Iowa vs. Nebraska, 11.29

A referee rounds up two balloons after Nebraska scored in a Nov. 29, 2019, game against Iowa at Memorial Stadium.

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The Huskers are last in the Big Ten in sacks per game. Saturday feels like a chance to change that, considering Purdue's pass-heavy scheme.

During his hourlong "Sports Nightly" appearance Tuesday, Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts had a frank assessment of Big Ten football referees this season.

A caller questioned Alberts about what can be done about poor officiating and pointed to the Michigan game Oct. 9, to which Alberts rightly responded that there were, “some pretty bad calls that went against Michigan, too.”

However, the first-year NU administrator didn’t shy away from addressing the part of the game where he thought the crew came up short.

“What’s frustrating for me a little bit is I think sometimes the game environment, to your point in the Michigan game, I’m not sure if that game was a little big for that crew, but the amount of noise, the energy, it appeared to me that perhaps that environment could have been a little bit too big for that crew,” Alberts said.

The Big Ten, Alberts said, devotes a lot of resources to officiating education and growth, technology and other elements.

“I will say this, I think by and large officiating in the Big Ten is pretty good,” he said. “If you look across college football, the reality is, like anything else, it could be better. What our focus is as an athletic director group is to make sure that we have the right education, we have the right folks, we’re doing the right growth.”

That’s an area Alberts clearly thinks needs continued attention.

“We have a lot of officials that have retired. Very veteran folks that have seen a lot,” he said. “And so do we have enough folks in the hopper that are growing and that are ready to officiate a game with that kind of hostility, where (Michigan coach) Jim Harbaugh’s walked out onto the field? At points, you felt like part of it got away from them. You set a precedent for the rest of the game and how it’s going to be handled. I share your frustration, but I think the best approach that I’ve had is to be a part of those conversations, but in the here and now, don’t get fixated on them because there’s not a lot we can do in immediacy to control that.”

Tuioti talks young core: Under different circumstances, Nebraska’s defensive line rotation might feature more young players than it currently does.

However, sixth-year senior Ben Stille has been healthy all year and playing productive ball, and junior Damion Daniels has put himself in a position physically to play the lion’s share of snaps on the Huskers’ defensive interior.

Defensive line coach Tony Tuioti said he likes the way his group is positioned long-term, even though most of his young players are watching this year outside of some late-game clean-up work in a couple of early-season blowouts.

Beginning with Erik Chinander speaking publicly for the first time since his father's death, here's the latest Four Downs from Memorial Stadium.

“A lot of that, to be honest with you, is having real conversations with those guys,” Tuioti said Tuesday. “For instance, like (freshman defensive tackle Nash Hutmacher). He’s developing and he’s getting better and better and better. Just having the conversation with him like, 'Your time is coming.' He’s approached everything the right way. He’s the next guy up. The young guys just have to understand the process.

“We’re in the day and age where young kids don’t want to work through the process. They’re always looking for the quick fix and finding the best place to go play. But I think the culture in our room, we’ve got a lot of young guys that understand that, to get better, you’ve got to work at your craft and continue to trust the process. I feel really good about the young guys that we have for the next few years. If some guys leave, I still feel really good about the young guys that we have.”

NU has six scholarship defensive linemen who are redshirt freshmen or younger in redshirt freshmen Ty Robinson and Mosai Newsom, 2020 freshmen Hutmacher and Marquis Black, and 2021 freshmen Ru'Quan Buckley and Jailen Weaver. Among the 13 scholarship linemen, all but Stille have the option of returning next year.

Parker Gabriel

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.

This article originally ran on journalstar.com.

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