LINCOLN — Senior I-back Rex Burkhead, who's missed the last three outings with an injured knee, will be a game-time decision Saturday.
Coach Bo Pelini told reporters Thursday that Burkhead practiced well this week, but his status for Senior Day won't be determined until just before kickoff.
“We're going to play it by ear, see how it feels and go from there,” Pelini said.
Burkhead suffered an MCL sprain, his third this year, against Northwestern on Oct. 20. He and 28 other Nebraska seniors will be honored before the game against Minnesota on Saturday.
Another senior, receiver Tim Marlowe, could be out Saturday. Marlowe (shoulder) will also be evaluated before the game.
Illinois blitz tested young Gophers
Illinois blitzed quite often against Minnesota last week, which coach Jerry Kill hopes will be a learning experience for his true freshman quarterback and young O-line.
The Gophers started three sophomores and two redshirt freshmen up front at Illinois. It was Philip Nelson's fourth career start at quarterback. And the Illini “sold out” with pressure looks, Kill said.
Minnesota's ability to run for 231 yards helped counter those blitz schemes in a 17-3 win, but there were times when Illinois disrupted its passing plays, Kill said.
“We'd liked to have thrown the ball in some certain situations, but even in the play-action game — where we could get the ball out quick — they had people in our face and had so much pressure on us,” Kill said.
Kill complimented Nelson's demeanor this week. Pelini did the same Thursday.
“I think he's showed good poise,” Pelini said of Nelson. “I think he understands what they're trying to do offensively and I think he executes well.”
NU's improved O-line concerns Minnesota
Kill thinks the biggest difference in Nebraska this year, compared to 2011, is its offensive line play.
The Huskers are improved up front, and it's a concern for Kill, whose team lost 41-14 against Nebraska last year.
“In my opinion, they're stronger this year on the offensive line than they were a year ago,” Kill said. “I think that's where I've really been impressed with them.”
Nebraska's rushing offense ranks seventh nationally (269.3 yards per game), and its cohesive offensive line is a big reason why, Kill said.
“The group works well together and they're tremendous run blockers,” Kill said. “They wear you out, very much like Wisconsin can do to you. They just keep coming at you.”
— Jon Nyatawa
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