If there's one player that epitomizes the rise of Nebraska's defense, it's sophomore cornerback Andrew Green. Green started the first three games of the season opposite of Ciante Evans as Alfonzo Dennard sat out due to a pulled leg muscle. The pass defense struggled, giving up 254 yards to Fresno State and 274 yards to Washington, although Green managed a career high seven tackles against the Huskies.
Green lost his starting job at Wyoming as Corey Cooper made his first start at cornerback. At Wisconsin, Ciante Evans and Alfonzo Dennard started at corner, the pair that, heading into the season, most people thought would be the consistent starters. The secondary gave up 255 yards through the air, along with two touchdowns by Nick Toon and Jared Abbrederis who finished the game with four receptions for 94 yards and five receptions for 95 yards, respectively.
Husker fans wondered what was going on with the defense, as heading into Ohio State, Nebraska was ranked 68th nationally against the pass and eighth in the Big Ten. Green made the start against Ohio State, finishing the game with a sole assisted tackle. He once again lost the starting job to Stanley Jean-Baptiste against Minnesota, with Husker fans buzzing about Jean-Baptiste because of his size (huge for a cornerback) and a great interception against the Buckeyes.
Before the Michigan State game, Husker fans were told Jean-Baptiste had an injury and that Green would get the start in his place. As the game went on, however, it was clear that Jean-Baptiste did not have an injury but that Green had won back his starting role.
Things appear to have come together for Green, as he played his best game so far against Michigan State, where he had seven tackles with two for loss, and was part of a secondary that stopped Spartan receiver B.J. Cunningham's catch streak at 41 games and held Michigan State to only 86 yards passing.
As the secondary has taken shape, the pass defense has gotten better. Nebraska goes into the Northwestern game ranked 11th nationally and fifth in the Big Ten in pass defense. They will face more challenges as the year goes on. Northwestern is second in the conference in passing offense, Iowa third, and Michigan fourth.
The good news is that this secondary has come around. The better news is that they're very young, which means they'll be good for the next few years to come.