It had been more than a year since Taariq Allen made his last catch — a leaping touchdown snag in the end zone against Northwestern.
So you can imagine how the sophomore wide receiver felt after making three catches for 22 yards on Nebraska's final offensive series against Michigan State.
It'd been a long journey back from a torn ACL.
"It was frustrating, just going to games, suiting up for games, playing on special teams, but not in the rotation as much," Allen said. "But you keep working hard in practice and hopefully I can prove that I'll be able to go out there and show out for them."
Allen, who suffered the injury on special teams against Michigan in the last week of October last year, rehabbed for eight months before starting to feel like himself.
He recovered faster than expected, beginning to contribute on special teams against Minnesota, and is now starting to creep his way back into the receiver rotation.
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"The trainers told me, 'Don't try to make it a mental thing. Just go out there and focus on what you need to do. Don't worry about your knee. They spent six hours of surgery and eight months of rehab for this day,'" Allen said. "So I went out there and just practiced hard, played hard."
Allen worked like mad in rehab.
"I just took it really serious. I didn't baby it. When they told me to do something, I did it. When they told me not to do something, I didn't do it. When they told me to rest, I did. I just did whatever they wanted me to do."
* "BLASTER" BALL: Offensive coordinator Tim Beck said coaches are constantly drilling into players' minds the importance ball security.
In fact, for the past three weeks, quarterback Tommy Armstrong has been among the players who’ve participated in running backs coach Ron Brown’s fumble drills.
One drill involves running through what Beck called a “blaster” machine that hits at the ball as players run through it.
“Usually, this late in the season, I wouldn’t do that,” Beck said. “But I know we’ve been running (the drills) more. I’ve been doing it. We’re stressing it more now than we probably ever have this late in the year. It didn’t pay off. I don’t know what the answers are.”
Beck said players have bounced back well from the five-turnover game against Michigan State.
And there is still a heavy belief in the offense.
“When we hang on to the ball, we can be scary,” Beck said. “We just have to hang on to the ball.”
* STICKING UP FOR COACHES: Junior wide receiver Kenny Bell is frustrated at some of the criticisms he's heard directed at Bo Pelini and coaches after the loss to Michigan State.
“It makes me sick," Bell said. "People are always going to have their opinions, but common sense will tell you we were in the right offenses and defenses. But with that five-turnover stat line, it’s hard to beat any team, let alone a good one, when you turn the ball over five times. That’s a tough pill to swallow being a player.”
* FOCUS ON THE PRESENT: With a team-leading 15 tackles for loss and 8½ sacks, Randy Gregory is starting to see his name appear on NFL Draft profile pages.
But he's also only a sophomore. And perhaps this comment from Gregory will ease some concerns from Husker fans worried about the defensive end leaving early.
"That's so far down the line," Gregory said. "We still have three games and then I've got two more years here."
The only thing that hasn't worked out so far for Gregory at Nebraska? His number 44. He doesn't mind it, though he admits he hoped to be No. 5 when he came here.
He'd have to take it from cornerback Josh Mitchell. He has the size advantage.
* INJURIES: Offensive tackle Jeremiah Sirles and offensive guard Cole Pensick both practiced Tuesday after sitting out Sunday. Mike Moudy remains out. Jake Cotton's status is unknown.
Jamal Turner (Achilles) is still sidelined. Joining him there was Alonzo Moore, who wore a bulky knee brace.
* LEAVING THEIR MARK: There will be no trip to Indy, but Sirles said the chase for 10 wins is now the goal.
It's important for seniors like him to leave a positive mark before they depart, he said.
"You want to leave as a winner. We don't get to leave with the legacy we wanted as a Big Ten champion, but at the same time, we have to win the next two games, another nine-win season, and hopefully go get to that 10 wins down at the bowl game.
"You don't want to be the senior class that, 'Oh, after they lost to Michigan State tanked.' You want to be the senior class that they had adversity against Michigan State and responded well."
— Brian Christopherson, Darnell Dickson and Steven M. Sipple