Sometimes coaches and players try to play down a week like the one that meets us. It's that mentality of, "Don't make one game bigger than any other game."

And there's truth to that. If Nebraska had lost to Wyoming, for instance, that becomes a black-eye big game for this team the same way Purdue did last year.

Still, you had to appreciate Husker senior linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey just saying it like it is. Saturday's Nebraska game against Oregon is "big-time." He didn't want his teammates to shy away from accepting that idea either.

"Now it's here. So all the who they are, your conception of who they are by growing up watching them, I don't see LaMichael James coming out the locker room," Rose-Ivey said. "So we're not playing an old Oregon team. We're playing this Oregon team. So we have to focus on this Oregon team and what they got."

He knows the Ducks have talent. He singled out running back Royce Freeman as a workhorse for the Ducks. Freeman piled up 207 rushing yards against Virginia in a 44-26 Oregon win late Saturday.

And he knows they can get you with speed.

"You know they're going to come in with tempo, come in with confidence, so you know it's going to be a four-quarter game and we're going to have to win the game during the week," Rose-Ivey said. "That's the main thing. Win the game during the week."

If it's viewed as a win-your-respect game for the Huskers, you might be surprised how much it's similar for an Oregon program that was in the national championship game just two seasons ago.

Rated No. 22 in the AP poll coming into this week's game, there's not near as much national conversation about the Ducks right now. While the Vegas line very well could move, Nebraska opened as a 3-point favorite Sunday.

The Oregonian columnist John Canzano wrote this on Sunday: "Because it's true. Nobody outside of our state (or the Ducks schedule) is talking about Oregon, thinking about Oregon, or wondering if the Ducks can matter in the national conversation."

So both teams gather between the lines with something to prove. Big-time week indeed.

On to the yays and nays from NU's 52-17 win against Wyoming.


Those Husker receivers, man. It's easy to say, "Well, we knew they'd be good."

But don't take for granted Alonzo Moore running away from the defense on a 63-yard touchdown like it's a Sunday jog. Or Jordan Westerkamp winning a fight in tight coverage for a 34-yard touchdown with the game in the balance. Or Brandon Reilly laying out for a 46-yarder (although officials ultimately ruled it incomplete). Those are all seniors.

"Guys were making plays left and right," Westerkamp said.

They're doing this without their position coach, Keith Williams, on the field, though he seemed to approve of Saturday's work, tweeting Saturday night, "Not too shabby."


It's not so simple as saying all of Nebraska's special teams are a mess. They aren't. For instance, the kick returns, while going on a small sample size, have already looked better than last year, with Jordan Nelson's 45-yard return the longest since October 2014.

But it's both sides of NU's punt units you wonder about after two games.

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The Huskers have no punt-return yardage yet this season. Now, in fairness, Wyoming punted only three times Saturday and sometimes you're just better letting that ball bounce. But even Santino Panico is starting to wonder if the Huskers are going to be just a fair-catch team in 2016 or try to find the magic De'Mornay Pierson-El had in 2014.

On the other end, NU's current net-punt average of 29.9 yards is last in the country right now. Tough job for true freshman Caleb Lightbourn, given the circumstances. But the Huskers need to cover punts better too.


Is this real? Nebraska plus-7 in turnover margin?

The Huskers are tied for No. 1 in the country with Ohio State in the category that has crushed this team for a decade. Saturday is the big test, though. As much as we talk about turnover numbers based on a whole season, they often the matter most in four or five select games where it's an even fight and turnovers tip the scale. Like Iowa last year.

Or Oregon this Saturday.


The silly penalties. Nate Gerry handing the QB the ball after he threw a pick isn't a big deal and kind of funny. But it's not if you get flagged in a close game against a good team.

Nick Gates, who has been playing at a high level, no doubt heard from coaches about a flag after the whistle Saturday. We know Carlos Davis heard from Husker coach Mike Riley for a late hit on the QB.

"In a close game, that loses you the game," Riley said. "So we are going to have to make a decision on how it's going to be."


To a screen game that's ... improving. It doesn't always look textbook when the Huskers do it. The first attempted screen was cringe-worthy. But it started to click after Tommy Armstrong found Devine Ozigbo on a screen that broke for 39 yards later in the first quarter. Terrell Newby, who had a 36-yard touchdown on a screen pass negated by penalty, is pretty smooth running it. The Huskers need that screen game to be a weapon. On Saturday there were some examples that it could be.

To Rose-Ivey. Missed much of fall camp with a tweaked knee but it's not showing. Had five tackles, half a sack, a QB pressure, a fierce attitude.

To Ross Dzuris. Often sold short by people, he once again had two tackles for loss. And props to him for realizing that backward pass was a live ball.

To Kieron Williams. He doesn't have a Blackshirt yet, but he just keeps making plays. His 23-yard interception return for a score was nice, but he was active far beyond that play.

To high standards. Tommy Armstrong threw for 377 yards, but Riley said NU still can't have that "but" next to the QB's performance. As in, he threw for all those yards "but" threw a pick on first-and-goal.

Quote for the road

"I'm going to pull back here and say we better clean some stuff up or we're not going to have a chance to beat Oregon. But if we do, we will."

— Mike Riley

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


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