Linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey wore his for the first time Monday. He never got one in 2013. He missed all of 2014 with an injury, so he never received one then. And he didn’t get one before this season because of a one-game suspension.
Day one of being a Blackshirt. That was Rose-Ivey’s status to start Miami week.
“It’s pretty cool to see where you’ve come from and the progress you’ve made,” he said.
Nebraska now has 13 Blackshirts. Jonathan Rose, also suspended for the first game, got one Monday, too. Only he and Rose-Ivey didn’t arrive in Nebraska’s locker room to find their shirts hanging on a hook.
Defensive coordinator Mark Banker instead presented them in a team meeting.
“That was pretty special — J. Rose and I both had a journey along the way,” Rose-Ivey said. “We’re now focused on that (Blackshirt) mentality, bringing that energy to the field.”
Banker said not giving Rose-Ivey a Blackshirt before the season was “probably the most difficult” thing because of some of the obstacles Rose-Ivey had to clear just to get back on the field, and the leadership he’s shown in the process.
“He almost had no pulse when it came to getting back in,” Banker said of Rose-Ivey’s academic standing when the new coaching staff arrived. “I don’t know how many units (of school) ... he probably completed 24 units in a time period that most people would complete about 15. He worked extremely hard.”
The Huskers now have 13 Blackshirts. Five defensive linemen (Maliek Collins, Jack Gangwish, Greg McMullen, Vincent Valentine and Kevin Williams) three linebackers (Josh Banderas, Michael Rose-Ivey and Dedrick Young) and five defensive backs (Byerson Cockrell, Daniel Davie, Nate Gerry, Josh Kalu and Jonathan Rose).
Encouraging injury report
Nebraska’s lineup should be getting a boost with the expected return of a few injured players who missed Saturday’s win over South Alabama.
Coach Mike Riley provided an injury report Monday, sharing mostly encouraging news for his Huskers.
Riley said punter Sam Foltz, injured in the season opener, is expected to play against Miami. Starting middle linebacker Josh Banderas, sidelined by a groin injury Saturday, should return to practice this week, according to Riley. First-team linebacker Dedrick Young (foot infection) returned to practice Monday after he missed Saturday’s game.
Defensive tackle Vincent Valentine and special teams contributor Boaz Joseph were injured against South Alabama, but Riley said they should be healthy enough to practice later this week.
Tight end Trey Foster didn’t practice much last week but he was able to play Saturday. Riley indicated that he expects Foster’s health to keep improving.
Carter returning to tight end
The player Husker teammates call “Tank” is off of suspension, and Riley said it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Tight end Cethan Carter missed the first two games because of a violation of team rules. Since the Huskers lost starting tight end David Sutton in the season opener with an injury the Huskers had to use Sam Cotton as their primary tight end for most of the night.
Carter’s return gives Nebraska another option.
“He’s athletic and can provide much-needed depth at tight end, and also a different kind of athlete that is presented as an inside receiver,” Riley said.
Something to cheer about
Riley started his first Nebraska post-victory “hip, hip hooray” chant Saturday night. Monday, he told reporters that he got the chant from a mentor, former Canadian Football League coach and general manager Cal Murphy, who in 1983 hired Riley as a defensive backs coach for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He then served as Riley’s general manager when Riley took over the head coaching job in 1987.
“My first experience with our first win at Winnipeg, Cal Murphy, who was probably getting close to my age at that time, he does ‘hip, hip hooray’ with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers,” Riley said. “He was a brand new coach and he hired me to coach the secondary, and so it started there. Of course then when I became the head coach of that team, I had to keep doing it, and then as we get superstitious and go forward in life and there’s other jobs, we did it all the way through. I had to lead off with our team, ‘I know you’re going to think this is corny, but we have to do this anyways.’ ”
Newby ready to go again
A good night’s sleep after the game and a Sunday trip to the training room helped junior I-back Terrell Newby recover after a 28-carry performance against South Alabama.
“Sunday, I was kind of sore, but I’m feeling pretty good now,” he said Monday.
Newby totaled 198 rushing yards. He caught two passes for 38 yards. He scored three times. The Big Ten’s conference office named Newby its offensive player of the week for his productive night.
After analyzing the game tape, Newby said it was clear he made improvements after rushing for 43 yards in the season opener.
“I felt like I was seeing things better, seeing holes a lot faster,” he said. “The offensive line had a great push up front — that’s where it started out.”
Gaining depth at linebacker
Assuming all goes as planned, Nebraska could have all three of its No. 1 linebackers together for the Miami game on Saturday — and that would be a first for the season.
“Hopefully we can get a reunion tour here this weekend,” Rose-Ivey said Monday.
Rose-Ivey was suspended for the opener before returning against South Alabama. The Huskers then played without Josh Banderas (groin) and Dedrick Young (toe) against the Jaguars, creating first career starts for Chris Weber and Marcus Newby.
Young returned to practice Monday and Banderas is expected back by mid-week. If all three starters go on Saturday, NU assistant coach Trent Bray said “that’d be great.”
“But that’s football, there’s going to be injuries and stuff,” Bray said. “Then it’s next guy up, and he’s got to step up and play.”
Bray said Weber and Newby did just that Saturday, and Rose-Ivey said the two sophomores didn’t need much help after preparing right all week.
“The more guys that can play, the better it is for us, and the better we’re going to be,” Bray said. “So having them come in and execute like they did was a big boost for them — knowing that they could play at this level — and then for our team.”
Weber, a walk-on from Elkhorn, was credited with six tackles and recovered a fumble.
Janovich shows versatility
Thanks to the suspension for Carter, and injuries to Sutton and Foster, Nebraska has yet to be full speed at tight end.
That has allowed NU head coach Mike Riley to find out that senior Andy Janovich is quite versatile.
Along with taking his snaps at fullback, Janovich has added some H-back work to his duties, “doing a lot of what a tight end does.”
Riley on Monday called Janovich a “good football player,” and added: “I really, really, really like him a lot. He really comes to play and brings a special quality to us that’s important.”
Corners must improve on deep throws
Banker said Nebraska corners have to play the deep balls better downfield after struggling against South Alabama and, to some extent, BYU. The Jaguars and Cougars both threw for more than 300 yards.
NU’s pass defense puts a lot of responsibility on cornerbacks to cover receivers one-on-one downfield, especially on fade routes that put receivers between the hash marks and the sidelines. South Alabama completed several such passes — including a 55 and 33-yarder — against the Huskers.
“It does you no good to win at the line of scrimmage,” Banker said. “You’ve got to win at the point the ball’s being thrown to. By and large, the corners were in position on four of the six (deep) balls and didn’t make a play on the ball. We’ve got to teach them better and help them with that in drills and then you have to have that confidence to adhere to that technique, believe in that technique, play through the hands. If that’s the only throw a team has, we consider that a 50/50 situation as opposed to a curl play or an out or whatever that is a more high percentage throw.”
NU’s defensive scheme against South Alabama, Banker said, “wasn’t about statistics, it was about getting those guys ready to play those balls, because we’re going to play a ton of those this year.”
Secondary coach Brian Stewart said senior corner Daniel Davie – beaten the most by South Alabama – needs to “finish” better on defending pass routes. Stewart then demonstrated for a reporter what he meant. Either Davie had to attack the ball at a higher point – before it ever reached the receiver – or do a better job of knocking it away.
“I think, for the most part, he was there to contest the catch,” Stewart said of Davie, “he just didn’t contest it.”
» Defensive backs coach Brian Stewart said Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya is athletic and a better runner than he appears to be. Miami just doesn’t ask him to run much. Stewart said he wasn’t sure how good Kaaya was at reading defenses since Kaaya looks over to the sideline before most snaps so coaches can tell him what coverage a defense might be in. “A lot of it is sideline-driven,” Stewart said. “He’ll ‘hut hut’ and then look to the sideline.”
» At his Monday press conference, Riley praised Nebraska’s offensive balance between run and pass against South Alabama. NU ran the ball 37 times and threw 38 passes. “That’s the kind of thing we shoot for,” Riley said.
» The Huskers missed just four tackles during the game, Riley said — and three of those came on one play.
» NU’s offense had 16 explosive plays by the staff’s measurement. On the offensive line, Nick Gates and Alex Lewis played well, Riley said.
» Defensive end Freedom Akinmoladun graded out as one of the top defensive players, Riley said. Corner Josh Kalu and safety Nate Gerry did as well.
» Cornerback Chris Jones was Nebraska’s best special teams player.
» Road games are useful early in the season, for the development of teams and tests for conference play.
“If you want to be a great team you have to win on the road,” Riley said.
» Banker said Miami’s speed will test Nebraska’s defensive scheme because the Hurricanes like to run wide on opponents. NU’s defense desires to push ball carriers toward the sidelines.