Teddy Prochazka is searching for a mean streak.
That aggressiveness is what got the true freshman from Elkhorn South on the field in each of the last three games, trending him toward burning his redshirt.
Prochazka grew up a Nebraska fan, among the younger generation who predominantly watched Big Ten games. And he expects the Michigan State game to be a fight. But after last week, he doesn’t feel like it’s any more difficult to establish a physical edge in a road game.
“There’s really no advantage besides the noise,” Prochazka said. “Oklahoma probably went into that game thinking they were gonna manhandle us, and that was our mindset, we were gonna go manhandle them. And I felt like we succeeded on that front.”
Prochazka’s readiness and mentality even led to a stint as a tight end. The 6-foot-9 offensive tackle lined up against Oklahoma with an eligible jersey number (No. 46) in formations using one running back and three or four tight ends.
“I was really happy about it, it’s not often you get to see a guy my size wearing the number 46," Prochazka said. "... It was really kinda an extra tackle formation, it wasn’t anything too new or crazy. The adjustment honestly was from left side to right side.”
As for the redshirt, Prochazka doesn’t think it will happen if he has any say in it.
“I’m making sure that I’m giving the coaches reasons to play me," Prochazka said, "and make sure that they have me on the field, and personally I don’t think I’m going to be redshirting.”
Scott Frost smiled when asked if he’d ever used four tight ends on one play as an offensive coordinator or head coach. Saturday against OU, NU's jumbo formation used four tight ends to blast open a hole for quarterback Adrian Martinez’s 4-yard touchdown.
“I think that’s a first for me,” Frost said.
But playing two tight ends at once is right up Frost’s alley. He paired Austin Allen and Travis Vokolek for much of last season and for dozens of snaps Saturday. Along with a running back, that's called "12" personnel.
Vokolek, hurt before the season, returned for the OU game. Allen shook off an ankle injury and got out of concussion protocol to give the Huskers what’s arguably their best personnel package.
“Those two guys make us better,” Frost said. “They block the edge so well, they block the perimeter well, they get open on pass routes, they know what they’re doing. They make us better in the run game and pass game.”
The quality of their play affects NU’s decision to play them so often, Frost said, as does Nebraska's league. Allen and Vokolek are also two of Nebraska’s top receiving threats, which helps.
“I’m biased, but I’d love to have as many tight ends on the field as possible,” said Vokolek, who had a 38-yard grab to set up a touchdown. “Austin and I go hand-in-hand out there when we’re on the field and I love trying to go make plays.”
Their versatility allows them to play as in-line tight ends, flexed receivers or giant H-backs who line up just behind the tackles. The way Nebraska uses the position, it can have a tight end as small as a receiver like Chancellor Brewington or as giant as Prochazka, an offensive lineman who wore a tight end’s jersey number Saturday.
“It was awesome coming out when we put that in at the beginning of the week,” Vokolek said. “I was super-pumped about it, having all the big guys on the field at the same time.”
Manning on 'good path'
Omar Manning’s touchdown against Oklahoma punctuated his growth since arriving at Nebraska in 2020. In addition to catching two passes for 52 yards and a touchdown, Manning was proud of the way he blocked and ran the right routes.
More opportunities will follow if Manning can continue his steady play. Frost said Monday that Manning is on a “good path” and the Huskers need the big plays Manning can provide.
Manning’s next step?
“Just to capitalize on the momentum I built for myself,” Manning said. “Step by step, continue to get better as a player and a teammate."
Big guys vs. Big guys
Oklahoma ran away from Nebraska’s defensive linemen. Michigan State will run at them.
That’s the way Damion Daniels likes it.
“I feel like Michigan State (tries) to big-man you,” Daniels said. “It’s your big guys against our big guys. That’s why I like Michigan State because I get a lot of action in that game.”
Spartans running back Kenneth Walker III leads the country in rushing and ranks second in yards after contact per attempt. Daniels called MSU’s offensive line “established” and complimented them for moving in concert.
Daniels said the key to slowing Walker down is to beat blocks quickly and in bunches. Walker can’t break tackles if the Huskers stop him before he builds momentum.
“Get to the ball,” Daniels said. “Basically just swarm him. Make sure everybody’s going 100%.”
Homecoming for Przystup
William Przystup stood in the hallway of the Memorial Stadium press box and looked around. In his third year as a Nebraska punter, Monday was his first trip to the weekly media availability.
Dressed in an Oakley T-shirt and jeans, Przystup (pronounced PRISS-tupp) wasn’t sure why he was there until he heard the first question: What does he think about meeting his old team this week?
“Oh,” Przystup said. “This is what this is all about.”
The 22-year-old from Florida played for Michigan State in 2018 and punted for the Spartans in four games that year. A handful of old teammates are still on the roster, including offensive lineman Dan VanOpstall, who hasn’t returned his messages in a couple weeks.
“Either he’s mad at me for some odd reason or he’s preparing to kill me,” Przystup said.
The NU sophomore is the only current Husker to have played inside Spartan Stadium. He considers the atmosphere similar to Nebraska’s but without as many fans. As a punter, he knows the wind can circle in the middle of the stadium. With high walls surrounding the field, it can feel like being in a “rink,” he said.
Przystup started for Nebraska in 2020 but gave way to freshman Daniel Cerni this season — until Saturday. A "nicked up" Cerni — as Frost put it — sat out, and Przystup found out he would start 30 minutes before kickoff.
Przystup gave himself a seven out of 10 rating for his two punts that averaged 50 yards against OU. The yardage was good, he said, but the hang time wasn’t.
“If the ball ended up in the middle of the field and (the returner) got vertical, it could have been worse than we expected,” Przystup said.
Frost said the punter position will be “competitive” moving forward, but Przystup punted “really well" against OU.
Przystup hopes for another chance — this time in front of familiar faces.
“Cant wait to see a few friends there, can’t wait to see some of the specialists,” Przystup said. “But also can’t wait to kick some butt.”
A clue on OU trick play
Alarm bells went off in Deontai Williams’ head. The Oklahoma receiver he was watching wasn’t wearing any gloves.
This qualified as unusual, because OU’s Mario Williams always wore them on film. But Deontai kept the observation to himself.
Moments later, Mario Williams took a pitch from quarterback Spencer Rattler and then threw a pass back to him, which Rattler fired downfield for a 23-yard gain — the longest of the game for the Sooners.
“I was like, ‘Aww, shoot,’” Deontai Williams said. “But I didn’t tell nobody so it’s kind of my fault on that end of it. And you saw what happened — they scored on that drive. So that drive, I blame it on myself.”
Had Williams told fellow safety Marquel Dismuke what he saw, Williams said Nebraska would have gotten an interception on that second-and-1 situation early in the third quarter.
Said Williams: “That was my fault."