LINCOLN — Tommy Armstrong won’t have to undergo any concussion protocol this week, but he has been listed as day-to-day by Nebraska coach Mike Riley as the quarterback recovers from a hamstring injury suffered on his game-winning touchdown run against Minnesota.
“The hamstring, as you all know, is one of those mysterious things depending on really how it feels and then if indeed he could practice as we go through the week, how it lasts,” Riley said. Armstrong was “limping pretty heavily” on Sunday after the game.
On Saturday night after the game, Armstrong said there wasn’t any way he’d miss senior day against Maryland.
“I guarantee you that,” Armstrong said Saturday night. He did not talk to the media Monday. He’ll talk on Wednesday after practice.
Riley said Husker wideout Brandon Reilly (hamstring) will be good to go for Maryland, but linebacker Dedrick Young (ankle) is questionable. Young struggled during his handful of snaps against Minnesota.
Center Dylan Utter was wearing a walking boot on his left foot Monday but said he’d be fine. Teammate Jerald Foster stepped on Utter’s foot during the game. Coaches were prepared to replace Utter with Michael Decker, who ran onto the field, but Utter said he was fine and sent Decker back to the bench.
“Foster stepped on my foot, and I got planted right on my butt, so I kind of sat there for a second,” Utter said. “I don’t know if there was worry because my ankle or what. Decker’s a good kid, but there was no chance I was coming out. It would have been harder to run off the field than to run the next play.”
10 wins within sight
Nebraska can reach 10 wins by beating Maryland and Iowa, which would double the Huskers’ regular-season total from a year ago.
Riley joked that it reminds him of a bad first year in 2015 but said he also is proud of how the program has bounced back.
“I think that that was absolutely necessary,” he said. “And I think some of the things that we addressed, that the kids worked on and how it went, I think that the result is that we’re winning close games.
“I do like kind of the mind-set of this group, so it’s been fun to work with them, fun to see them turn the thing around and play with such confidence late in ballgames, and always kind of fight back — with the one outlier, of course, with Ohio State, when it got way out of proportion.”
The only Nebraska years with 10 regular-season wins since 2001 came in 2010 and 2012 under Bo Pelini. Both of those teams then lost league championship games and bowls to finish 10-4.
Reilly said fixing last year’s record was among things the team talked about in the offseason.
“If we get to 10 wins, bowl game’s 11, I think you can’t complain with that,” Reilly said.
Run defense back on track
The Nebraska run defense recovered Saturday night after being hit for 223 yards at Wisconsin and 238 at Ohio State.
The Huskers allowed just 85 yards on 34 attempts (2.5 per carry) against Minnesota, and 31 of those yards came on one carry by Rodney Smith in the second quarter. Smith finished with 53 after posting four consecutive 100-yard games.
“I think our coaches did a great job game-planning last week, which put us in the right positions to be able to make those plays and to hold them to that amount,” safety Kieron Williams said.
It was the third time this season that Nebraska held an opponent to fewer than 100 yards rushing. Purdue managed 24 yards and Fresno State finished with 31.
Maryland will present another challenge, heading into Saturday’s game averaging 213.7 yards a game and 5.0 per carry.
Huskers not looking ahead
With two weeks left in the 2016 regular season and an 8-2 record, Nebraska still has a chance to play in Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship on Dec. 3.
The current Big Ten West leader, Wisconsin, plays Purdue and Minnesota in its final two games of the regular season, and the Badgers must lose at least one of those in order for Nebraska to get the championship game bid.
More important, Nebraska must take care of its own business. That includes wins against Maryland this Saturday in Lincoln and Iowa after Thanksgiving in Iowa City.
“You watch college football, anything’s up for grabs,” sophomore wide receiver Zack Darlington said. “Two, three and four all go down, and that hasn’t happened since 1985, I think they said. College football always has curveballs and as long as you handle the game that you have that week, you don’t know how far you can bounce up.”
Darlington said the win against Minnesota will help the team bounce back as it moves forward.
“I think with the rest of the season that we have looking forward to, I think we definitely control our destiny,” Darlington said. “We could possibly, and in my mind without a doubt, I think we should end up in Indianapolis.”
Sophomore guard Jerald Foster knows the importance of staying focused and not overlooking the two games in front of them.
“At the end of the day, we still got two games that we have to worry about,” Foster said. “With Maryland this week we’ve got to get a win. That’s where our heads are right now. It’s not up to us for the Big Ten (championship), it’s going to be on how Wisconsin plays.”
NU wins turnover margin
Riley started his press conference with a recap of Nebraska’s play in the Minnesota game. He lamented the penalties — NU had two personal fouls — but noted that the Huskers won the turnover margin by plus-1. The Huskers’ positive turnover margin and improvement in pass defense, Riley said, are two key factors in Nebraska’s overall improvement.
» On offense, Armstrong played a “terrific game,” Riley said. Armstrong was named Big Ten offensive player of the week for the performance.
“You know he played on a short week of practice, had one of his highest completion percentage days of the year, made plays in the running game,” Riley said. Terrell Newby, Cole Conrad, Tanner Farmer and Sam Cotton also played well, Riley said.
» On defense, linebacker Josh Banderas and defensive tackle Kevin Maurice are playing at an “all-star” level, Riley said. Lamar Jackson and Joshua Kalu, Riley said, also played well.
» On special teams, Riley noted strong games from Brad Simpson, Chris Weber and Luke McNitt on coverage units, and kicker Drew Brown for making a field goal and doing well on kickoffs.