LINCOLN — After a Nebraska football game that ended with one huge regret, receiver Brandon Reilly had one or two of his own.
He thought a third-quarter reverse was developing enough that he could have reached the end zone. He settled for 11 yards, and Terrell Newby scored on the next play.
Reilly then caught a bubble-and-go pass late in the fourth and picked up 27 yards before being tripped up at the BYU 29 by cornerback Micah Hannemann. He thought it had potential to go farther and maybe pad the 28-27 lead that the Huskers desperately needed to pad.
“I can’t do anything about it now,” Reilly said. “Hopefully next game.”
Then Reilly joked about the end zone that he again could not find.
“I think I’m cursed,” he said. “I don’t think I can score.”
What Reilly can do is help — especially with De’Mornay Pierson-El sidelined — and Saturday was a good start.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior from Lincoln Southwest had five catches for 70 yards in the 33-28 loss, second only to Jordan Westerkamp (seven for 107) among Husker receivers. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong found him three times on third down.
The six touches were a welcome windfall for a receiver who had missed more than two weeks of fall camp because of a hamstring problem and didn’t feel quite right until last week.
“It was a good starting point, I think,” Reilly said, “but obviously there were a few I wish I could have back, maybe break a tackle here or there. For the most part, I thought I did pretty well.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been out there consistently, for most of a game, all the way back to high school.”
Reilly moved back to flanker after the injury to Pierson-El last month. Receivers coach Keith Williams said Reilly worked at that position in spring practice.
The next step was getting over the hamstring issue, which also forced him to miss the first six games a year ago.
“I knew if he was healthy he’d make some plays,” Williams said. “I was just hoping that he was healthy, and he was.”
Reilly finished last season with four catches for 36 yards in the Holiday Bowl, leading to high expectations for this year. The new coaching staff saw enough to award a scholarship to the walk-on last month.
Reilly hadn’t experienced hamstring problems before last season, and it was a slip on the grass practice field that stressed it the most recently. With a little extra care and better stretching, Reilly said it can be the way it was Saturday, when he was running without worry.
It was a good feeling, something he wondered if he would experience when the hamstring problem returned.
“It took a lot of patience,” he said. “It was like, déjà vu. I’m like, ‘There’s no way this can happen again.’ I just stayed in the training room, did all I could, and I’m just glad I could be out there for the first game.”
Reilly said he felt a little winded at first Saturday, then settled in as the game progressed. He ran a mix of routes, and Williams said his speed and explosiveness will continue to make him one of the team’s top deep threats.
Williams laughed about how Reilly refers to himself as the “Human Playbook” because of his grasp on the offense.
“He’s very intelligent,” Williams said. “He knows all three wideout positions. He takes pride in that.”
NU will need Reilly and others to take pressure off Westerkamp. They’ll still need him if he moves back to his old spot when Pierson-El returns.
Reilly wants to do more than catch passes; he wants to be a difference-maker, which took him back to that fourth-quarter play Saturday. He had to wait a moment for Armstrong’s throw after beating Hannemann, allowing the defender just enough time to recover.
“I wish I could have had that one back, and try to make some move,” he said. “I knew he was behind me, I didn’t know where. Got to move on.”
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