LINCOLN — Nebraska redshirt freshman wide receiver Taariq Allen will miss the rest of the season after he undergoes knee surgery this week, coach Bo Pelini confirmed Monday in his press conference.
Allen got hurt on the opening kickoff of the Huskers’ 23-9 win over Michigan. He caught two passes this year for 11 yards and a touchdown.
Senior I-back Rex Burkhead — who missed the Michigan game and his third full game overall with a nagging left knee injury — is “day to day” for Saturday’s Michigan State game, Pelini said. Burkhead did not practice Monday. In Burkhead’s absence, sophomore Ameer Abdullah carried most of the load, leaving the game only when he had cramps.
That’s because sophomore back Braylon Heard “tweaked his groin” two days before the Michigan game, Pelini said. Though Heard could’ve played in an emergency role against the Wolverines, Pelini preferred that he sit out.
Quarterback Taylor Martinez didn’t miss an offensive snap last Saturday, but he admitted he was “beat up” after the victory. He injured his left ankle late in the second quarter. It’s the opposite ankle of the one that hobbled Martinez throughout the 2010 season.
Martinez said he’ll be “fine” for the game after undergoing treatment during the week.
Blatchford’s consistency earned him time at dime back
Ponca senior Justin Blatchford had seen most of his 2012 game action on special teams. But he took over sophomore Corey Cooper’s role as a dime backer in Saturday’s win over Michigan.
“We had been practicing the past couple weeks at the same position,” Blatchford said. “That must have been a coach’s decision. I was thankful for the opportunity to play, and it presented itself.”
Said defensive backs coach Terry Joseph: “When you’re playing a team like Michigan who has all the motions and shifts, you want a guy who can be consistent. And that’s what Blatch showed.”
Abdullah works to improve his pass blocking
Abdullah was critical of his own performance in pass protection during the 23-9 win over Michigan, saying Monday that he’ll work to improve as the team prepares for Michigan State.
There was some miscommunication between Abdullah and senior tight end Kyler Reed on one third-down play Saturday. Abdullah was a touch late moving over to block Wolverine defensive end Craig Roh. The 6-foot-5, 281-pound senior pushed Abdullah into Martinez for a sack.
“I should have cut (blocked) him,” Abdullah said.
That’s not always the case, though.
“If you feel like you can control him, staying up is good,” Abdullah said. “Because it gives Taylor more time. Sometimes, if you cut them, they get up quick.
“In that matchup, you wanted to cut that guy. He was a beast on the edge.”
Abdullah said the NU backs work on cut blocks often. Never against the first-team defense, though.
Abdullah went low on defensive end Jason Ankrah once last year. Then-defensive coordinator Carl Pelini made sure that was the last time Abdullah ever tried to cut-block a starter in practice.
“Coach Carl, he got after me pretty good,” Abdullah said.
Maher’s rugby punt proves effective against Wolverines
Nebraska introduced the rugby punt with Brett Maher on Saturday night, and the senior said the best part is that it turned out to be effective against Michigan.
As NU had done in some past games with Alex Henery, Maher took the snap, rolled to his right and punted on the run. He averaged 42.2 yards on his four kicks and Michigan finished with negative yardage overall on the two that the Wolverines were able to return.
“The direction of the punt is different, the trajectory is different, the block point is different ...” Maher said. “Everything is just different about it, and it just gives them something different to think about and prepare for.”
Maher said Nebraska always practices it, but worked on it last week more than usual. On one punt Saturday night, Wolverines returner Jeremy Gallon had to run to the left sideline to field the football, muffed it when he tried to catch it by his face mask and ended up losing 9 yards by the time it rolled out of bounds.
If running room were available, would the former Kearney High receiver have thought about taking off on any of those fourth downs?
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I don’t want to come over to the sideline if I don’t get the first down.”
Maher, Santos earn Big Ten awards
Maher won Big Ten special teams player of the week after hitting all three field goal attempts and averaging 42.2 yards per punt.
Nebraska linebacker David Santos won Big Ten co-freshman of the week with 10 tackles.
Nebraska-Penn State kickoff set for 2:30 p.m.
The Big Ten has designated the Nov. 10 Nebraska-Penn State game for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff on ABC/ESPN2.