LINCOLN — Jordan Westerkamp was the hero Saturday, but Nebraska squeezed all it could out of another redshirt freshman receiver against Northwestern.
With Kenny Bell getting banged up early and Jamal Turner already out, Alonzo Moore played about 80 snaps in the 27-24 victory. NU assistant coach Rich Fisher said Moore might have played 20 all season previously.
“Sometimes simply by a guy getting hurt it forces a guy to have to grow up real quick,” Fisher said Wednesday. “And if I would say anything, he grew up in that game. He surprised me, just in terms of his knowledge of what was going on.”
Moore caught four passes for 43 yards and was targeted on several other throws. The former high school quarterback from Winnfield, La., also was among those in the scrum on the final Hail Mary pass that Westerkamp caught.
Fisher said he knew Moore would have to “learn in the fire” because of his lack of experience, but did a good job of recognizing and correcting mistakes throughout the game. Moore previously had two receptions in six games.
“There were a couple things that probably Kenny wouldn't have done that Alonzo did do, but I think he more than made up for those mistakes,” Fisher said. “He caught some big balls and he ran the correct routes.
“The opportunity presented itself to him, and I thought he played really, really well.”
Valentine making progress
Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Vincent Valentine earned positive reviews from the coaching staff after he received more playing time than normal during last weekend's win against Northwestern.
Valentine was on the field for six of the Huskers' final nine defensive series in the second half. He had one solo tackle.
There's still plenty to work on — defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski said the position-specific techniques can sometimes be overlooked by a guy who's 325 pounds and can occasionally move opponents around with strength alone. Valentine may not have played as much Saturday had sophomore Aaron Curry stayed healthy.
But defensive coordinator John Papuchis said Valentine has continued to build off Saturday's game, when he played with more emotion and physicality than usual.
“I'm hoping that's the day when a lot of our guys grew up, including Vincent,” Papuchis said.
Coaches look to keep Newby involved
True freshman I-back Terrell Newby took a jet sweep handoff on the fourth snap of Saturday's game against Northwestern, a play that could have gone for more than 3 yards, running backs coach Ron Brown said.
Newby lined up as a receiver before motioning back toward the formation just before the snap. It was almost a big play, and maybe should have been, according to Brown.
“We were one man away from that thing going 60 yards for a touchdown,” Brown said.
That's why the coaches wanted to find different ways to get Newby involved. He has 293 rushing yards on 51 attempts so far this year.
“He's a threat,” Brown said.
Kaczenski no stranger to Big House
Kaczenski will be making his first trip to Ann Arbor as a Nebraska assistant on Saturday, but he has been to Michigan Stadium as both an Iowa assistant and Notre Dame lineman.
Kaczenski was the starting center for Notre Dame as a senior in 1997 when the Fighting Irish lost 21-14 to Michigan at the Big House. That Wolverine team went on to finish 12-0 and be co-national champions with Nebraska.
“They had (Brian) Griese. They were loaded. There was a lot of talent on that field,” Kaczenski said. “Hopefully you guys don't find those tapes anywhere.”
Kaczenski, from Erie, Pa., was wooed by Michigan coming out of high school when Gary Moeller was head coach. He said his family takes vacations in Michigan in the summer and his mom's family is from that area.
“It's neat playing Michigan, man,” he said. “You hear that fight song so much you start humming it yourself. There's a lot of great things about college football, and Michigan's a big part of it.”
* * *
>> Video: The Big Ten Preview Show, Nov. 6:
>> Video: The Big Red Today Show, Nov. 5: