Considered one of the team's deepest position groups going into the season, Nebraska's wide receiver corps was so thin by the end of Saturday’s game that coaches were drawing up plays for Stanley Jean-Baptiste.
Yeah, that Jean-Baptiste, the cornerback.
The senior who once was a wide receiver became a potential option as other Nebraska receivers became exhausted in the game’s final minutes, according to offensive coordinator Tim Beck.
Redshirt freshman Alonzo Moore probably had played only about 15 snaps before the Northwestern game, Beck thinks. On Saturday, Moore played about 80 due to the limited options.
“There were probably plays out there we were running that maybe he never did before,” Beck said. “Because Coach (Rich Fisher) was moving those guys all over the place. A guy was tapping out because he was tired, he’s throwing the dude out there.
“Shoot, we were drawing up plays for Stanley. We were. We were showing him routes in case we needed him.”
The Huskers were particularly thin with both Kenny Bell and Jamal Turner sidelined by the end of Saturday's game.
The good news for Nebraska is Bell returned to the practice field Tuesday, along with senior tight end Jake Long, who had not put on pads since the Illinois game Oct. 5 due to a nagging hamstring injury.
The fact Nebraska’s receivers had to play so many snaps only made it more difficult on the Husker passing game, Beck thinks.
“Ronnie (Kellogg) was like, ‘Coach, I was back there waiting for them. I said, ‘Ronnie, they just ran nonstop for like 10 straight routes.’ We had one sub. Just rolling a guy in and out at different spots.”
* LONG WAIT: Admittedly frustrated at times, Jake Long was pleased to be back practicing with his team for the first time in a month Tuesday.
"It felt good to put the pads on and do some hitting and blocking," said Long, who fully expects to play this week.
The senior tight end said he kept his head in the playbook as if he were playing while sidelined.
"Just stay in tune during meetings. Go through plays in your head, different fronts, different calls," Long said. "Just really being active mentally and doing what you can to help the young guys."
It obviously has not been the senior year expected by Jake and his twin brother Spencer Long, who is out for the season because of a torn ACL.
“Football’s not the end-all, be-all for us,” Jake said. “But it helps me to refocus on every opportunity you get on the football field. It is not something to be taken for granted, and to really make the most of it.”
* ENERGETIC AMEER: One bit of good fortune Beck embraces: Hard-charging junior running back Ameer Abdullah is feeling good, the coach said.
“I think he’s still full of energy right now."
Running backs obviously take a beating in the rugged Big Ten. But Beck praised running backs coach Ron Brown for his handling of Abdullah, who through eight games is averaging 138.5 yards on 19.6 carries.
“I like where he’s at,” Beck said. “I’m pleasantly surprised and pleased. He’ll be ready to go.”
Beck said he is confident in backup running backs Imani Cross (68 rushes for 349 yards) and Terrell Newby (51-293).
The sophomore Cross, though, has only seven carries for 19 yards in the past two games, while Newby has carried only once (for 3 yards) in the past two contests.
“I just think Ameer is in a zone right now,” Beck said. “It doesn’t mean those other guys aren’t good players. I just think the level of Ameer’s game, the way he’s playing, the way he’s seeing things right now … He’s playing really, really well.”
* THE LITTLE THINGS: After left guard Jake Cotton left Saturday’s game with a sprained MCL in his knee, Cole Pensick moved from center to right guard (Mike Moudy switched from right guard to left guard).
“I thought Cole did a good job for not getting a whole lot of reps (in practice),” Tim Beck said. “We gave him some. And he’s a veteran player. He played there (guard) for us last year some. I thought he did a nice job.”
However, “The little things were off,” the coach said. “Some of his pulls were too deep or too wide. Guys came underneath him. We’d have a great block everywhere else, and he’d pull too wide and a guy would come through and make a play. It was just little timing issues with players playing (different) positions or guys playing that just weren’t used to playing all the time.
“It was just the little things that shot us in the foot.”
— Brian Christopherson and Steven M. Sipple