Barry moves on from targeting ejection; Huskers face ‘huge task’
LINCOLN — Mohamed Barry watched the second half of Saturday’s loss to Troy from the video room inside Memorial Stadium. Instead of huddling up with his fellow Blackshirts, the inside linebacker sat staring at a screen with NU director of video technology Tate Guillotte.
Barry, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound junior, ended up there after being ejected for targeting in the second quarter on a helmet-to-helmet hit with Troy quarterback Sawyer Smith. The drive ended in a Trojans touchdown.
“It was painful not being out there,” said Barry, who made three tackles. “I prepared all week to play this game and I wanted to deliver. I wanted to help my team out as best as I can and do my part.”
Position coach Barrett Ruud told him after the game either he learns from it or shrugs it off. Barry said he would make sure he doesn’t leave a game early again — even if he disagrees with the call.
“If you see all my plays, I play football a certain way,” Barry said. “I finish off piles, I fly to the ball, I’m always around the ball when the play is done. That’s just how I’ve been taught to play the game. ... This time, I guess, the quarterback was there and his head. Even though it was a love tap, I don’t know. I don’t know what to say.”
Will Honas filled in for Barry and ended with a team-high eight stops against Troy.
Michigan helped UCF’s turnaround
Tre Neal actually has fond memories of the only time he played against Michigan. Yes, even though his side lost 51-14.
That was the day — Sept. 10, 2016, Scott Frost’s second game as a head coach — the safety and all his former UCF teammates realized Frost and his staff were going to do big things.
There were “mental busts,” Neal said, but UCF defenders were calling out Michigan plays before the snap. On offense, running back Adrian Killins broke an 87-yard touchdown run and UCF outrushed the traditional power 275-119.
“We’re like, ‘Holy smokes,’” Neal said Monday. “This guy (Frost), he knows what he’s doing. If we’re breaking 80-yard, 90-yard runs against one of the best defenses in the country, why can’t we do it to anybody?
“You thought, ‘These are big-time five-star recruits out there.’ You thought, being the little school that we are, we’d get out-manned, maybe out-physicaled, dominated. But we came out there and jumped on them. I think that was the difference.”
Neal said that was when he realized it wasn’t about conferences or names, but a mentality of knowing his group deserved to be out there. That confidence boost lasted the rest of the season and was part of the foundation that led to a 13-0 campaign in 2017.
The senior said this weekend is a chance for Nebraska to receive a similar jolt at the Big House.
“We’ve had the little sparks so far,” Neal said. “But I think once we have that big thing where we’re like, ‘Okay, this is for real,’ I think that’s when we’re going to start building on it offensively.”
Frost returned compliments to the Michigan coach during his press conference.
“He’s a good coach, obviously, and his teams play hard,” Frost said. “They’re gonna be well coached, disciplined, and play hard.”
Frost and Harbaugh have mutual friends thanks to Frost’s two years at Stanford as a player in the 1990s and Harbaugh’s four years as the Cardinal coach in the mid-2000s. Frost said he and Nebraska hoped to have a better record heading into the Big House, and the Huskers need to grow this week in order to have a shot to knock off the Wolverines.
“This one is going to be more of a challenging game than the two we’ve played so far. This team is considerably better, in my opinion, than the two teams we just played and didn’t beat,” Frost said. “So this is a huge task and we’re going to have to play a perfect game and get a lot better in a week to come out on top in this one.”
Depth needed at wideout, O-line
Nebraska’s wide receivers are in for a challenge this week, Frost said, because of Michigan’s preference for and ability to play tight man-to-man coverage with its cornerbacks. Through three games, UM’s corners have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete just 52.2 percent of their passes. In 2015, 2016 and 2017 Michigan ranked in the nation’s top three in opponent completion rate. That ranking is a reflection of how hard it is to complete passes.
“They’re going to be up in our face and you have to be able to win,” Frost said. Nebraska trusts Stanley Morgan and JD Spielman to do that, he said, but he’d like more receivers to come along quickly.
“We need more guys to step up,” Frost said. “It hurt us at the end of these last two games because we had to play Stanley and JD a lot. Anybody would get tired as much as we’re playing those guys. We need more depth there, more guys to be consistent so we can get them on the field and keep (Morgan and Spielman) fresh.”
Frost said freshman Andre Hunt and junior college transfers Mike Williams and Jaron Woodyard are “close” to getting more opportunities. Tyjon Lindsey “has got to be a little more consistent, but shows flashes.”
On the offensive line, Frost said, Nebraska needs more backups to come along, as well.
“Guys like Boe Wilson, Trent Hixson, Hunter Miller, some others need to step up and spell some of those guys,” Frost said. “We got tired on the O-line, particularly some of the long drives where we’re going fast, and we didn’t quite have the edge that we had at the beginning of the drive. More guys who are able to play will help us.”
Frost praises Washington
Frost praised running back Maurice Washington — who had 92 rushing yards in the loss to Troy — who has only been on campus for a month and a half.
“He didn’t have the advantage of a summer conditioning program and being around the guys to learn scheme,” Frost said. “He’s done a great job of coming in and doing what he can. He’s a really talented kid. I can’t wait until the day when he has a year, year and a half in the weight room.”