Michigan State vs. Nebraska, 11.7.15

Nebraska wide receivers coach Keith Williams (left) hugs Brandon Reilly after the Huskers upset Michigan State 39-38 on Reilly's TD reception in the closing seconds last fall.

Nebraska receivers coach Keith Williams isn’t concerned about his guys failing to return to earth this week after Saturday’s exhilarating comeback win against then-No.7 Michigan State.

His reasoning makes sense.

“It’s not really that hard because you have enough evidence of how it feels the other way,” said Williams, referring to five losses by a total of 13 points, and the dispiriting setback at Purdue. “That’s pretty much what I told them today. Let’s get back to work because we know how it feels the other way, too.

“They’re ready to roll … I can tell they’re moving on.”

Senior running back Imani Cross feels that even with six losses, this team still has important goals in front of them.

"There's things that we're trying to do this season that we have to fight really hard to do," he said. "So we have enough challenges on our plate to not get complacent."

* FIGHTING FOR A CATCH: Williams was proud of the way junior wide receiver Brandon Reilly worked himself in position to get to the game-winning catch Saturday.

"The fact he fought for the ball and didn't give up on the play … didn't get out of sorts," Williams said of what gave him the most pride. "I don't know if he knew if he was out of bounds or not. But a lot of times when plays get a little awkward like that, the wideout will get out of sorts mentally and not complete the play.

"We do drills and we talk a lot about just getting to the ball regardless of where it's at, regardless of the situation or the circumstance, or (pass interference) or whatever the case may be. Just get to the ball."

* STERUP'S NEW SPOT: Although senior Zach Sterup made his first collegiate start at right guard Saturday night, it won’t be his last at the position.

The 6-foot-8, 320-pound senior from Hastings is listed No. 1 at right guard on the updated depth chart in the wake of Nebraska’s 499-yard output against Michigan State.

Chemistry was good between Sterup, senior center Ryne Reeves and redshirt freshman right tackle Nick Gates.

“I think we jelled pretty nicely,” Sterup said after Tuesday’s practice. “Just getting a few practices next to those guys really helped. Then, in the game, I thought we played well. We knew what each other was doing the whole game. So that was nice.”

Sterup had never played guard before last week. But he got a lot of hints from center Ryne Reeves and left guard Dylan Utter, among others, about playing inside.

Sterup had started the previous three games at right tackle as Gates sat out with an injured left ankle. Gates clearly has a bright future.

“He could be a really special player,” Sterup said. “He has great feet and plays with a lot of passion. I’m excited to watch him.”

* PASSING ON CREDIT: Running back Imani Cross praised the offensive line for making holes on the edge that allowed him to run for 98 yards on 18 carries.

"All I had to do was make one cut and get vertical and take on a safety," Cross said.

While Terrell Newby has been practicing after dealing with an ankle injury the past two weekends, offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said Cross has earned the right to touches: "I thought he ran hard and gave us some good minutes. He'll continue to get some carries, for sure."

The senior is keeping the same mindset he has every week.

"My role is just the same, to get better," Cross said. "That's honestly the only thing we talk about in the offensive room. We don't really discuss individual roles because they change."

Granted, it's a little easier to get going as a back when you get 18 carries as opposed to a handful.

"Absolutely. It's definitely easier to get in a rhythm," Cross said. "But if they do give me four or five (carries), I have to be ready to make the most out of those four or five."

* YOUNG KNIGHTS: The pervasive youth in Rutgers’ secondary catches your eye. The top four corners are freshmen, as are two of the top four safeties.

Something else catches your eye, Williams said.

“There is great defensive backs play in this conference, and Rutgers is no different,” he said. “Their guys are athletic. They actually look like young guys in terms of the way they play in that they play like young, quick, fresh-legged guys. They run around pretty well.”

That said, it hasn't shown up in the statistics. Rutgers ranks just 122nd nationally in pass defense.

* QUOTABLE: "Saturday is over with," said junior Husker wide receiver Alonzo Moore. "It’s a new week, it’s a new team."

— Steven M. Sipple and Brian Christopherson


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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