Published Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 12:01 am / Updated at 12:30 am
FOOTBALL
Notes: NU's bye-week work includes ball security

LINCOLN — Nebraska's focus on fundamentals during the bye week won't be exclusive to a struggling defense.

The offense has to be thinking about ball security, which was a focus through preseason practice because of the problems a year ago. This season, the Huskers have 11 fumbles through four games, losing five.

Two of those belong to I-back Ameer Abdullah, who has lost one each of the last two games.

“We're getting back to the basics — squeezing, locking the back door,” he said. “(It's) just getting careless. A lot of times fumbles come when you're not focused on the ball necessarily. But we should always be conscientious of things like that, and that's what this week is for.”

Abdullah banged up his shoulder Saturday against South Dakota State on the hit that caused his fumble. But the junior has been at practice and said he's fine.

Martinez sits out practice

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said quarterback Taylor Martinez remains out and “has not practiced the last couple days” with a turf toe injury. Martinez left the practice field Wednesday in a T-shirt and shorts while his teammates worked out in full pads and scrimmaged.

On Tuesday, Pelini said on the Big Ten teleconference that Martinez — in his fourth year as a starter — wouldn't practice or play until he's “100 percent.”

Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, the Huskers' top pass-catching target this season, has a sore knee and did not practice.

“If we had a game, he would have played,” Pelini said. Wide receiver Kenny Bell was also seen without pads Wednesday.

Pelini said defensive tackle Thad Randle — seen limping a bit during the South Dakota State game — is fine.

Safety, LB spots still open

Nebraska has tried both Harvey Jackson and Andrew Green in the safety position opposite Corey Cooper, and defensive coordinator John Papuchis said “that spot's open” Wednesday. NU also has Charles Jackson and LeRoy Alexander available.

But Papuchis added that the evaluations at safety are no different from other spots.

“Truth be told, when you're where we are right now, there's no one that I feel like should just assume that they're the guy,” Papuchis said. “Because, to this point, we haven't played well enough defensively for anyone to feel that way.”

Meanwhile, the competition continues for the starting jobs at linebacker.

And it might be that way for some time, assistant Ross Els said.

No one's emerged yet. Sophomore David Santos was taking reps with the first team at middle linebacker Wednesday. Junior Zaire Anderson (at weakside linebacker) “played well” against South Dakota State, the linebacker coach said.

But Santos and Anderson both began Nebraska's last game on the bench. Freshmen Josh Banderas and Nate Gerry have started. Redshirt freshmen Michael Rose and Jared Afalava are in the mix, as well, especially since the Huskers could play some of their 4-3 base defense against Illinois next week.

“It's just a continuous rotation, and it will be probably the whole season,” Els said.

He did indicate that Nebraska would like to have a little more clarity by the beginning of next week, though.

“I think we need to narrow it down a little bit and figure out the guys at least we think are going to start off the game,” Els said.

Armstrong staying grounded

Nebraska offensive lineman Spencer Long said it's been the same old Tommy Armstrong at practice this week after the redshirt freshman made his first start Saturday, playing well against South Dakota State.

And Long said he didn't expect to see anything different confidence-wise from Armstrong or fifth-year senior Ron Kellogg after they took the snaps for injured quarterback Taylor Martinez against the Jackrabbits.

“I think they knew they could do it before it even happened,” Long said. “They're both good quarterbacks.”

Long said Armstrong showed the same attitude in the huddle that he does during the week in practices. He completed 12 of 15 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown, and also ran five times for 38 yards.

“You always wonder how the lights or the crowd are going to get to a guy, but Tommy's a confident guy,” Long said. “And we knew it. He plays that way. I was proud of him, the way he came out and ran our offense and was poised.”

* * *

Video: Nebraska coach Bo Pelini after Wednesday's practice



Video: Wide receiver Kenny Bell after Wednesday's practice



Video: Defensive end Randy Gregory after Wednesday's practice



Video: The Big Ten Preview Show, Sept. 25



Video: The Big Red Today Show, Sept. 24

Contact the writer: Rich Kaipust

rich.kaipust@owh.com    |   402-444-1042    |  

Rich Kaipust is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and covers Nebraska football and some general assignment tasks, including the College World Series and U.S. Olympic Swim Trials.

Contact the writer: Jon Nyatawa

jon.nyatawa@owh.com    |   402-473-9585    |  

Jon Nyatawa has covered local sports, primarily Nebraska football and baseball, for The Omaha World-Herald since 2008.

Contact the writer: Sam McKewon

sam.mckewon@owh.com    |   402-219-3790    |  

Sam McKewon covers Nebraska football for The World-Herald. Got a tip, question or rant? Good. Email him. Follow him on Twitter. Call him.

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