Huskers spread wealth to stable of receivers

Brandon Reilly was one of seven Nebraska receivers who had multiple catches during Saturday's win. "He does a nice job of having a good feel of coverage and getting himself into some open spots," offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said.

LINCOLN — Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said the Huskers liked the matchups they were going to get on 6-foot-4 receiver Lane Hovey against South Alabama, so they went looking for him right away Saturday night.

By halftime, the junior already had a career-high four receptions for 64 yards, picking up four first downs as NU opened a 24-0 lead.

"He's a big physical guy who's got a big target area to catch the ball," Langsdorf said. "We did have some throws going to him, and I thought he responded well."

By the third quarter, Nebraska had moved on to Brandon Reilly and Alonzo Moore, who split Tommy Armstrong's first six completions out of halftime. The three receptions by Reilly produced 52 yards and three more first downs.

"He's pretty nifty in there," Langsdorf said. "He does a nice job of having a good feel of coverage and getting himself into some open spots. He's faster than you think he is."

Armstrong was 18 of 25 for 223 yards passing at that point — and Jordan Westerkamp had seen the ball just once.

Not every week will include so little reliance on Westerkamp, a junior on pace to climb among the Huskers' all-time leading receivers. And at some point, it will benefit NU to get De'Mornay Pierson-El back on the field.

But through two games, the Huskers seem to have gotten the most out of Reilly, Moore, Hovey and Stanley Morgan — four receivers who came into the season with limited production.

"We like to have the ability to kind of spread it around and attack different things in the defense, and not just go through one guy," Langsdorf said. "They doubled Westy a few times, so it wasn't going to go through him. But he got one late, and then the rest of them had their turns. But I think that's a good thing for us."

Reilly, Hovey and Moore all finished with five catches in the 48-9 win. NU had three players with five or more receptions once in the previous 34 games — last season in the Holiday Bowl.

Morgan and Westerkamp added three receptions apiece against the Jaguars, and Taariq Allen came on late for two more.

"I've said it time in and time out, those guys are talented," Armstrong said. "We just got to be able to get them the ball in the right situation, and I think that's what I try to do. Our coaches put me in a great position to do that."

And Nebraska might not have known what it had before the season started. Several receivers were nicked up during fall camp. Reilly and Hovey were former walk-ons. Outside of Westerkamp, it wasn't a crew that put up huge high school receiving numbers, and some were converted from other positions along the way.

Their task wasn't easy, either, considering NU was replacing fifth-round draft pick Kenny Bell and starting the season without the dynamic Pierson-El.

"I think there is pressure on us, but we like it that way," Hovey said. "We tell each other before every game that the receivers are the guys that are going to make this game or break this game, and we just have to go out and make plays. I think we all, as a group, really enjoy having that put on our shoulders, and like going out there and making plays."

Reilly and Westerkamp share the team lead with 10 receptions. Moore has eight catches and joins Westerkamp with two touchdowns.

Moore said they're playing loose under first-year assistant Keith Williams, and the success of his teammates has been fun to watch.

"I think I'm more happy when they're making plays than when I'm making plays," Moore said. "I'm watching guys that were on scout team with me, and all the guys period. That gets me going."

Miami will make it harder for the Husker wideouts to get open next Saturday. But they have been catching just about everything thrown their way so far, and Hovey said the staff is good at being able to isolate matchups they want.

That has been reassuring after the injury bug not only bit the NU receivers in August but kept biting.

"We had different guys out at different times, so I think it was hard for us and for the coaches to really figure out who was going to be able to do what for the offense," Hovey said. "And I think that with most of the guys back now, we're starting to get it figured out and getting it all meshing together well."

Contact the writer: 402-444-1042, rich.kaipust@owh.com twitter.com/RKaipustOWH

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