Nebraska coach Mike Riley wouldn’t say what it meant for Saturday, but revealed Monday that injured receiver De’Mornay Pierson-El would at least start being worked back into practice this week.

The sophomore hasn’t played this season after breaking a bone in his foot in August.

Riley also said the status of defensive tackle Vincent Valentine (ankle) and linebackers Josh Banderas (groin) and Marcus Newby (hamstring) was uncertain starting the week. There is a chance, however, that defensive end Jack Gangwish (elbow) could return sooner than expected, which Riley called “maybe some good news on the horizon.”

Gangwish has been out since being injured on the final play against BYU. The senior also wasn’t ready to say if he would play at Illinois or not.

“At this point, it’s kind of on our doctors’ timeline,” Gangwish said.

Answering a bigger picture about injuries in college football, Riley said: “We are absolutely living it.”

Some other notes from Riley’s weekly press conference at Memorial Stadium:

>> Nebraska ranks No. 28 in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert 29.3 percent of the time. That doesn’t line up with the Huskers being No. 103 in total defense at 453 yards per game.

“Just giving up too much on first down and second down,” Riley said.

>> Riley again touched on penalties, saying there’s “nothing we can do except correct it.” Nobody has more penalties than the Huskers’ 43 on the season. Obviously frustrated, Riley said some are just “bad choices.”

>> Riley said the NU offense is “getting more parts working” and said he’s liking the blend of what the Huskers are doing with personnel groups. It was in response to a question about the potential use of fullback Andy Janovich going forward.

Janovich had 68 rushing yards on five carries and also a 53-yard reception in the 36-28 win over Southern Miss.

“With Andy, I think you’ve got to continue to look at things to do with him, because he is a good player,” Riley said.

Riley also said he was talking to an NFL scout on Monday morning and told him to watch Janovich in the NU-Miami film “and you’ll see a real football player.”

>> Riley said the staff is examining all things schematically with its pass defense after giving up another large chunk of yardage against Southern Miss (447). One thing that he mentioned was players not trying to overcompensate when bad things happen and trusting the system and their teammates.

>> The nearly 10 months on the job so far for Riley have included trying to learn the Big Ten as well as he can. He starts his first run through the league when NU visits Illinois on Saturday.

“We’re going to go game-by-game with it,” he said. “It’s both exciting for me and a little scary.”

Riley said his long tenure in the Pac-10/Pac-12 made it so that his staff at Oregon State usually had an idea what teams were going to be and what they would do from year to year.

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