LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska has a timely open date before it starts Big Ten play. It will be no vacation for the Cornhuskers' defense.
Masked by the margin of victory in Saturday's 59-20 win over South Dakota State was another disconcerting defensive performance, one that coach Bo Pelini called his team's worst of the season.
The Championship Subdivision Jackrabbits piled up 465 yards, including 202 on the ground by Zach Zenner. SDSU made 25 first downs and averaged 6.9 yards a play.
"I don't want to take away from the win," Pelini said, "but we're going to use this bye week. We need to make a big jump between now and two Saturdays from now."
A lot of the problem came down to simple things, like getting off blocks, tackling and being in the right place at the right time.
The lapses were particularly shocking in the first quarter against a no-nonsense SDSU offense that, Pelini said, didn't do anything "magical." Zenner tore through huge holes, splitting two safeties and outrunning them for a 40-yard touchdown. He reached the 100-yard mark on his seventh carry.
"You have to have a certain kind of mentality when you take the field," Pelini said. "I just feel like sometimes we're sitting back, taking it."
Pelini added, "You've got to have a killer instinct. In football, no one is going to give you anything. You have to go take it. You have to go earn it. And if you don't have that kind of approach, then it's not going to work out well for you."
Pelini's frustration has carried over from late last season, when the Huskers couldn't seem to stop anybody.
Four games into this season, Nebraska (3-1) is 108th out of 125 FBS teams in total defense (463.8 ypg), 108th in passing yards (284.3), 84th against the run (179.5 ypg) and 72nd in scoring defense (26.7 ppg).
The secondary was supposed to be the strength of the defense, but it has underperformed. The Huskers are giving up 116 more passing yards a game than they did last year, when they were among the top pass defenses in the nation. They are allowing opponents to complete 63 percent of their passes this year, much worse than their nation-leading 47.1 percent in 2012.