LINCOLN — Expect Wan’Dale Robinson to see an uptick in touches. And Nebraska would like it to begin this weekend.
Coach Scott Frost said Thursday that the Huskers want the ball in the hands of the dynamic true freshman receiver/running back more often as the team continues final prep for Northern Illinois. Robinson, a former four-star prospect, has six carries for 30 yards and six catches for 68 more in two games.
Frost said creating opportunities for Robinson and sophomore Maurice Washington to make plays will be key in getting the offense back on track. With Robinson in particular, that could mean more work in the backfield.
“We need to get other guys the ball, but we need to create any way we can to get those two guys with the ball,” Frost said. “And if we’re not getting one of them enough touches, then we gotta manufacture it and allow them to make the plays they’re capable of.”
Nebraska will eventually be able to insert Robinson anywhere and let him operate as a running back, in the slot or out wide, Frost said. But it’s hard to open things up that much right away.
“We gotta be smart with how we use him,” Frost said. “But he’s capable of doing both. It’s just hard to overload him with three different positions right now. The more time goes by, the more I think we’re going to be able to utilize him because of his familiarity with what we’re doing.”
Beware of dogs
Frost has been in the shoes of Northern Illinois coach Thomas Hammock plenty of times.
Nebraska’s coach has been a double-digit underdog in a game — at Central Florida and NU — and knows that in those cases you have to take chances. So he expects Northern Illinois, a 14-point underdog, to do just that.
“You want to throw everything in the kitchen sink at the other team,” Frost said. “So our defense needs to be ready for that.”
Frost said Nebraska’s defense didn’t handle the “gadget” plays from Colorado, which hit a 96-yard flea flicker for a touchdown that altered the game’s energy and momentum.
“We’ve got to be situationally aware and ready for anything they throw at us,” Frost said.
» It was another good week of practice, Frost said, with the offense and defense improving “big time.” There was more attention to detail and effort to make things work.
» Coaches don’t consider ball security to be an issue for Adrian Martinez, despite the fact he’s lost two fumbles and thrown two interceptions. Frost added that he doesn’t want it to become a chronic problem, either.
“We stressed it just as much or more than ever this week,” Frost said. “We gotta take care of the football.”
» Frost said NU is likely to get more receivers involved earlier Saturday in an effort to keep the position group fresher late in the game. Some young players who are close to being ready need to get on the field and “learn on the fly.” Others like Kanawai Noa, Mike Williams and Jaron Woodyard — all seniors with zero catches this year — will find a way to help, too.
“It’s an anomaly to me that a couple of those guys haven’t seen a ball yet,” Frost said. “But that can’t keep up. It’s inevitable that the ball’s going to get to them, and they need to make plays when it happens.”
» Redshirt freshman center Cameron Jurgens still hasn’t been 100 percent physically but is working toward it. Frost said the learning curve also continues for the Beatrice product who sat out last year and missed the end of his high school career with an injury.
» Coaches continue to feel optimistic about running back Dedrick Mills and his abilities despite the fact that he’s run for just 68 yards on 23 carries so far.
“I still expect great things out of him this year,” Frost said. “He’s going to be a big part of what we’re doing Saturday and beyond.”
» Frost said he will probably announce the recipients of NU’s two remaining open scholarships on Monday.
» Nebraska has had too many situations where it is trying to pick a “perfect play.” Frost, who calls the plays, said that can happen when the offense is behind on down and distance and not in a rhythm.
“That’s not really who we are,” Frost said. “So we gotta be better on first down and we gotta stick to what we know and what we can do well and what the guys know and can do well.”
» Frost prefers early kickoffs so coaches can see their families and players can get extra rest. But he said the atmosphere at Memorial Stadium under the lights is “special.”
“I can’t wait to see the environment,” Frost said. “We got the best fans anywhere and we’re all grateful for them. So I can’t wait to feel the buzz in the stadium.”
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The Nebraska cheerleaders, band, and mascot welcome the team back to Memorial Stadium.
A visual overview of the University of Nebraska’s mascots over the years, originally published in 2003 by the Omaha World-Herald to celebrate a new and improved version of Herbie Husker.
Photos and information provided by World-Herald photographers and staff writers, NU Sports Information, and the Robert Ihrig Cornhusker Collection.
From 1900 to the 1940s, various corn images appeared on athletic publications, cheerleader outfits and fan material. By the late '30s and early '40s, the corn images started to take on a human appearance. A character with a head of corn dates back to the Corn Cobs men's spirit group mascot around 1942. This figure appeared throughout the next couple of decades, but apparently had no official name. Unofficial names for the cornhead figure included Corn Cob Man, Johnnie Husker and Old Man Cornhusker.
"Johnnie Husker" mascot on display at Bob's Gridiron Grille in Lincoln, Neb.
This character resembled the first cornhead guy, but this time looked more like a full ear of corn. Mr. Cornhead also sometimes sported a Bob Devaney-influenced cowboy hat. It was not uncommon to see multiple Mr. Cornheads roaming the sidelines during the games.
2011: Cornhead-wearing fans from Canadian, Texas continue tradition as they take in the scene at Memorial Stadium, before a football game against the Ohio State Buckeyes.
In 1962, the Corn Cobs introduced a new figure to replace the cornhead guy. The nine-foot straw-hatted giant was called Husky the Husker. The mascot's tenure, however, was short-lived, due in large part to the arrival of new coach Bob Devaney in 1962.
Coach Devaney is said to have been unimpressed with the Husky Husker character. A new image was needed. By 1963, as a nod to Devaney's previous job with the Wyoming Cowboys, red cowboy hats with the letter 'N' were made available for fans through free hat promotions. Likewise, a new generation of mascots would emerge also wearing cowboy hats.
Created by Bill Goggins, this character first appeared in the November 7, 1964 issue of Nebraska Farmer magazine. Initially called Mr. Big Red, the character later became known as Harry Husker. The character eventually became a sideline mascot in the early '70s, but after 1973, Harry vanished and Herbie Husker appeared.
"Harry Husker" mascot on display at Bob's Gridiron Grille in Lincoln, Neb.
1971: The Kansas Jayhawk and Baby Jay meet Mr. Cornhusker. Though Cornhusker was outnumbered two to one in mascots, Nebraska ran away with the game, 55-0.
2010: A Harry Husker mascot head from the 1950s and '60s continues to watch over fans at Barry's Bar & Grill in Lincoln.
A lady counterpart to Harry Husker appeared on a mug in 1965 that was given to parents by the Athletic Department. A Harry Husker mug was given to the fathers, and a Harriet Husker was given to the mothers.
"Harriet Husker" mascot on display at Bob's Gridiron Grille in Lincoln, Neb.
The most enduring of all Husker mascots first appeared in 1974. New coach Tom Osborne had taken over the year before, and it seemed time for another image change. Sports Information Director Don Bryant commissioned for the creation of a new mascot after seeing a cartoon by artist Dirk West of Lubbock, Texas, depicting a Nebraska farmer in overalls. Shortly thereafter, Herbie Husker was adopted as the official team symbol.
"Herbie Husker" mascot on display at Bob's Gridiron Grille in Lincoln, Neb.
1989: Herbie Husker underwent numerous manifestations over thirty years as mascot.
1996: Herbie Husker Keith Cunnings, a sophomore from Grand Island, gets suited up as Missouri's mascot zips up his tiger suit in the background.
2011: A Herbie Husker yard sign is garnished with a flotation device near the toll bridge connecting Decatur, Nebraska to Iowa - an area that had been heavily flooded earlier that year.
This character first appeared in the fall of 1993. Born of the vision of Associate Athletic Director Barbara Hibner, Lil' Red is known for his many antics. He dances, he stands on his head, and he can even make his head disappear. The mascot is an eight-foot tall figure inflated by a small battery-powered fan, worn by the human operator inside. Originally intended to appeal to children, Lil' Red has won national awards and rave reviews from across the country.
In early 2003, Athletic Director Steve Pederson announced that a new and improved Herbie Husker would be unveiled for the upcoming season. The new look trades in the overalls for jeans as well as leaner and more athletic body.
2009: A sharply-dressed Herbie Husker high-fives a fan as Nebraska took on Louisiana-Lafayette at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb.
2016: Herbie Husker takes off his hat during the Big Red Bash at the Devaney Center in Lincoln.
2019: Herbie Husker also makes appearances at Nebraska basketball games. Here, he celebrates during halftime as Nebraska broke its seven-game losing streak with a 62-61 win over Minnesota.