Menelik Holt took a few big hits during a career day during Nebraska’s season-opening victory.
But the first thing Holt says you should know is that it wasn’t any tougher than going against the Nebraska defense during practice.
The second thing he notes is important is getting smacked around some sure beats standing on the sidelines.
“It’s fun to be playing football again,” said Holt, who had played little during his first two seasons at NU. “When you’re on the sidelines, it’s like you’re not playing football. I haven’t been tackled like that in three years.”
Holt had five catches for 59 yards, the second most by an NU receiver behind Nate Swift’s 121 yards. Holt had four catches in the first half alone, after entering the game with only four career receptions.
Holt knew there would be some opportunities up for grabs this season with Maurice Purify (57 receptions in 2007), Terrence Nunn (35) and Frantz Hardy (15) each gone.
Then it was up to making the most of his chances, and Holt did, including a big catch across the middle.
“I miss those guys, they were my family, and Mo’s off doing good things in the NFL,” Holt said. “But it was my time, and a lot of guys have been waiting around. I feel like I’d be holding myself back if I didn’t go out and make plays.”
His longest reception went for 25 yards late in the first half, a play that got another NU scoring drive started.
Holt has gained a lot of confidence during fall camp. He was beating himself up after a dropped pass early Saturday, but made up for it later with a reception that gained a first down.
He was nervous at first, but after Holt made his first catch, he quickly found a groove.
“After that first hit I said, ‘These corners have nothing on the corners we have,’” he said. “If I can make plays on our guys, I can make plays on these guys, and that’s what I did.”
Jones gets start: Redshirt freshman Marcel Jones got the start at right tackle. He started when Lydon Murtha went down with an apparent arm injury this week. Offensive line coach Barney Cotton hopes to have Murtha back this week, but added there was no way Murtha could have gone on Saturday.
Murtha’s absence did not affect the line chemistry too much, Cotton said, in part because they had worked with so many combinations during spring football.
“(Jones) was a little nervous, and it’s a big deal to be out on the field for the first time,” Cotton said. “He split time 50-50 with Jaivorio Burkes. It’s nice to have two big guys like that go in and split time.”
Cotton was pleased his lineman didn’t allow any sacks, especially while facing some blitzes. In the locker room afterwards, his boys were wishing NU could have rushed more.
Two true freshmen see action: Linebacker Sean Fisher and safety Mason Wald were the only true freshman to see action. Being on top punt return unit, Fisher expected to play. He also was on the kickoff unit, and is listed No. 2 at the BUCK linebacker spot.
It was a memorable night, Fisher said.
“I’ve grown up watching the games and the Tunnel Walk, so to actually go and be apart of it was pretty fun just to soak it up for a few minutes,” he said.
“I thought I’d be a little more aware that there were so many people there, but once you get out there your start to forget about it at first.”
O’Hanlon gets the start at free safety
Senior Matt O’Hanlon got the start at free safety over Ricky Thenarse. O’Hanlon had a hand in breaking up a fourth-down play in the first half, and finished with three unassisted tackles.
O’Hanlon, a Bellevue East product, had played almost exclusively on special teams the past two seasons.
Injury front: Armando Murillo had his game action limited due to an undisclosed injury. Pelini said the senior corner didn’t practice much this week. “He was feeling better today,” Pelini said. “He didn’t practice all week. He’s probably rusty. We just decided to put the guys in that practiced.”
Thenarse was injured on kickoff coverage. Pelini said he’s having his shoulder looked at, but X-rays on his injury were negative. “He looked like he was doing pretty well in the locker room after the game,” Pelini said.
Kicker has big day: Asked if all the Huskers do is practice 44-yard field goals, NU kicker Alex Henery remained stoic while TV cameras circled the kicker that finally got to show his distance.
“Yeah, we practice that pretty much everyday, so it’s kind of routine,” Henery said.
OK, well, maybe Henery hadn’t noticed that each of his four field goals had come from exactly that distance.
The 44-yard field goals were the longest of his career, bettering a 39-yarder against Missouri last season. His four field goals rank second in school history and tied a Memorial Stadium record for field goals. He remains perfect in both field goals and PAT attempts for his career.
* Joe Ganz had a career-long 32-yard run in the first quarter, setting up the Huskers’ first touchdown. The 32-yard run by Ganz was the longest by a NU quarterback since Jammal Lord had a 66-yard run in the 2003 Alamo Bowl.
* Swift caught a career-long 61-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, showing some balance over the final 10 yards, and added another touchdown later in the quarter. His 14 career touchdown receptions rank in a tie for fourth on the Husker career list.
Reach Brent C. Wagner at 473-7435 or email@example.com.