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The show rolls on even as the Husker injuries pile up

The show rolls on even as the Husker injuries pile up

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Put it this way: Five of 14 Huskers who own Blackshirts very well might not be available when Nebraska begins its Big Ten season in Illinois on Saturday.

That's what the count came to as Mike Riley listed off the names on the injury report after Thursday's practice.

There's defensive tackle Vincent Valentine, who is "very doubtful" with a high ankle sprain. And then there's Kevin Williams, who was starting in place of Valentine, out with a hand injury.

At linebacker, Michael Rose-Ivey (groin) has at least a few more weeks to go before he's even in the discussion. And while Riley is still holding out some hope that middle backer Josh Banderas (groin) might be able to make a go of it, he ended that thought by saying, "It doesn't look too good there."

Senior cornerback Daniel Davie, who didn't play last week after recent struggles but has remained a Blackshirt, also is questionable with a pulled groin.

That's a lot of defenders with game experience serving as spectators just like the rest of us.

You can also put it this way: In a year in which injuries to key players have dominated headlines in college football, there is no time allotted to feeling sorry for yourself. Certainly no foe, which probably has significant injuries of its own, is going to give you pity.

"Anytime a guy goes down, in my mind, if he's not back out there right away, I'm moving on to another guy," said Husker defensive line coach Hank Hughes. "You got to get another guy ready. That's the nature of this business. You read the newspaper every day, I throw up ESPN and look on it, and there's always somebody that's going down. 'This guy lost a running back. This guy lost a linebacker.' Other guys got to step up. It's their opportunity."

At defensive tackle, those called on to step up include junior Kevin Maurice and redshirt freshman Mick Stoltenberg, who will see snaps next to Maliek Collins.

"Next man up" has become the rallying cry all over college football. One of college football's preseason favorites, TCU, had as many as 11 players listed out, including six guys lost for the season.

UCLA lost its heart and soul, linebacker Myles Jack, who is out for the season with a torn meniscus. Michigan State lost its top linebacker, Ed Davis (knee), for the season and top O-lineman Jack Conklin is now recovering from his own injury. Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire and BYU quarterback Taysom Hill are both done for the year. 

Wisconsin running back Corey Clement (sports hernia) is out for several weeks and won't play against NU. Nebraska's foe this week, Illinois, is missing two tight ends and two wide receivers, most notably sophomore Mike Dudek, who had 1,038 receiving yards last season but is still on the mend from a torn ACL.

For Nebraska, the injuries to Rose-Ivey and Banderas hit hard at a position where NU had basically no game experience.

"We’re thin there to start with. We’ve known that since the day after we took the job and looked at the depth chart," Riley said this week. "We knew and we tried to fix it with recruiting, but you can’t do that with a whole bunch of freshmen anyway."

Success at linebacker falls on the shoulders of sophomores Chris Weber and Marcus Newby, and freshmen Dedrick Young and Luke Gifford.

"This isn't novel or anything, but what you do when you have situations like this, you try to be as careful as you can about the volume of things you have," Riley said. "But you have to have enough variety to play the game. So it's always a balancing act."

Onward. The show doesn't pause. A bye week? The Huskers still have seven more games before they see that.

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

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