Husker notes: Old-school Husker offense may have brought fullback 'back from the dead'

Running backs coach Ryan Held said the old-school offense was a good way for Dedrick Mills to shine in a fullback role the Huskers hadn't featured since Scott Frost was hired.

LINCOLN — "Just keep on running it!"

The yells of Nebraska's offensive linemen reached the ears of their position coach, Greg Austin, during that third series against Ohio State when the Huskers lined up in the I-formation and went old school Saturday night. Austin on Wednesday said the double-wing attack — a staple of NU teams from the glory years — can help get blockers back on track as much as it can skill-position players.

"Technique-wise, it's almost like you let your hair down a little bit," Austin said. "You just run through angles, run through shoulders." It's different from Nebraska's inside zone game now that asks linemen to fit blocks and adjust based on movement from the defensive line.

Offensive coordinator Troy Walters said coaches didn't want to waste some other plays in the formation on a game that was already getting out of hand.

“We’ve got more in our bag that we can pull out this week or in the coming weeks," he said.

Running backs coach Ryan Held said it was a good way for Dedrick Mills to shine in a fullback role the Huskers hadn't featured since Scott Frost was hired.

"You never know," Held said. "When we got here, everybody thought it was dead. It might have come back from the dead (and is) reliving again."

Walters and Held both said the look NU showed is a changeup the offense can continue to use.

"We want people to have to work a lot at what we do," Held said. "And that stuff's really good stuff. I think we have the personnel to do it. We'll keep building on it. It wasn't perfect, but I think it gives us another tool in our toolbox to help execute on the field."

More from tight ends

Nebraska has run more two-tight end sets the last two games. There are two big reasons why: Jack Stoll and Austin Allen.

Frost and the offense have had two-end options going back to their time together at UCF, tight ends coach Sean Beckton said. But the junior Stoll and sophomore Allen are "uniquely gifted" with soaking up information. They learn the installs and can make small adjustments intuitively and correctly based on what the offensive line is doing.

Allen is so reliable that he's a "signal guy." That means he's one of the on-field players to receive a signal from the sidelines and make sure the entire offense understands the call. Beckton said the 6-foot-8 Aurora graduate has also been a big factor in why true freshman tight end Chris Hickman has developed as quickly as he has.

"I know Coach Frost comes in on Sundays and critiques every position," Beckton said. "He's really been impressed with the tight ends as far as everything they're doing."

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Quick hits

» Maurice Washington's injuries the last few weeks have just been "some annoying things,"  Held said. The series of ailments haven't been chronic or a trend, he said, but a product of the grind of a season. The sophomore has practiced in full through the physical portion of the practice week.

"He's fine," Held said. "He's doing what he's supposed to do."

» Held called Northwestern's defense strong, tough, smart and physical, with players almost always where they should be. The Wildcats are allowing 3.85 yards per carry, which ranks 58th nationally.

"The biggest thing we gotta do is we gotta take care of the football," Held said. "That'll give us a chance to be in this game."

» Sophomore wideout Kade Warner reinjured himself in the Ohio State game and is now day-to-day, Walters said, heading into the Northwestern game. Walters said it was important for Warner to be 100 percent healthy despite the ways he can help NU’s offense with his knowledge and sure hands.

“I need for him to get 100 percent — he’s probably a 4.7 guy (in the 40-yard dash) as it is,” Walters said. “So he needs to be 100 percent so he can play as fast as he can. He understands that.

» Northwestern’s defense doesn’t allow teams to run through tackles much, Walters said, nor does it do too much on defense schematically. But it’s good at what it does, Walters said, and is hard to face as a result.

“They’ve had the same staff for 14, 15 years, so the guys understand the scheme, and they’re not going to beat themselves,” Walters said. “They’re not going to be out of a gap, they’re not going to overplay, they recognize formations, they recognize plays so, if a guard pulls, they understand, OK, they’ve done their scouting report and they’re going to fit it.”

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