Expect a heavy dose of Wan’Dale Robinson and Dedrick Mills on Saturday.
That’s the initial plan, at least, running backs coach Ryan Held said. Robinson took off against Indiana for a career-high 22 carries against Mills’ eight, but the assistant said a mixture of matchup and finding a hot hand led to the freshman’s heavy usage, especially in the second half.
“This game here (against Purdue), both guys are going to have to be ready to play,” Held said.
The position group overall has taken its lumps in recent weeks. Maurice Washington is separated from the team. Miles Jones has indicated to coaches he wants to transfer. Held — who named Robinson, walk-on Brody Belt and Wyatt Mazour as other viable rusher/receiver possibilities at the “Duck-R” spot — said the walk-on program can be especially critical in these moments. Wyatt Mazour also left Wednesday practice in a walking boot.
“We’re still OK there,” Held said. “Attrition’s a natural part of how I think today’s college football world is. So you deal with it just like you deal with injuries, just like anything else, and you move on to the next guy.”
More deep throws
The return of quarterback Adrian Martinez to NU’s starting lineup should mean the availability of some more deep throws, as Martinez is generally considered to have the strongest deep arm on the team.
But NU has done better with short throws that turn into big plays. The most notable was Martinez’s 75-yard touchdown pass to Maurice Washington in the Colorado game — that was merely a swing pass — but several more examples cropped up in the 38-31 loss to Indiana.
Wan’Dale Robinson caught passes of 31 and 22 yards on different kinds of screen passes, while JD Spielman caught a 31-yarder on a simple crossing pattern that turned into a big play.
“The screens, they’ve got to cover the entire field,” offensive coordinator Troy Walters said. “With JD and Wan’Dale, you get the ball in their hands at the line of scrimmage, they can make something happen. It also helps the line out to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands. They don’t have to protect every play for three or four seconds.”
Once NU hits a few screens and coaxes the safeties and cornerbacks into tighter coverage, it can hit deep throws over the top. That’s been an issue for the Huskers this season, although Spielman caught a 45-yard pass from quarterback Noah Vedral while running a slot fade pattern.
Keeping things clean
Nebraska had four “clean” series against Indiana.
Clean to Walters means three things.
“We didn’t have a penalty, didn’t have a turnover, there were less than three tackle for losses,” Walters said.
Four times that happened.
“We scored four times,” Walters said. “When we dont beat ourselves, then we’re pretty good.”
The goal, obviously, is to avoid penalties and mistakes. But with this team, that’s somewhat inevitable right now. So the main focus is how to get over those mistakes.
“A good offense, you don’t want to be in first-and-15 or second and long, but you’ve gotta be able to recover, you gotta be able to make a play, you gotta be on track,” Walters said. “When we do have a setback, we gotta be able to overcome it and find ways to score and to push the ball down the field.”
» Austin said Purdue’s defensive line likes to move around before the snap, so NU’s offensive line will have to keep its cool and not be drawn offsides.
» Tight ends coach Sean Beckton said junior tight end Jack Stoll played well against Indiana.
» Nebraska freshman quarterback Luke McCaffrey was not in pads for practice.