Eric Lee got his chance Saturday against Purdue, and the junior did his best to run with it.
With Nebraska's depth at cornerback already precarious, Lee came into the game in the second quarter after Lamar Jackson was benched, and didn't leave the field the rest of the way.
"It was just an opportunity to get on the field," Lee said. "I don't know the circumstances behind it, but I knew my name was called and I just had to go out there and perform."
He finished with five tackles, sixth-most on the team, but was also quick to point out he wasn't perfect. There was a lot he could work on, he said, to enhance his game.
But he was happy to get his shot. After making six starts last season, Saturday marked the first time in 2018 that Lee had so much as been on the field in any capacity.
"I've been waiting patiently until my name gets called, and today it got called and I just got to showcase what I'm able to do," Lee said. "And, hopefully, I put enough on film to let me get more playing time. If not, I'll just keep growing as a player."
Lee said there was no indication in practice that NU's coaching staff would be more willing to make personnel changes. That led to a few nerves the first time he took the field.
"It's been a little while," Lee said. "It took a little bit to get the nerves down, but after that first drive, it's just the same old football we've been playing all year."
Ozigbo a 'warrior' for Huskers: Husker senior Devine Ozigbo had a practice-makes-perfect kind of week, capping it with a career performance against Purdue.
Ozigbo had almost all of the running back carries Saturday, finishing with 170 yards on 17 attempts and two touchdowns. He opened the NU scoring with an 18-yard run and ended it with a 23-yarder in the fourth quarter.
“He was a warrior today,” said coach Scott Frost.
Frost said Ozigbo earned the heavy load with a great week of practice. The only other back with any carries was Greg Bell, who had two.
“Mo (Washington) missed practice all week because he was sick, so we weren’t going to play anybody that didn’t practice,” Frost said. “And Devine practiced better than anyone else.”
Ozigbo had his fifth career 100-yard rushing game. His previous high was 112 yards against Wisconsin in 2017.
Quarterback Adrian Martinez, who led the team in carries with 18 (for 91 yards), said it was great to see Ozigbo have that kind of game.
“I expect nothing less from Devine. He’s a great player and a guy who has always been a grinder in the weight room and on the field. I’m glad he had his opportunity today to show that.”
Warner moves up: Once Kade Warner had gotten an idea he might play against Purdue, he called his folks, which includes his father, Pro Football Hall of Famer Kurt Warner.
"I told them, 'Hey, guys, I might be playing a little more this week," he said.
There was a small problem. Warner had already given away his Nebraska-Purdue tickets to a buddy. No sweat. Mom and dad found tickets and they witnessed their son making his first career start as a Husker.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound redshirt freshman saw several snaps Saturday, and made his first and second career catches just before halftime. He also set the edge on Ozigbo's first touchdown.
Warner admitted he had some first-game jitters, "but after I got out there … I started blocking some guys and hitting some dudes, just like practice out there," he said. "It made it a lot easier."
Warner's rise to starter Saturday was a bit of a surprise, especially considering he started the week working with the third team. By Wednesday, he was getting reps with the 1s, as Frost and offensive coordinator Troy Walters looked for more playmakers.
"This morning (Frost) gave me the nod," Warner said. "I was ready and I was excited, and it was a great time out there. I wish we had a better outcome, but it was a fun first game."
Spielman sets new standard: Sophomore wide receiver JD Spielman caught 10 passes for 135 yards and a pair of 21-yard second-half touchdowns.
His yardage total put him at 1,082 for his 15-game career. He reached 1,000 receiving yards fastest in program history, edging Johnny Rodgers by one game.
Spielman has four touchdowns this season.
Personnel matters: Nebraska may be making more personnel changes this week — either because several players suffered injuries Saturday or because of performance — but they had already started when the Huskers took the field.
Warner and right guard Boe Wilson each made their first career starts. Wilson replaced Tanner Farmer, who didn’t practice much of the week because of illness, while Warner stepped into Tyjon Lindsey’s spot.
Spielman started as the punt returner instead of Lindsey, while receiver Jaron Woodyard started instead of Spielman as NU’s primary kick return man. Lindsey did see some action at that spot as the game wore on.
On defense, outside linebacker Tyrin Ferguson did not play, though he was dressed. Safety Deontai Williams saw an increased number of snaps as the Huskers played more nickel than they had in past weeks.
Along the defensive line, Carlos Davis started for injured defensive tackle Mick Stoltenberg (left knee).
Freshman cornerback Cam Taylor was not available because of an undisclosed injury. Secondary coach Travis Fisher did mention this week that Taylor had taken a hard shot on the shoulder against Michigan.
Freshman defensive back CJ Smith made his Husker debut on special teams and committed two penalties.
Fourth-and-none: The Huskers again failed on fourth-and-short, this time in the first quarter at the Purdue 41-yard line. Greg Bell started over the right side but got swallowed up. Nebraska ran similar plays twice against Colorado in Week 1 and converted neither. NU finished 0-of-3 on fourth down against the Boilermakers and now is 1-of-7 on the year.
“We missed one block,” Frost said. “I don’t want to make any excuses, we have to do better. As we’re trying to get our offensive system in, we’re not executing the basic stuff well enough yet. … Some of the situational stuff comes along a little later. (On) fourth-and-1, a lot of times we just try to go fast and get the yard. If we can’t do that, if we’re not good enough to do that consistently, then as coaches we need to figure out another way to get it done.”
Conrad 'will be fine': Center Cole Conrad was one of several players shaken up or hurt during the game. Some, such as Mohamed Barry returned. Others, such as Conrad and linebacker Will Honas, did not.
Left guard Jerald Foster said his linemate and fellow senior would be OK.
“Cole is going to be fine,” Foster said of the Fremont native, who appeared to get his knee looked at by trainers on the field in the second quarter. “Cole will be back. No worries."
Quick hits: Stanley Morgan has caught a pass in 30 straight games, which is the fourth-longest streak in school history. He also went over 2,000 career receiving yards, becoming the fifth Husker to do so. … NU's 582 total yards of offense was its highest output since 2015 against Southern Miss (610).