On its final day of full preparation before Saturday’s 11:30 a.m. matchup with Kansas State, the Nebraska football team’s focus shifted to the kickoff coverage game.  Tied for the conference lead with 23 touchbacks this season, the Huskers had just one touchback against Kansas last Saturday on seven kickoffs. 

On six returns, Kansas averaged 38.3 yards per return.  Head Coach Bill Callahan felt that some fine-tuning was in order in the kicking by freshman Adi Kunalic after Saturday.

“I think he was really trying hard to kick it out,” Callahan said after Thursday’s two-and-a-half hour workout on the grass fields of the Gass Practice Facility.  “He knew the returner was excellent.  Sometimes, when you try to hit the ball too hard, you miss the mark somewhat.  I told him to relax and trust your coverage.  You’re not going to be able to hit everyone out of the ballpark.” 

Kunalic, who has 23 touchbacks this season on 48 kickoffs, may be looking to put more air under the ball in the final two games to allow the coverage unit to get set up.

“We want to be able to put the ball up,” Callahan said.  “We want the hang time so that the coverage can get down and make a play.  At times when you do line drive the ball, it can hurt the coverage because the returner is getting the ball faster than he normally gets it and he has a chance to get up the field before your coverage can get down the field and get into their lanes.” 

While kickoffs are the initial stage of the field-position battle, the main stage is the play of Nebraska’s defense, which would likely be helped by the return of senior linebacker Bo Ruud.  Eighth on the team in tackles with 42 and tied for the team lead in interceptions with two, Ruud has been unavailable since early in the Texas A&M game.  Callahan is optimistic that Ruud will take the field for his final home game as a Husker.   

“He had a good practice and we’ll see how he responds (Friday) and make a decision,” Callahan said.

Nebraska will wrap preparations for Saturday’s nationally-televised matchup against Kansas State with a walkthrough Friday afternoon at Memorial Stadium