South Alabama vs. Nebraska, 9.12.15

Nebraska safety Nate Gerry (25) directs traffic after a first quarter interception at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015.

The response has been good this week, Mike Riley said, even if a flu bug was hanging over Husker camp, affecting some key players.

"We've battled a little bit of illness," Nebraska's head coach said Thursday, noting that safety Nate Gerry and linebacker Luke Gifford were among those under the weather. "But I think they're all getting better that way."

Riley said he thinks those guys will play Saturday against Southern Miss. "It seems to be a one-day, and for others, a two-day deal. Hopefully nobody else gets it right now."

In addition, starting middle linebacker Josh Banderas continues to try to get the best of a lingering groin injury. "We're still hoping for Josh Banderas," Riley said. "As we go forward, he's done a little bit of work as the week goes on. So we'll see about that."

NU already is without linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey, who is out at least four weeks with his own groin injury.

Also don't expect defensive tackle Vincent Valentine to play Saturday. Riley said he's "been very limited" to the point the coach would consider him doubtful.

* EARLY ALARM: During his days at Oregon State, Riley didn't see a lot of 11 a.m. kickoffs like he'll see Saturday.

"We haven't had any (at) 11 a.m., but I'll say this, in light of what I told our team a long time ago, we have to be adaptable," he said. "So whatever time they tell us, then that's a good time. We just have to approach it like that. ... You've got to get up ready to go. It's going to come real fast."

The Huskers are trying to get a jump from the blocks after a sluggish start last week in which Miami popped NU early, racing to a two-touchdown lead before the game was seven minutes old.

"Everybody in the world wants to say let's start fast, right?" Riley said. "But it's really taking the edge in the game. And I think it's a physical edge, a mental edge, and obviously Miami did that last week better than we did.

"Now, we had two excellent starts the previous games. We scored first possession, we got teams out early. We had an interception right away. So physically and mentally we were on top of both of those games. That was not the case (last week) and we dug so big of a hole that we didn't get a chance to finish the way we wanted."

* SORTING OUT CORNER SITUATION: Riley didn't name who would start at the cornerback spots.

The Huskers tweaked their lineup there against Miami. After some early struggles by senior Daniel Davie, most of the snaps went to Jonathan Rose, Joshua Kalu and Chris Jones. The four mentioned have all been the lead contenders this week in practice.

The sophomore Kalu is perhaps the most versatile piece, since he's the top nickel back when NU puts five defensive backs on the field.

"We've tried quite a few different options and given guys different opportunities there," the coach said of the corner competition.

"We tried to play it out a little bit as to who did what this week, and like I said, we'll sort it out (Thursday) night and (Friday) morning."

* STRENGTH INSIDE: While the stats haven't been overwhelming from the defensive tackles, Riley thinks that group has played pretty well.

"We'd like to have the four-guy rotation that we had when Vince (Valentine) was starting in there, and he will be back, but that group probably in our overall picture, is a strong group, as strong as we have on the team," Riley said.

Maliek Collins and Kevin Williams figure to start, with Kevin Maurice giving reps off the bench. "I think it's a pretty darn good group."

* VERSATILE FROSH: Stanley Morgan didn't return kicks in high school. But he was back there deep last Saturday, averaging 27 yards per return on three attempts.

"I think that we have discovered that Stanley Morgan is a good football player," said Riley, speaking of the freshman in an all-purpose sense. "He's got some kind of football savvy beyond his years of age anyway. He's becoming pretty versatile for us playing split end and of course playing as a punt returner and a kick returner."

* QUOTABLE: "When you lose a couple, then the game really becomes (where) people start talking about 'must win,'" Riley said. "But for us, our approach is we must win them all."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.


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