LINCOLN — Chris Tormey has been doing all he can to be prepared for Nebraska, studying the Huskers’ offense so that Wyoming will have few surprises on Aug. 31.
The Cowboys’ defensive coordinator will have some help with everything else that goes into a trip to Memorial Stadium.
Tormey should get friendly faces in the seats thanks to a host of aunts, uncles and cousins who live in the Omaha area. Tormey was with some of them until his family moved to Montana when he was 4.
Tormey also has previously coached under the lights at Memorial Stadium, and in one of the biggest games at the venue in the 1990s. He was an assistant for Washington in 1991 when the Huskies rallied from a 21-9 third-quarter deficit to beat Nebraska 36-21 on their way to the national championship.
“I just remember coming to Lincoln and the tremendous atmosphere in that stadium, and I’ll never forget it,” Tormey said. “I just remember the way fans were so locked into what was going on on the field.
“You can go to big stadiums and people go to watch, but people go to participate when you go to Lincoln.”
Even though knowing the landscape might help, Tormey realizes the challenge ahead will be a great one for Wyoming in the 7 p.m. season-opening game that will be televised by the Big Ten Network.
Wyoming returns seven defensive starters in his second year with the Cowboys, but they will be trying to improve on national rankings of No. 106 in total defense and No. 97 in scoring defense in 2012.
Going against NU will be a tough way to kick it off.
“They don’t have any holes in their offense,” Tormey said. “Nowhere can you say, ‘This is a weakness.’ ”
Tormey said Wyoming’s biggest repairs came in the front seven, where it lost four starters. That bunch will be challenged by a Nebraska offensive line that has five seniors among its top half-dozen or so.
Then there’s Taylor Martinez, of course, whom Tormey called “one of the best quarterbacks in the country, if not the best quarterback in the country.”
“It’s just all the things he can do throwing the ball, but he’s also such a threat running the ball,” he said. “He makes you defend the whole field.
“It’s the best offense in the Big Ten and the best rushing offense in the Big Ten. And maybe the best receiving corps in Nebraska history, so it’s not like you can just load the box every down and man up on them because there’s skill on the perimeter, too.”
Because the Wyoming defense mostly sees spread offense in preseason camp, Tormey said going against Nebraska will be good preparation for Mountain West foes that will use two-back sets and run the football against the Cowboys later in the season.
Wyoming started to shore up its defense some late last year, when it won three of its last four games after a 1-7 start. Tormey said the process just continues on in August.
“It’s going OK,” he said. “We’re making progress, I think, every day.”
Tormey, 58, is the son of an Irish immigrant who worked in the cattle business after coming to the Midwest. His mother, Margaret (Waters) Tormey, was from Carroll, Iowa.
The family moved briefly to Montana in the late 1950s before Tormey was raised in Spokane, Wash., where his mother still lives. Tormey went on to play defensive back at Idaho in the 1970s, and he followed his time at Washington (1984-94) with head coaching stints at both Idaho (1995-99, Big West coach of the year in ’98) and Nevada (2000-03).
Tormey spent some time recruiting the Omaha area for Washington, but said some other return trips are long overdue.
“I really need to get back,” he said. “We’ve got some great family friends there. It’s just one of those things I’ve meant to do. I just need to get in the car and drive to Omaha sometime.”