Nebraska vs. Miami, 9.19.15

Nebraska wide receiver Brandon Reilly pulls in a first-down reception from Tommy Armstrong Jr. against Miami in the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, at Sun Life Stadium.

Keith Williams was not exactly enjoying his trip to Miami when halftime rolled around. His wide receivers, sure-handed through the first two games, had dropped four balls. Three of them were would-be chain movers, too.

"A few choice words," Williams said. "Basically I expressed my disappointment in those drops and that for us to have a chance to win moving forward, they were going to need to play better."

They did. Particularly on the last three touchdown drives of regulation, Nebraska's wide receivers not only cured their case of the drops, but made some tough catches, too.

"Not bad, not bad," Williams said. "I'm excited for that group in general, because a lot of those guys haven't played that much. So for them to come in this season and be thrown into that and accepted and make plays, I'm happy for them. That's the name of the game. When the play comes to you, finish it."

Stanley Morgan caught his first touchdown. Taking the ball away from a Hurricane in traffic in the final minute. Brandon Reilly caught his first touchdown. A leaping 21-yard grab on a fourth-and-12 to keep NU's comeback hopes alive.

"He's been complaining about not having a score yet. I've been calling him 'MC Can't Score,'" Williams said of Reilly. "That's a heck of a way to break the ice, a play like that … taking a whack like that. That was impressive."

* FUN TIMES: Nebraska’s offense experienced its share of frustration Saturday against Miami.

But not during a 23-point fourth quarter.

“We were talking afterward,” junior receiver Reilly said. “That fourth quarter, that was the most fun football any of us have ever played. We’re like, let’s do it all four quarters, it’d be fun. Hopefully we get the slow start changed around Saturday.”

One of Nebraska’s issues early in last week’s game was dropped passes. The Huskers had four drops in the first half and six total. Which is why anybody who drops a pass in practice this week must do a barrel roll for 50 yards, Reilly said.

“It’s not fun at all,” he said.

Reilly absorbed a hard hit late in the game against Miami, but is fine this week.

“I’m all good,” he said. “I practiced full (Monday and Tuesday).”

* NO WARNING: In his 30 years of coaching, Mike Cavanaugh can only remember one game in which his team was flagged for an offensive tackle lining up off the line of scrimmage without first getting a warning from the official.

It was Saturday at Miami, when freshman tackle Nick Gates was flagged twice for an illegal-formation penalty, or five men in the backfield.

“That’s a first for me, a first for Coach (Mike) Riley, a first for Coach (Danny) Langsdorf,” said Cavanaugh, the Huskers’ offensive line coach. “Normally, the official or somebody comes over and tells the O-line, ‘Hey, number 68’s too far back.’ You should tell me or the head coach.”

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This ACC officiating crew didn’t do that. It also flagged Miami once for the same infraction, although it’s not certain whether its coaches were first warned.

Cavanaugh isn’t convinced Gates was in the wrong, anyway.

“He was pretty damned close,” he said.

* SETTING A HIGH BAR: Nebraska’s pass defense is currently being maligned nearly as badly as the Huskers’ rush defense was a year ago.

Speaking of which, how well has Nebraska defended the run through three games?

OK, not great, said defensive line coach Hank Hughes.

“We’ve given up some big plays. That’s what hurt us,” Hughes said. “We could be top five in the country. I mean, we’re built for that. Our body types are built for that.”

Currently, Nebraska is 19th nationally against the run, allowing 94.3 yards per game.

As for big plays, Hughes likely still had a bad memory of Miami’s Joe Yearby busting a 41-yard run for a touchdown early in the second half on Saturday that increased the Hurricanes' lead to 27-3.

Nebraska has allowed eight rushes of 10 yards or more this season — five against BYU and three against Miami, with Yearby’s the longest of the season. He also had runs of 11 and 10 yards.

* SPECIAL WORK: Riley supplied a great compliment to senior Andy Janovich this week when he called the senior fullback "one of the best special teams players I've ever been around."

Riley cited four tackles Janovich made against Miami, saying he "had some unbelievable physical plays on special teams.'

Humble in taking the compliment, Janovich said special teams "has always been kind of a big deal for me because I just don't get the snaps like a running back … so it's just a good way to get on the field. Any chance I get, I try to take advantage of it."

Working on all four special teams units, Janovich is ready to get back on the field Saturday against Southern Miss.

"We're fighters. Everybody on the team is fighting," he said. "Nobody's down right now. It's behind us. We just got to move on and get to the next one."

* INJURIES: Defensive tackle Vincent Valentine, who sat out the Miami game with a high-ankle sprain, is still yet to practice this week.


Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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