LINCOLN — If Nebraska had played a game last weekend, NU quarterback Tommy Armstrong said he probably wouldn’t have competed in it because of an ankle sprain he sustained in the third quarter of the Illinois game.
But the Huskers got a well-timed bye week instead, so Armstrong spent the time getting treatment on his ankle and walking around in a boot. Armstrong took off the boot and participated in the Huskers’ Sunday practice.
“I’m feeling good now — ready to go,” said Armstrong, who hurt his ankle when an Illinois defender ripped him down by the back of his jersey and was flagged for a horse collar tackle.
Since taking over for an injured Taylor Martinez in 2013, Armstrong, now a fifth-year senior, has missed most of one game — the 2013 Penn State game — and all of two — the 2013 Iowa game and the 2015 Purdue game — over his career. NU finished 1-2 in those games.
Armstrong said rest and rehab helped him get back to health. He spent most of the time in the training room with wideout Jordan Westerkamp, who is recuperating from a sore back and is likely to miss the Indiana game.
Indiana defense on radar
Indiana’s defense has coach Mike Riley’s full attention. Riley called the Hoosiers’ linebackers the “key” to the defense, noting that juniors Tegray Scales and Marcus Oliver — plus freshman nickel Marcelino Ball — were players to watch. Scales, Oliver and Ball are 1-2-3 on the team in tackles.
IU’s best cornerback, Riley said, was junior Rashard Fant, who already has eight pass breakups, which is tied for third in the nation. Last season, Fant had 22 pass breakups, which ranked second.
The Hoosiers’ top safety, Riley said, is sophomore Jonathan Crawford, who has 28 tackles.
Indiana’s defense is giving up 375 yards per game, 5.18 yards per play and 25 points per game. All numbers are middle-of-the-pack in the Big Ten, but the Hoosiers have long been at the league’s bottom. Further, IU’s up tempo offense tends to put more pressure on its defense.
Last season, IU’s defense gave up 509 yards per game, 6.38 yards per play and 37.6 points per game.
Moore close to ready
Alonzo Moore said Monday that his injured shoulder has improved from a week ago, leading to hope that the senior will return to health just as Nebraska is likely to be without Westerkamp at Indiana.
After having 12 receptions and two touchdowns in the Huskers’ first four games, Moore sat out the 31-16 win over Illinois because of a lingering shoulder problem. But Moore said he did some light stuff Sunday and expects to be around 90 to 95 percent when NU returns to practice Tuesday.
“I’m still going to be careful because of his shoulder,” Riley said. “I don’t want any setback there.”
With Moore, Westerkamp and Brandon Reilly missing time by the mid-season point — and De’Mornay Pierson-El working back into more extensive work — it has tested the Huskers’ depth at the position.
“The troops are down, and they’ve been handling themselves well in practice and also in the games,” Moore said of some Husker backups. “This is a big test for us, but Coach (Keith) Williams will have a plan, and we just got to trust the plan and go out and do it.”
Moore said the receivers know more than one position, which helps with covering for injuries. Riley said Reilly would handle some of Westerkamp’s duties in the slot — “our goal is for him to kind of go in there seamlessly and play” — with Gabe Rahn, Stanley Morgan and Bryan Reimers also available.
Nebraska also will have to lean heavier on Sam Cotton, Trey Foster and Tyler Hoppes at tight end with Cethan Carter doubtful for Saturday.
Three set at I-back
Riley said he also feels good about the Huskers’ depth at I-back, where Devine Ozigbo also is questionable for Saturday.
Terrell Newby is coming off a 140-yard, two-TD game against Illinois. In addition, Riley said, sophomore Mikale Wilbon has showed “improvement all the time” and NU is wanting to get freshman Tre Bryant back involved.
“So if that’s the case, then we have three guys who will come into the game and be ready to play,” Riley said.
One thing Nebraska wants from its backs is better ball security after losing three red-zone fumbles in the last two games.
“That absolutely just takes points off the board, pretty sure points,” Riley said. “So that is definitely a reason that we’ve put ourselves into tighter games longer, I think, than we’ve had to be. We’ve been our own worst enemy because of that, so I think that part of it we’ve got to remedy.”
Huskers triple tackling drills
Riley also talked tackling on Monday, with Nebraska allowing a combined 597 rushing yards (and 5.97 per carry) in its last three games.
Riley said NU addressed it during the bye week after calling it an obvious problem at the start of the Illinois game.
“We spent more time in individual periods last week than we would during a game week,” he said. “We just about tripled the time of individual work.
“So that was a big emphasis, and we even spent some time with our offensive players that play on special teams, on tackling drills last week. That was a good thing for us last week.”