LINCOLN — Although Rutgers’ defense has struggled this year — giving up a whopping 6.7 yards per play and 35.7 points per game — offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said the Scarlet Knights’ scheme still can be dangerous.
“They have a pressure package that’s a little scary,” Langsdorf said. “They give you a lot of different looks. They’ve given people some problems with it. They’re pretty disruptive.”
Rutgers has given up 2,067 combined yards in its last four games. The pass defense has been particularly vulnerable, with several young players in the secondary. However, both Langsdorf and wide receivers coach Keith Williams said Rutgers’ defensive backs are good players and can cover when necessary.
Newby is ‘getting healthy’
I-back Terrell Newby, who played sparingly on Saturday because of accumulated injuries, practiced well on Tuesday, Langsdorf said. Coaches will continue to watch Newby throughout the week as the Huskers prepare for Rutgers.
“Looks like he’s getting healthy,” Langsdorf said. “We’re just making sure he’s 100 percent.”
I-back Imani Cross, who ran for 98 yards and had one of the better games of his career on Saturday, figures to get a lot of looks, too.
“He deserves some carries,” Langsdorf said. “He really ran hard, looked good. We’d like to keep him fresh, but we also like what he gave us.”
Line coach lauds his group
Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh said Nebraska’s line probably played its best game of the year against Michigan State.
“Expectations are so high, though, that we’ve got to get better,” Cavanaugh said. “But it was good.”
Cavanaugh said Nebraska’s line communicated particularly well, which is a credit to center Ryne Reeves.
“He comes in almost every day and we meet,” Cavanaugh said. “He’s what a center’s supposed to be. He just puts the work in and prepares. It starts with him. You’ve got to be on the same page, right? Talking is important.”
Cross ready for more carries
There was a bit of recovery required for Cross following his 18-carry night in Saturday’s win over Michigan State, but the senior I-back wasn’t complaining one bit.
Cross had experienced similar workloads before — last year he carried the ball 22 times against Illinois and had 20 attempts against Purdue.
But Saturday seemed to present an added physical challenge. All eight of Cross’ first-half carries were runs designed to go between the tackles. He averaged 4.5 yards per attempt, absorbing violent body blows and collisions each time.
That took its toll. Cross said he’s been bouncing back these past few days. He’ll be ready to do it again Saturday.
“I feel great,” Cross said after practice Tuesday. “I was thankful for the opportunity that I was presented with.”
Completing play paid off
Williams, NU’s receivers coach, said he agreed with what the referees saw on Brandon Reilly’s winning catch Saturday night.
Williams said Reilly’s effort on the play was consistent with what he asks his receivers to do.
“I don’t know if he knew he was out of bounds or not, but a lot of times when plays get a little awkward like that, the wideout will get out of sorts mentally and not complete the play,” Williams said. “We do drills and we talk a lot about just getting to the ball, regardless of where it’s at. Regardless of the situation or the circumstance or PI (pass interference) or whatever the case may be, just get to the ball. So I was proud that he did that.”
On the 30-yard pass from Tommy Armstrong that pushed NU ahead 39-38, Reilly took a few steps out of bounds after exchanging contact with a Michigan State defender. Officials ruled that he was forced out, and a replay showed that he had established position back in bounds before making the catch.
With Alonzo Moore out and after a switch with Stanley Morgan, Reilly lined up facing man-to-man — and both Reilly and Williams said Tuesday they figured the ball would go to that left side.
“I saw the coverage,” Reilly said, “and I had a pretty good feeling it was coming my way.”
Reilly was questionable all the way up to last Friday because of turf toe. Sunday morning, he said, “it did not feel very good at all.”
“But it could be worse ... could be in a boot or cast or something,” he said. “So I can’t complain too much.”
Sterup brings physicality
Langsdorf said he thought Zach Sterup helped with the Husker offensive line playing one of its more physical games against Michigan State.
the 6-foot-8, 320-pound senior from Hastings moved to right guard last week after starting the previous three games at right tackle.
Sterup said Tuesday that he thought it went OK.
“A lot of the technique stuff is the same run blocking-wise,” he said. “It was just getting the plays down and getting the assignments down. It wasn’t that big of a challenge, but at the same time I was a little nervous. Michigan State was a good team. But it worked out.”
Flood says NU ‘really talented’
Rutgers coach Kyle Flood met with local reporters late Monday afternoon, briskly answering questions about his team’s recent three-game slide — blowout losses to Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan — and Nebraska. Some highlights:
» Flood said NU is a “really talented team” that “plays a lot of players” because of multiple personnel groups on offense. Flood remarked that Nebraska has played a number of guys on defense, too, but that’s as much about the Huskers’ injury situation as anything.
» Flood called quarterback Tommy Armstrong “a good decision-maker, very good passer and, if you don’t contain him, he can really make a difference in the run game.”
» Rutgers has had a fumbled snap in each of its last five games featuring quarterback Chris Laviano.
“It’s something we gotta get fixed, something that, going forward, we can’t afford to put ourselves behind schedule because of an unforced error, just like a false start, just like a lining offsides. Those are unforced errors,” Flood said. “Those are the things we have to eliminate.”