LINCOLN — Defensive tackle Vincent Valentine said his injured left ankle is about 60 to 65 percent healthy, but he couldn’t sit any longer.
Valentine missed three straight games before returning against Wisconsin. He had one sack and another tackle for loss against the Badgers in limited action. On Saturday at Minnesota, Valentine was credited with a sack.
“I just want to go out there and battle with my guys,” he said.
But he’d also like to get healthy again. He hasn’t been practicing much — just enough to get comfortable with the game plan. Even on Saturday, he had to be helped off the field with about 10 minutes left because he hurt the ankle again.
“It’s been hard,” he said.
Just before Nebraska snapped the ball on a crucial third down play in the fourth quarter Saturday, Mike Riley called a timeout.
Someone in the press box had noticed that a receiver wasn’t on the line of scrimmage — and the Huskers would likely be whistled for an illegal formation.
“I don’t know that we were aligned correctly, and I didn’t want to take a penalty,” Riley said. “I was getting some news from the box.”
So he called timeout. The staff actually changed the play, too. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong connected with receiver Jordan Westerkamp for a 27-yard gain.
The Huskers, who came into Saturday ranked 125th nationally with 9.7 penalties per game, ended the win with two penalties.
A limited number of tickets are available for Nebraska’s homecoming game against Northwestern on Saturday.
The Huskers will be wearing their all-black alternate uniforms on a day they’ll honor NU’s 1995 national championship team. The game kicks off at 11 a.m. on ESPN2.
The Big Ten announced Sunday that Nebraska’s Nov. 7 home game against Michigan State will begin at 6 p.m. The channel is yet to be determined.
Banderas came up big
Josh Banderas made a timely return to the Nebraska lineup Saturday, and he said he felt good at Minnesota after sitting out four of the Huskers’ previous five games with a groin injury.
“I was worried,” he said. “I mean, I haven’t played a game in a long time. I really haven’t gone 100 percent for, I don’t know, three weeks probably. So it was big for my confidence that I was able to go out there in kind of chilly weather and it held up.”
The junior from Lincoln Southwest was credited with a game-high 10 tackles, including eight solo stops. He came off the field only when NU went to its nickel package and stuck with Marcus Newby and Dedrick Young at linebacker.
“Us three pretty much knew that it was us,” Banderas said. “Any little injury, any little nick or bruise, we were going to have to get through it.”
Banderas, Newby and Young needed to carry the load with Chris Weber, Michael Rose-Ivey and Luke Gifford all sidelined. The only other NU linebackers suited up Saturday were junior walk-on Brad Simpson from Ralston and freshman Tyrin Ferguson.
The 69-yard touchdown run by Terrell Newby in the first quarter at Minnesota probably got replayed a few times in Husker film study Sunday.
Center Ryne Reeves drove his guy inside and right guard Chongo Kondolo plowed his defender outward, leaving the I-back with a monstrous hole on the misdirection play. Newby accelerated to the right side after Reeves and Kondolo blew it up, then outran a Gopher safety and was never touched.
“They were great,” NU offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said. “They really moved it. We had a good look on the backside and picked off the linebacker, and we were gone. It was really well-executed, especially up front.”
Newby finished with 116 yards on 13 carries, and also had a 9-yard TD in the second quarter.
Moore wanted more
Alonzo Moore had four receptions Saturday, but wanted a fifth.
Tommy Armstrong was trying to find the junior deep between two defenders late in the third quarter, when Nebraska was at its own 49-yard line. The ball fell incomplete near the goal line, but Minnesota safety Antonio Johnson was flagged for pass interference.
After the 15-yard penalty, the Huskers scored five plays later to bump their lead to 38-14.
“I just remember looking up and he kind of had my arm, and he was holding my arm,” Moore said. “It was my fault, I should have caught the ball. I knew I was going to get the call, but I should’ve caught the ball.”
Moore had a 32-yard score among his four catches, and now has 16 receptions and a team-leading five touchdowns.