This year's game with New Mexico State should be interesting:
Nebraska prepares for 'weird' defense
Posted: Friday September 12, 2008 3:15 AM
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -New Mexico State coach Hal Mumme jokes that he can't explain his team's exotic new defensive system. He just hopes it works.
"I think Joe Lee is trying to get 12 guys on the field without the officials knowing it, and hopefully he'll get away with it a few times,'' Mumme said this week.
The Aggies are playing a 3-3-5 system under first-year defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn, and it has Nebraska's coaches and players scratching their heads in advance of Saturday night's game in Lincoln.
Receiver Nate Swift called the Aggies' schemes "crazy stuff,'' and quarterback Joe Ganz used the term "weird'' five times while answering two questions about what he'll see.
"It looks like a defense I play against in Madden,'' he said, referring to the video game.
The 3-3-5 is anchored by three down linemen. The three linebackers and five defensive backs are given lots of freedom to move before the snap, forcing the offense to consider the possibility of a blitz every play.
Two strong safeties line up anywhere from the line of scrimmage to 5 yards deep, 2 to 3 yards outside the offensive tackle or tight end. The linebackers are directly behind the three down linemen, the cornerbacks are in their usual spots and the free safety is deep.
Almost anything goes, however, with the defense giving the opponent a wide variety of looks.
"They try to confuse you. But like all things that look complicated, there's simplicity in it,'' Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. "That's our job, to uncover the simplicity, and hopefully, that's what I think we've done.''
Watson said the Huskers will have a well-rounded game plan that incorporates most of their core plays.
"You shouldn't leave yourself vulnerable to anything - and that's what we try to do every week,'' Watson said. "We try to account for everything that we know the nature of that defense can do, and then anticipate maybe what changes they might be making based on either personnel or situations in terms of coverage.''
The 61-year-old Dunn was out of college football for two years before Mumme hired him last winter following Woody Widenhofer's retirement.
Dunn used the 3-3-5 with success at the University of Memphis from 2002-04. Before that, he was defensive coordinator at Mississippi State, which led the nation in rushing defense and total defense in 1999. He also has been a coordinator at Arkansas and South Carolina and head coach at New Mexico.
Nebraska's offense has studied film of Dunn's defenses at Memphis. Ganz said it made for entertaining viewing.
"Sometimes they rush two guys and drop nine. I've never seen that before,'' he said. "They're playing all different types of fronts. They'll bring two linebackers and drop their two defensive ends (into pass coverage).''
Offensive lineman Matt Slauson said it's been a challenging week of preparation, and he said he and his line mates will have to adjust on the fly.
"For our blocking schemes,'' he said, "it's going to be coming up to the line, recognizing a front and then finding your guy and going and blocking him.''
The Aggies have seven starters back from last year, when they ranked 94th in total defense (429 ypg) and 107th in scoring defense (36.2 ppg). The strength of the unit is in back. Safety Derrick Richardson had 108 tackles, and cornerback Davon House intercepted four passes and broke up eight others.
Ganz said the effectiveness of the 3-3-5 probably is as much a mystery to the New Mexico State defenders as it is to the Huskers. That's because Saturday will be the Aggies' first game.
Their Sept. 4 opener against Nicholls State was canceled because Hurricane Gustav kept the opponent from Louisiana from traveling.
"They don't know how it's going to be,'' Ganz said, "and we don't know how it's going to be.''
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/f ... index.html
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