Nebraska freshman running back Gabe Ervin is out for the rest of the season after having surgery on the patellar tendon injury he suffered against Oklahoma on Saturday, running backs coach Ryan Held confirmed Tuesday.
"He’ll start rehabbing here as soon as tomorrow or maybe this afternoon. He’s in really good spirits," Held said. "I thought he had a really good start to his freshman year. He’s a dog. He loves to compete and I think he’s going to have a bright future here. Just one of those deals, freak thing, you see it all the time with those noncontact (injuries)."
Ervin's knee buckled in the second half of Nebraska's 23-16 loss to Oklahoma as he tried to make a cut, and he was helped off the field.
To add insult on top of injury, Held said the play Ervin was injured on was shaping up to be a big play.
"Oh, I think so. Absolutely," Held said. "When they lined up how they lined up, we were calling it. We couldn’t have lined them up better if we said line up here, line up here. That’s how we wanted them to line up."
The true freshman started two games, rushing 37 times for 133 yards and two touchdowns. When he started the season opener against Illinois, he became the first true freshman running back to start a season opener in the modern era of Nebraska football.
His most productive game came against Buffalo, when he ran 10 times for 56 yards and two scores.
Rogers could debut vs. MSU: Defensive lineman Casey Rogers is "90-95% healthy," defensive line coach Tony Tuioti said, putting the sophomore in a position to potentially make his season debut Saturday night at Michigan State.
“I feel a lot better about him getting in the game as opposed to last week, I thought he was probably a week away," Tuioti said. "He looked pretty good today in practice running around, change of direction is looking a lot better, so I’m really happy with the progress he’s made so far.”
Rogers worked out on the field at Memorial Stadium before NU's game against Buffalo and then traveled to Oklahoma with the team, but did not play in either game.
The 6-foot-5, 300-pounder suffered an apparent knee injury during preseason camp.
Saw it coming: NU defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said he thought Braxton Clark was going to come away with an interception on his pass breakup near the end zone Saturday.
"In the box when I saw exactly his technique and what he was doing, I said, 'He's picking this, guys. This is picked," Chinander said. "And then he came this close to picking it and it was a PBU. It was great coverage; it was a great play."
Clark and Quinton Newsome have both proved they belong in the rotation by practicing well, Chinander said. It's in Nebraska's workouts where the coach has seen Clark make a similar play "a thousand times."
"I thought he was going to pick it," Chinander said. "That's the confidence I have in him."
Betts, Manning progressing: Receivers Zavier Betts and Omar Manning have fully grasped Nebraska's offense, leading to increased roles for both, NU offensive coordinator Matt Lubick said.
"Those guys have done a good job," Lubick said. "They know the whole game plan, and we trust them."
The duo combined for three of Nebraska's biggest pass plays against Oklahoma, with Betts beating his man and making a 55-yard grab in the fourth quarter, and Manning leaping for a 21-yard touchdown catch on NU's next drive to go with a 31-yarder earlier in the game.
Betts led NU with 61 yards on three catches.
"I like the way those two guys in particular are progressing," Lubick said.
Lubick also likes NU's depth at receiver, which could get even better this week. Lubick said the Huskers are hopeful to get Oliver Martin back for the Michigan State game. The junior hasn't played since catching six passes for 103 yards and a touchdown in the season opener at Illinois.
"We feel like we can rotate a lot of guys at that position, and that keeps guys fresh. Some of the reason those guys made plays is because they were fresh when their number came up," Lubick said. "So we want to continue to do that."
Thomas’ extra duty: Defensive tackle Deontre Thomas played one of his better games as a Husker at Oklahoma, recording four tackles.
He practiced hard during the week leading to the game, he said, and felt “good and confident.”
By the way, the 6-3, 295-pounder spent one of those days practicing at fullback.
He first appeared as a Nebraska fullback Sept. 11 against Buffalo, but it may not be his last appearance.
He practices one day a week at the position.
“It’s really just a couple plays,” he said.
He enjoys it immensely.
“Absolutely,” he said. “It’s always fun to get on the other side of the ball and get some snaps. It’s real fun.”
Is he making a push to carry the ball?
“Maybe,” he said with a smile. “I don’t want to tell you guys too much, but maybe.”
Hype is real: Many of Adrian Martinez's teammates spent the preseason talking about how the quarterback had taken huge steps forward and was playing the best football of his career.
Through four games, all that talk seems to be true.
"You guys are all seeing it now. Preseason's kind of just all talk — 'Oh, yeah, the receivers are saying Adrian's doing a good job,'" receiver Levi Falck said Tuesday. "But that was all real. He's taken huge steps."
Falck said he was the fifth read on his 20-yard reception against Oklahoma, with Martinez being patient with his reads and using his feet to buy time before finding Falck.
"He just looks like a really mature, pro quarterback," Falck said.
— Parker Gabriel, Chris Basnett and Steven M. Sipple
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