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Nebraska defense putting emphasis on swiping ball

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 8, 2014 at 2:17 pm •  Published: August 8, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis refuses to let the offense take all the blame for the Cornhuskers having one of the worst turnover margins in the nation the last two years.

"We've got to hold up our end of the bargain," he said. "In some of the games where we may have had some turnovers, we didn't have very many takeaways, either. There's a lot to be said for a defense equaling things out."

Papuchis is emphasizing takeaways in the meeting room. He tracks how many his charges get on the practice field and how many times they miss opportunities to knock a ball loose or intercept a pass. The next day, he uses film to go over the good and bad.

The Huskers were tied for 119th out of 125 Bowl Subdivision teams in turnover margin (minus-0.85 per game), giving up the ball 11 more times than they took it away. Their combined minus-23 the past two years is last in the Big Ten and seventh worst nationally.

Given a statistic like that, their two-year record of 19-8 is quite remarkable. But it doesn't stop Papuchis and his players from lamenting what might have happened if they had taken the ball away more.

Of course, the offense had its own problems. Only Maryland lost more fumbles than Nebraska's 16 in 2013.

The Huskers totaled 18 turnovers and two takeaways during a six-game stretch in which they went 3-3. In a 41-28 loss to Michigan State, Nebraska coughed up the ball five times on its side of the 50, twice inside the 10, and the Spartans converted the turnovers into 24 points.

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