LINCOLN — Nebraska coach Bo Pelini “would probably be inclined” to sit I-back Rex Burkhead this week after the senior injured his left knee for the third time this season. But Pelini said team doctors, trainers and Burkhead himself will have a say in whether Burkhead plays Saturday against Michigan.
Burkhead didn’t practice Monday, offensive coordinator Tim Beck said.
“I know he’s doing a lot of working out, running, things like that,” Beck said. “But as far as what we did today, he didn’t do anything.”
Burkhead practiced well, Pelini and Beck said, in preparation for Northwestern, a game that came two weeks after he reinjured the knee in the third quarter at Ohio State.
“He felt really good going into the game,” Pelini said. “He felt great. He practiced and didn’t have any issues in practice.”
Said Beck: “It’s hard. He’s such a competitor. He says he’s 100 percent, so how do you know?”
Still, Burkhead came limping off the field in the first quarter of the game at Northwestern. He did not return and spent the second half in sweat pants. In Burkhead’s absence, sophomore Ameer Abdullah ran for 101 yards.
“I take every week as if I’m starting the game, and when I am in the game, I’m trying to be effective,” said Abdullah, who’s eighth in the Big Ten with 615 yards rushing. “I don’t take the week differently depending on workloads. I just try to stay consistent.”
In other injury news, Pelini expects redshirt freshman defensive tackle Kevin Williams — who didn’t make the trip to Evanston — to return for the Michigan game. Sophomore defensive tackle Chase Rome — who suffered a concussion last week in practice — has not yet been cleared.
“We’ll see how he progresses over the next day or so,” Pelini said of Rome.
True freshman defensive end Avery Moss is done for the year. Pelini said Nebraska will ask for a medical redshirt for Moss, who appeared in three games.
“We’re going to fix (Avery) Moss’ shoulder,” Pelini said. “He’s going to be done.”
In 2008, NU procured medical redshirts for Cameron Meredith and Sean Fisher, who played sparingly before missing the rest of their true freshman seasons. Both had shoulder injuries that year.
Junior wide receiver Quincy Enunwa sprained his right shoulder during the Northwestern game, but returned to catch key passes on Nebraska’s two touchdown drives. He told reporters Monday that he’d play against the Wolverines.
Sophomore cornerback Josh Mitchell — who injured his ankle last Wednesday — was doing better Sunday and has a chance to play against Michigan.
Michigan expects CB Taylor to play
Michigan coach Brady Hoke expects starting cornerback Raymon Taylor to play against Nebraska even though the sophomore suffered an injury that prevented him from finishing Saturday’s 12-10 win over Michigan State.
Taylor reportedly injured his arm in the fourth quarter last weekend. But he’ll be “fine” for Saturday, Hoke said at a press conference Monday.
Taylor is tied for the team lead with two interceptions. He took over the first-team role after sophomore cornerback Blake Countess went down with a season-ending injury in the opener.
Wolverine excited to visit ‘Sea of Red’
Michigan safety Thomas Gordon told reporters Monday that he has searched YouTube for clips of Memorial Stadium to get an idea what the atmosphere in Lincoln will be like Saturday night.
Hostile, he expects. Lots of red, too.
The junior said he saw one video from a Nebraska home game at night last season and said the stadium was “rocking.” He’s excited to experience it.
“I really can’t wait. As a team we can’t wait,” Gordon said. “You hear a lot of stories about the Sea of Red.”
The Wolverines are 1-2 away from home this year.
Cotton making his catches count
Nebraska tight end Ben Cotton might have only eight receptions on the season, but the senior tight end has made big touchdown catches in each of the past two games.
Taylor Martinez found Cotton for a 7-yard TD pass to finish the game-winning drive Saturday at Northwestern. Two weeks before, Martinez connected with Cotton on a 3-yard scoring pass that pulled the Huskers within 35-31 at Ohio State.
The emotions spilled out Saturday as Cotton put Nebraska ahead 29-28 with 2:08 left in the game, but he said: “It wasn’t just me. After watching film, I think all 11 guys were just as excited as I was.”
Although Cotton hadn’t yet caught a pass in the game, he liked what he saw as Nebraska lined up for first-and-goal at the 7 after Martinez had connected on a 25-yard pass to Jamal Turner.
“It depends on what Taylor sees to tell him where his first options are,” Cotton said. “But when I saw the defense and when I got the call, I knew it was going to come to me if I got to my landmark. So I was pretty excited.”
Dropped interceptions frustrate Husker DBs
Nebraska might be tied for last in the Big Ten with three interceptions, but it hasn’t been for a lack of chances. Two more passed by Saturday as both safety P.J. Smith and cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste couldn’t hold on to Northwestern passes.
“It’s frustrating,” Smith said.
Smith has at least one other he’s dropped, and the senior said his teammates “haven’t let it go.”
“That’s all they keep talking about,” he said. “All week, that’s what they’re going to be saying.”
Dual-threat duel is historic affair
The Saturday night game between Nebraska and Michigan will mark only the second game in college football history to match quarterbacks with 5,000 career yards passing and 2,000 rushing.
NU junior Taylor Martinez got to 5,335 and 2,242 with his performance against Northwestern. Michigan senior Denard Robinson is at 6,195 and 4,129, the latter figure ranking behind only Pat White of West Virginia and Brad Smith of Missouri for NCAA career rushing by a quarterback.
The only previous game to match QBs with 5,000 and 2,000 came in 2005 when Smith and Missouri played Vince Young and Texas. Overall, 18 players in NCAA history have reached those milestones in their careers.