SAN DIEGO — The questions early Monday evening on an auxiliary field at the University of San Diego campus were similar to the ones four months ago.
How to stop Nebraska’s running attack.
Three players, quarterback Taylor Martinez, and running backs Roy Helu Jr. and Rex Burkhead ran for more than 100 yards against Washington in the first game. For the Huskies, it boils down to integrity.
Not the kind politicians lack. Rather gap integrity. The translation of generalized answers like, “We were trying to do too much” means players were out of position.
Nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu pointed at himself on Monday. Of his role in the defeat, Ta’amu said he was lurching to other gaps in pursuit of the ball when he should have stayed and plugged his spot. In turn, Nebraska’s backs were darting through the space he and others left.
“I’m here, I see the ball, like, ‘Man, I can make that,'” Ta’amu said. “If I go there, the hole gets even bigger.”
It seems counter-intuitive, but in some ways, the Washington defenders are better off letting others make the play. It’s a matter of discipline.
Ta’amu, an upbeat mass of a young man at 6-3, 330 pounds, put himself through a guilt trip. He claimed the majority of the blame for Nebraska’s running success. According to head coach Steve Sarkisian, there was plenty of blame to go around and Ta’amu is on the uptick.
“He’s playing with much better technique and I think his understanding of his role within the defense has really elevated,” Sarkisian said. “In turn, I think that’s why our rush defense has gotten better and better as the year has gone on. Obviously it started right there.
“I’m not going to say it’s all on Alameda the first time we played Nebraska, but it’s nice to know your nose tackle feels that way and has come a long way. And he’s played at the end of the year like we thought he could. Like an All-Pac-10 player.”
To have a shot on Thursday, he’ll need to play just that way.
Sarkisian said Parker’s ongoing problem with a neck stinger will not threaten the safety’s career.
“It’s just something that’s going to take time to get his strength back,” Sarkisian said. “He’s not near the severity of either E.J. (Savannah) or Cameron (Elisara), but E.J. came back from it, so we’re confident Sean will.”
Sarkisian said Parker will not be 100 percent until spring practice.