a ranked team coming in, it’s a big-time game on ABC. Pressure is a privilege. Pressure means people are watching. Pressure means we’ve got a job to do. So there’s some pressure put on, but that pressure is going to be relieved on Friday and on Saturday when we know what we’re doing.
“Then we just go play football.”
Playing a second straight evening game at Memorial Stadium, coming off a blowout win and welcoming the Wolverines to town should all combine to make for a terrific environment, too.
“I think our guys were fired up last week and I think they’re going to be even more juiced up," Chinander said. "The crowd was awesome, the light show was pretty awesome. We talked about it the other day, you’ve got a 6:30 p.m. kick in Memorial Stadium on national television against a ranked team, if you ain’t up for this one, you don’t belong in our room.
“I think those guys are going to be jacked, they’re going to be ready to roll and it’s going to be an awesome, awesome environment.”
Give Luke a hand: Sophomore inside linebacker Luke Reimer is Nebraska’s leading tackler through six games and checks in at No. 6 in the Big Ten at 8½ per game. He’s made plays all over the field and logged an interception against Buffalo earlier this season.
Since then, he’s had his hands on more chances for picks — against Oklahoma, MSU and twice against Northwestern — with varying degrees of difficulty, but has not yet come down with a second.
Asked about Reimer’s propensity for being around the ball in the passing game, inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud said, mostly playfully, “Hasn’t caught them, has he? Hasn’t caught any balls. I don’t know. I told him, ‘Hey, PBUs are great. I’d rather have interceptions.’
“I hope he’s saving them up for the rest of the year.”
Ruud added that Reimer is tough on himself when he misses a chance to make a big play.
“Those are important,” Ruud said. “Missed opps, tips, overthrows, you’ve got to make sure you come down with those. I know he wasn’t too thrilled with himself and you’ve got to make sure you convert those because you don’t get a lot of those opps (opportunities). A ball gets tipped up, that’s got to be one we take advantage of.”
“The athlete’s always been there, the natural ability to tackle has always been there. Kind of like we were talking about just overall as a team, I think he understands the ins and outs of the position a lot more. He understands, what are the issues? What are the hard plays? What are my chances to go make some splash plays? That’s the biggest thing, he’s just really grasped the ins and outs of the defense and the detail we want him to play with now.”
UM’s physicality: Chinander said Michigan will be the biggest task physically that the Huskers have faced so far this season.
“Especially, when you’re talking about offensive lines, all offensive lines in the Big Ten are physical,” Chinander said. “When you add this group of tight ends and this group of receivers in and the way they’re blocking in the run game, too, I think this is the most physical group we’ve seen.”
The Wolverines are No. 1 in the Big Ten at 255 rushing yards per game and No. 3 on a per-carry basis at 5.57 yards per game. Last week in a 38-17 win at Wisconsin, which has the top-ranked run defense in the country, UM grinded out 112 yards (2.5 per attempt) on 44 carries.
— Parker Gabriel
Photos: Nebraska rolls past Northwestern to notch first Big Ten win of season