Huskers want to get out of rare aIR

Alonzo Moore was the only Husker with more than one catch against Fresno State. His 57-yard touchdown to start the fourth quarter more than doubled NU’s passing yardage to that point.

LINCOLN — Jordan Westerkamp went until the last five minutes before getting his first catch Saturday night, and that was a high-percentage bubble route called mainly to extend his consecutive-game streak.

Tommy Armstrong had 46 passing yards starting the fourth quarter against Fresno State before his 57-yard touchdown pass to Alonzo Moore finally put him over 100.

It was the kind of Nebraska offensive performance that the I-backs and line had to love, but the quarterbacks and receivers had to live with in a 43-10 victory.

“It’s natural for you to think, ‘Man, why aren’t we throwing the ball?’ or, ‘Man, I wish I could get a ball right now,’ ” Westerkamp said Wednesday. “But you kind of have to be mature about it and understand that, hey, this is what’s working right now. We got to work on it. It was good to get the run game going.”

Nebraska had one of its most run-heavy attacks in recent seasons against the Bulldogs, following up on an offseason pledge by head coach Mike Riley that the Huskers would be committed to the ground game.

But even Riley said this week that NU wants more from its passing game, and those involved are confident they can supply it.

“We have so many weapons to be able to throw to,” Westerkamp said. “If the game plan is working out where we need to throw the ball, then we’ll do that. And we’ll put on a show, for sure.”

Armstrong conceded Wednesday that it was hard to get in any sort of passing rhythm with the Huskers throwing just 13 times (three of those attempts were by backup Ryker Fyfe). Armstrong, who has 12 career 250-yard passing games, generally seems to find that feel the more he throws it.

That was part of the conversation with NU offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf in reviewing the game, in which the Huskers finished with 292 yards rushing and 114 passing.

“After talking with him, we just thought it’s kind of hard to just hand the ball off 15, 16 times and come up with a throw play, and just be on the same cue as your receivers or tight end or running backs,” Armstrong said. “It’s kind of hard to do that, but we’ve got to be prepared to do that.”

Nebraska ran the football on nearly 80 percent of its snaps to open the season (51 rushes, 13 passes). Langsdorf said the preference generally would be around a 60-40 run-pass split.

But neither Riley nor Langsdorf was happy with how the Huskers threw it when they did try — with things such as landmarks, spacing of routes and accuracy.

“I don’t want to sound negative about running the ball well,” Langsdorf said. “I think the focus for us was needing to throw the ball a little better.

“We feel like, to win the conference, we’re going to have to be a better passing team and have that balance. Still have that success running the ball, but be able to do both.”

Armstrong called it a positive to show little of the playbook against Fresno State. It would have been hard to get away from the run when it was working.

The senior said it’s not about being selfish or unselfish, but just carrying out what is asked.

“We don’t decide what we run,” Armstrong said. “We trust in our offensive coordinator to get us in the right position. So whatever’s called is called. We just got to execute each play.”

Armstrong did see a bump in his own rushing attempts, and turned his 11 carries into 42 yards and two touchdowns. Asked if it might be an indication of a more prominent running role this season, Armstrong said it was just another case of taking what was there.

“We got a few plays here and there where I may be able to run,” he said, “but if that’s called I’m just going to do what I can for the team.”

Moore was the only Husker with more than one catch Saturday night, getting three for 92 yards. Westerkamp needed his late 6-yarder to make it 27 straight games with a reception.

But Brandon Reilly said the NU passing game was going fine during camp, and now the senior’s return from a one-game suspension will allow everybody to focus on their usual spots.

“I’m very confident in it, and I hope this Saturday we open up a little more,” Reilly said. “Obviously last game the run was working, and whatever works to get the win, we’re going to do it. I kind of hope we pass a little more, though.”

Contact the writer: rich.kaipust@owh.com, 402-444-1042, twitter.com/RKaipustOWH

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