LINCOLN — It might be a week later than hoped, but receiver Brandon Reilly said Wednesday that he is eager to get his senior season started.
“I came out here last week and just kind of was a coach out here, helping out, not really taking reps,” Reilly said. “So obviously getting back in football shape and being out there with the guys is a lot better feeling.”
Reilly was one of the Huskers’ surprise performers last season, catching 40 passes for 754 yards. He was suspended for the Fresno State game for what head coach Mike Riley called a violation of team rules.
Offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said getting Reilly back should boost the passing game.
“He’s a deep threat. He’s got good speed. He’s a good route runner,” Langsdorf said. “And it takes a lot, having guys like Alonzo (Moore) and Stanley Morgan learning two different spots, which we had a little bit of last week. We had a few mistakes because of that. That’s not an excuse — we should know the plan better — but we don’t want to spread those guys too thin.”
Props for Moore
Although Moore had an alignment error Saturday that cost the Huskers a first down, he still played quite well, Langsdorf said Wednesday night.
“Zo really stood out in the big, deep out that he caught,” Langsdorf said. “The big touchdown was well-played.”
Moore and the other wideouts showed “sharp routes with good depth,” the coach said.
“Sometimes our spacing was a little funny with the backs and tight ends,” Langsdorf said, “but overall it was pretty good.”
Husker fans watching Moore closely Saturday night may have noticed the senior wearing sleeves on a warm night. There’s a reason.
“My tattoos are my sisters and brother, and I don’t want to scar up their names,” he said. “I don’t want turf burns and all that, because their names mean a lot to me. I wear them in practice a lot — just to get used to the (cold) weather and everything, but I’ve been wearing them for two weeks now to get used to the rub of it. I like wearing them in the game.”
Moore said his 57-yard touchdown catch was like a dream once he saw the Fresno State safety bite on the run.
“I knew I was open,” he said. “I knew I had to just run. I looked in, saw him bite, and I dropped my head and took off running. That’s the best. When I see the safety leave I know the corner is stuck there all by himself, and if the ball is thrown the way it was, there ain’t no way he’s gonna cover it.”
No tribulations for Tre
Tre Bryant didn’t set any rookie rushing records Saturday night, but the freshman I-back from St. Louis broke an unofficial mark: fewest plays needed to feel comfortable in a Husker uniform. Once Bryant fielded the opening kickoff and took a knee, “it felt pretty normal to me.”
Bryant’s relatively smooth opener — five carries for 36 yards and a touchdown, plus a 32-yard return — didn’t surprise running backs coach Reggie Davis.
“He went out there and looked like he had done it 1,000 times,” Davis said. “That’s the kind of guy he is. He’s even-keeled emotionally and just shows up and goes to work.”
Bryant admitted to some first-game jitters — “My emotions were all over the place.” His teammates tried to warn him about that.
“I told him about the warmup,” sophomore I-back Devine Ozigbo said. “That was the most nerve-racking experience of my life. The first game warmup. That was the most tired I’ve ever been.”
Bryant was happy to put the opener behind him. He expects a less emotional experience against Wyoming.
“It felt really good just to get it over with and just try to play now,” he said. “All the nerves and butterflies won’t be there as much.”
Newby cuts loose
Davis also lauded the performance of Terrell Newby, specifically the senior I-back’s “definitive decisions.”
“There was no second-guessing himself,” Davis said. “He looked like he was just playing. That was nice to see because when an athlete of his caliber just plays, good things are gonna happen.”
Early last season, Newby showed reluctance in the new offense, Davis said. He improved as 2015 went on, looking “really good” against UCLA. But according to Davis, Newby was even better against Fresno State, finishing with 56 yards on 11 carries.
Better, but not perfect
Nebraska’s linebackers have specific responsibilities when asked to drop back into pass coverage, and their position coach said they performed those duties much better Saturday than last year.
But Trent Bray is not satisfied just yet.
He noted that there were moments during the Fresno State victory when his linebackers were playing zone coverage — but they were misaligned just enough to make throws easier to complete.
The strategy: if a quarterback is going to throw over the linebackers, get in the way and make him attempt a higher-arching pass. Not a line drive. That will allow the defensive backs to break on the football better.
“When we’re in that ‘under’ coverage,” Bray said, “that’s the big thing: getting under the routes and making them have to put air under the ball so we can attack it in the back end.”
He said his linebackers know it. They’re veterans in this defensive system now. He noticed even on the sideline Saturday that the players were making adjustments quicker and with more confidence. He expects more improvement against Wyoming.
“They understand when they made a mistake, and when they did things right,” Bray said.
» Langsdorf said Wyoming’s defense is not big, but it is fast, and it will use pressure from a variety of places.
» Nebraska paid DJ Kool $5,500 plus expenses for a roughly 20-minute rap set at NU’s “Boneyard Bash” practice Aug. 27 that was open to students. Kool’s song “Let Me Clear My Throat” is played during the fourth quarter of Husker games.
» Nebraska is paying Wyoming $300,000 to play in Memorial Stadium this weekend, but that money is offset by the $300,000 Wyoming paid Nebraska to play in Laramie in 2011. NU paid Wyoming $750,000 to play in Lincoln in 2013. Saturday’s game is the last in their three-game series; they are not likely to schedule a series again soon.