Archive for Friday, November 5, 2004

NU’s Dailey struggling as passer

Huskers QB has just seven completions in last two games

November 5, 2004

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— Nebraska's Joe Dailey says being a football quarterback is akin to being a baseball pitcher.

Lately he's been throwing lots of balls and very few strikes.

Since passing for a school-record 342 yards and record-tying five touchdowns against Baylor on Oct. 16, Dailey is a combined seven-of-30 for 142 yards and no TDs in games against Kansas State and Missouri.

The passing game is supposed to be featured in first-year coach Bill Callahan's West Coast offense, and it was through the first five games, when Dailey attempted an average of 30.4 passes.

That number has dropped to 16.7 the last three games -- only two more than the Cornhuskers averaged last season in Frank Solich's run-reliant offense.

Dailey said offensive coordinator Jay Norvell had been trying to simplify the passing game for him.

"When things get hard for a pitcher, they go back to doing the things they do best, and that's throwing a fastball," Dailey said. "That is exactly what he wants me to do -- go back to my very basic fundamentals."

Dailey's next start is Saturday against Iowa State, where the wind tunnel that is Jack Trice Stadium can making passing extremely difficult in November.

The forecast calls for temperatures in the low 60s and light winds Saturday in Ames, Iowa. Though Dailey may catch a break on the weather, he will be without his top receiver, tight end Matt Herian. The 6-foot-5 junior is out for the season after breaking his leg last week against Missouri.

"To lose someone who is tall is crucial, but at the same time, we've got people who can replace him," Dailey said. "I'm fully confident in J.B. Phillips and Dusty Keiser. We have everyone we need. Losing Matt is a tremendous loss, but we have to move on."

It will be critical for the Big 12 North-leading Cornhuskers (5-3, 3-2) to improve on their third-down efficiency against the Cyclones (4-4, 2-3).

The Huskers converted only 3 of 26 third downs against Kansas State and Missouri.

Dailey himself has been wretched in third-down situations. He was 0-for-8 passing on third down against Missouri. In the last six quarters, he's a combined 0-for-13 with two sacks and an interception on third-down passes.

"We're disappointed," Callahan said. "But Joe Dailey continues to work hard at becoming the quarterback we want him to be. He is trying his best in so many respects, and I stand behind him."

Callahan said Dailey's problems stemmed from poor timing, some poorly thrown balls and good coverage by opposing defenses.

"The passing game -- it can get hot, it can get cold at any moment," Callahan said. "Right now, we're not very hot. The last two games, we all understand where the third-down importance lies. We'll continue to emphasize it again."

Callahan said he had seen marked improvement in Dailey in at least one area. After throwing 11 interceptions in the first four games, the sophomore has thrown just two in the last four.

"I see that as a real step in maturity," Callahan said. "He made some decisions to abort the ball and obviously not risk the interception, so I see a real positiveness in that.

"As we grow, hopefully we can turn some of those incompletes into completes, and it will be a different ball game for us."

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