LINCOLN — Nebraska’s offense could be even more beaten up for Saturday’s game against Purdue than it was in a 27-22 win at Indiana.
Both of the starting offensive tackles, Nick Gates and David Knevel, are questionable to play against Purdue. Knevel reinjured his ankle on the opening play of the Indiana game. Gates played on the injured ankle — not missing a snap — but went to the team bus sitting on the back of a cart, his right ankle wrapped in ice.
Should both players miss the Purdue game, coach Mike Riley said, left guard Sam Hahn may move out to left tackle, while Cole Conrad stays at right tackle. Senior Corey Whitaker would then play left guard if Hahn slides outside.
“We’re going to mess around with talking about that thing,” Riley said. “We’re going to find out more before tomorrow’s practice.”
Nebraska does not want to pull the redshirt of any of its four true freshmen — Boe Wilson, John Raridon, Bryan Brokop or Matt Farniok. Three other redshirt freshmen — Jalin Barnett, Michael Decker and Christian Gaylord — also have not played a significant snap.
Riley said those players are still developing.
More injury notes:
» Tight end Cethan Carter (elbow) is out for Purdue. Wideout Jordan Westerkamp (back) is questionable to doubtful.
» Quarterback Tommy Armstrong will play against Purdue. He was battling an ankle injury against Indiana.
» Cornerback Eric Lee missed last week because of a concussion. Should he clear protocol, he’ll be able to play Saturday.
Riley’s game review
As he does each Monday after a game, Riley had a lengthy review of NU’s win over Indiana, which he read from notes.
“It was good to win — and then we had to watch the film,” Riley said. “It was a mixed bag, for sure.”
The defense, Riley said, had “a nice day.” He praised linebackers Josh Banderas, Dedrick Young and Michael Rose-Ivey; all of the secondary; and defensive tackles Kevin Maurice and Carlos Davis.
Open-field tackles — including two from cornerback Joshua Kalu — “saved us, really,” Riley said.
“He made some big-time plays, coming off of blocks, that really saved us,” Riley said, bringing up Kalu’s tackle of IU backup quarterback Zander Diamont on a second-and-goal play.
Davis played his best game, Riley said.
On offense, Terrell Newby, Gates, Sam Cotton and Conrad got Riley’s praise.
“It was not a good day,” Riley said of the offense’s overall performance. Newby, who ran for 102 yards, was a “bright spot” and “really a man there at the end” for his runs on the final drive.
Special teams included “some really, really good stuff and some bad stuff,” Riley said.
Kickoff coverage was “excellent,” Riley said, including kicker Drew Brown’s work on the kickoff unit.
“Drew Brown is a really having a good year,” Riley said. “I wish I wouldn’t have tried that long field goal in that Illinois game, otherwise he’d be perfect. They should take that off the books and put ‘bad coaching’ in there or something.”
NU’s kickoff return, Riley said, is “average at best” while the punt return team has to give returner De’Mornay Pierson-El, “a little more room.” The punt team — with the nation’s worst net punting average and two blocked kicks — had a “bad day.”
“We couldn’t protect,” Riley said. “We got a punt blocked. Thank goodness it ended up being a safety. If it had been a touchdown, we would have lost the game. And then we give up a big return. That team’s job is to protect and cover, and we didn’t do either of them. We’ve got a lot of work to do there.”
Sophomore WR has been good
Nebraska has gotten some important mileage out of Stanley Morgan the last two games — with the Huskers dealing with injury problems at both receiver and tight end — but the sophomore really has been reliable from the start.
A 72-yard touchdown at Indiana was among his 13 receptions in the last four games, and the sophomore is now the team leader with 16 overall.
“He’s a tough physically, tough mentally, good player,” Riley said. “Love him on your side. You love him on your team.”
Riley said it’s not surprising that quarterback Armstrong has found him several times on third downs, “because he’ll make tough catches.”
“He’s a nice-sized guy. He’s strong. He’s got strong hands, makes good catches in his hands,” Riley said. “His target area is big because he can go get the ball.”
Fly sweep play disappoints
Riley said the offense left several big plays on the field, not capitalizing on good play calls that had more potential than the yards NU gained.
Two of those plays, Riley said, were fly sweeps “I thought we could score on.” Nebraska ran several in the game — Brandon Reilly and Pierson-El combined for 13 yards on five carries.
“We just didn’t execute as well as we need to,” Riley said. “I went back and talked with our coaching staff this morning about the blocking of that play, the running of that play, and why we failed on it. We’ve got to get the information on that. We can’t give up points like that — or chances. Maybe we don’t score, but we had chances for a couple of explosive plays there, and they turned into five-yard gains. We’re missing some stuff.”
As Riley gave that answer, he gently knocked the lectern for emphasis.
What was the biggest issue on the fly sweeps?
“I thought the running pattern wasn’t great, the patience on the running wasn’t great and the blocking wasn’t great.”
Senior back sharing wisdom
Newby can be a good resource for backups Tre Bryant and Mikale Wilbon, who have seen mostly limited work through the first half of the season.
Newby was there as a freshman and sophomore, playing behind Ameer Abdullah and others but trying to contribute when an opportunity came.
“You never know when your number can be called,” he said. “And when it does, you have to be ready. It’s something I always had to instill in my mind as a younger player. You always have to be ready because anything can happen in a game.”
Newby and sophomore Devine Ozigbo have combined for 158 carries. Bryant got five of his 18 at Indiana with Ozigbo slowed by an ankle injury, and Wilbon has just eight.
Newby is closing in on the 2,000-yard mark, currently at 1,789 in 45 career games.
Purdue at Nebraska
When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday (Pregame: 9:30 a.m.)
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln
Radio: 103.1 FM