LINCOLN, Neb. -- Redshirt freshman linebacker Michael Rose has played in six games and started one, but the once-heralded recruit out of Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst already shows signs of developing into a leader on the Nebraska defense.
After the Huskers were gouged for 271 rushing yards, a season-high figure, in a 34-23 loss at Minnesota last week, coach Bo Pelini stripped the Blackshirt practice jerseys from his top players. Pelini has talked of personnel changes as Nebraska prepares to face Northwestern on Saturday.
Rose was candid this week in an interview about a range of topics in regard to the maligned defensive unit. A sampling of his answers:
Did you get a sense of where the linebackers made mistakes against Minnesota?
Michael Rose: It was a great game plan by Minnesota. It’s a very, very unusual offense in this time and era of spread offense, four and five wide receivers. I haven’t seen the Maryland I-formation since playing video games. You know, that was interesting to see, but with things like that, it’s the small details. You’ve got to be in your gap, or they’re going to bust it for 5 or 6 yards. And that’s just tough. I think we were out there for 12-or 13-play drives, just getting pushed back. It’s tough, you know, being out there and keeping your head up, when you’re like, “Wow, we can’t do anything to stop it right now.”
What’s your level of concern about this team's ability to stop the run?
MR: I’m not concerned. I feel like we’re going to come back even harder in our preparation. Please believe me, we don’t like the feeling of losing as much as anybody else. We don’t like the feeling of losing to a team we feel like we should have handled. We don’t like the feeling of being talked about as, you know, our defense is terrible -- we’re not good enough to win ball games right now. We take those things to heart, and we’re definitely going to try to do our best to go out there and make sure that’s not a problem again. I think that starts with our captains and our leaders. And we’re going to step up as a team. We’re going to start carrying along guys, and Coach Bo is going to make the necessary changes he needs to make. But all in all, it starts with us individually, and we need to make sure we have a commitment to this team and this place and this program. I think you’re going to see that from us in the remaining five weeks.
How do you feel about the leadership displayed last week?
MR: Everybody was upbeat. No one was really down on the sideline. I think at some point, though, it was kind of a shock, like, “This is happening right now.” You know, you’ve just got to get over it. Teams are going to make plays. They recruit good players, just like we recruit good players. Teams are going to make yardage. They’re going to make plays, but when you need that stop -- when you need third down to get them out of plus territory, so when they punt the ball, you’re offense isn’t on the 5-yard line -- you’ve got to make that play. And I think, individually, we all got to start stepping up. Create your own energy. Don’t wait for someone to make the play. You go make the play yourself.
Are you comfortable leading as a freshman?
MR: Coach Bo has said it. You started off as a freshman; you’re no longer looked as a freshman at this point in the season. It’s time for everybody to step up. It’s time for everybody to voice their opinion. It’s not a bad thing. The worst thing is, you don’t want to tell your teammate, “Hey, you need to step up.” I think we all just need to take the personal accountability to hold each other responsible and to hold ourselves accountable as individuals.
How do you balance the attempts at big plays and stay within the defensive scheme?
MR: I think our mindset within the scheme is too robotic right now for us as players. We’ve just got to realize we’re still out there playing football. It’s just football. It’s a game we’ve all been playing for quite a while now. ... You don’t have to go to three downs or four downs to get the ball to your offense. Take the ball on first down. Take the ball on second down. You can still be in the framework of the scheme of this defense and go make plays. Guys like [Ndamukong] Suh and Lavonte [David] and Alfonzo [Dennard], all those guys who are in the NFL right now, you can’t tell me they didn’t make plays in this scheme.
Is the youth a factor?
MR: I think the main thing is, we’re trying to memorize defenses against certain things instead of just reacting. Especially at linebacker, I know coach [Ross] Els talked about that (on Sunday) when we had our meeting. We can draw it up, but even if you’re in the right fit, you’ve got to get off blocks and you’ve gotta go make tackles.
What’s your attitude toward negativity among the fans and on social media?
MR: Anytime you’re getting personally attacked, you’re going to feel some type of way about it. You may have your choice words you want to say. Being in that position, we’ve always got to take the high road. It’s not always easy to do that, especially when you’re being personally attacked by people, but sometimes they don’t know the full story about things. I know it’s all in good faith. Husker fans are just very, very into the program. They’re very, very smart as a fan base. They know football. Sometimes, it could go overboard, but we always appreciate the support of Husker fans. It’s not us against the Husker fans or us against whoever is attacking us on social media. ... We’ve got to take the high road and be the bigger and better person. If things are said to us, keep it in house and discuss it between us. Don’t give anybody any ammo to say we’re not being an upstanding citizen, being good people.