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Mark Whipple is cranking up the heat on his Nebraska offense

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On a new episode of the Pick Six Podcast, Tom Shatel, Sam McKewon, Evan Bland and Dirk Chatelain discuss who can truly handle Nebraska’s ‘pressure cooker’ coaching job.

Mark Whipple is fired up.

For several weeks, Nebraska’s offensive coordinator has demanded more from his unit. After all, he’s seen the Huskers drive down the field for a touchdown on four of their five opening drives this season, only for that level of consistency to almost immediately go out the window.

The Huskers gained 385 yards of offense and scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to get past Indiana, but Whipple was still left wanting more. Considering Nebraska one of six Big Ten West teams with a 1-1 conference record, he knows there’s everything to play for.

“I told them that on Sunday that I was not happy with the way we played. I was happy with the way we finished,” Whipple said. “I told them on Monday that this is reality; we’re in first place. We have a chance, and that’s all we can ask for.”

In order to get the most out of the Husker offense, Whipple is trying to elevate his performances, too. That means coaching up starting quarterback Casey Thompson when he makes mistakes, something that he was forced to do late in the first quarter of Saturday’s matchup.

After Thompson took an ill-advised sack on third-and-2, Whipple immediately gave Thompson an earful on the sidelines, and backup Chubba Purdy entered the game for the next series. Both Whipple and interim head coach Mickey Joseph are hoping that experience will help motivate Thompson to raise his level of consistency.

“Your job’s to score touchdowns, and we go three plays for 70 yards, and then you start making mistakes, so my frustration was taken out on Casey,” Whipple said. “He knows that I love him, and you can’t do that with everybody but he handled it really well and responded. My expectations seem at times to be higher than our guys that are playing, and that’s frustrating to me.”

Considering Joseph also utilizes an approach of tough love at times, Whipple’s coaching philosophy seems like a good fit alongside NU’s head coach. Try as he might to deliver lessons in other ways, Whipple’s experience has taught him one thing — players learn best with firm, resolute messages.

“In my history, when I walk around being a nice guy it just doesn’t work as well as when I’m a d***,” Whipple said.

Considering Whipple led Pittsburgh to the No. 3 scoring offense nationally a year ago, he sees plenty of room for improvement from a Nebraska offense that ranks No. 67 nationally with 31.4 points per game so far this season. NU’s passing offense comes in at No. 51 nationally thus far, and the Huskers are better overall as their 437.8 yards of offense are good for a top-50 mark.

But, Whipple wants more than a mere top-50 offense, and that’s where he sees a disconnection between his expectations and those of his players. For a veteran football coach who has seen teams and seasons come and go, he knows how precious every Saturday — or a Friday — can be. Teams that don’t make the most of those chances fade to memory, while the teams that do go on to bigger and better things.

“I don’t know if they really think we can win every game,” Whipple said. “We’re good enough, I think; I’m not a genius but we can win these games. We already threw away three of them, but that’s the expectation — not just to go to a bowl game but to win the West. You’re in first place, so act like it and play like it.”

Yes, Whipple’s hard-nosed approach might not resonate with every player on his offense. But, in order to get this Nebraska offense ready for the final seven games of the season, Whipple sees no other choice.

The time for potential, optimism and all-around positivity passed a long time ago.

Now, it’s time to win.

“I just don’t want to have anybody that played for me say that coach Whipple cheated me, or he didn’t give me his all. They may not like me, but they know when they come in there that they’re going to have a good classroom, they’re going to learn and they’re going to get better,” Whipple said.

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