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Steven M. Sipple: Clarity (sort of) at RB; a peek at Sooners; and Smothers can smile yet again
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Steven M. Sipple: Clarity (sort of) at RB; a peek at Sooners; and Smothers can smile yet again

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Scott Frost full press conference after win over Buffalo

Things I know, and things I think I know:  

Nebraska football fans seeking clarity at the running back position found some Saturday, sort of. 

The clarity is there is no substantial clarity, just as Husker head coach Scott Frost indicated last week. 

The pecking order can change, he said, depending on who's practicing best and/or who has the hot hand in a game. 

In other words, if you're clamoring for a bell-cow back, forget it. For now, at least. 

Following Saturday's 28-3 win against Buffalo, Frost indicated he leaves the in-game running back rotation to position coach Ryan Held. 

"We kind of talk before each series about which plays we want to get to," Frost said. "Held has those guys on a rotation."   

Markese Stepp, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound transfer from USC, started Saturday's game but wound up with only 17 yards on nine carries. This one week after his 18-carry, 101-yard effort against Fordham had many people assuming he was on the verge of taking over the position in a bell-cow manner.

Not so fast, my friends. 

Gabe Ervin Jr., a true freshman from Buford, Georgia, led Nebraska against Buffalo with 56 yards on 10 attempts. The 6-foot, 215-pounder reeled off gains of 11 and 21 yards on back-to-back carries in the third quarter. This season, with the offensive line struggling mightily to produce running room, such a surge amounts to headline news.

One could see Ervin gaining confidence late in the game. That was my read, anyway. 

You perhaps noticed his shoulder shimmy after the 11-yard burst.

Nebraska (2-1) put up 516 yards of total offense, averaging an impressive 8.5 yards per play (Buffalo averaged just 4.3). The Huskers generally controlled the game. 

Even so, it didn't feel quite right, Frost said. 

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That's because Nebraska couldn't get its conventional ground game going consistently. It was glaring. The Huskers should thank their lucky stars for quarterback Adrian Martinez's ability to create big plays in the passing game and generate yardage with his legs even on broken plays — a la Jammal Lord in 2002 and 2003. 

The effectiveness of Nebraska's downfield passing game could escalate if it can find some fire in its base run plays. 

Nebraska appears to have some firepower at running back. Freshman Sevion Morrison (eight carries for 24 yards) and redshirt freshman Rahmir Johnson (four for 9) add to the depth. Make no mistake, Held has some hard-charging backs who seemingly have good instincts for the position. 

If the line creates room, any room at all, Held's crew will make more noise. I don't necessarily see a star in the group, but I see decent talent. 

Buffalo vs. Nebraska, 9.11

Nebraska running back Gabe Ervin Jr. (center) carries the ball as he is tackled by Buffalo cornerback Logic Hudgens (from left), safety Marcus Fuqua and safety Cory Gross Jr. in the second half Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Too often, there's nowhere to run. 

* You may have noticed Frost reel off the names of his defensive assistant coaches following Saturday's game. 

Job well done, he said. 

He didn't reel off the names of his offensive assistants. Maybe it meant nothing, but Nebraska clearly needs more from that side of the ball, especially this week. As sturdy as the Blackshirts have been through most of three games, it's difficult to imagine them shutting down Oklahoma and wunderkind head coach Lincoln Riley to any great extent.  

If the Huskers expect to prevail, they likely will need to score 30 points, minimum. 

Kansas State (38) and Iowa State (37) did it early last season in downing OU. It can happen.

Just something to think about.

* Tulane outscored Oklahoma 21-3 in the second half of their Sept. 4 game in Norman, Oklahoma. Granted, OU hung on for a 40-35 triumph. But the Sooner defense's near-collapse continued a trend that dates to 2019. That's something else for Nebraska fans to think about. 

* Someone mentioned to Frost that his defense now has gone six quarters without allowing a touchdown.

How hard is that to do in this day and age? 

"It's going to be a lot harder next week (in Norman)," the coach said flatly.

Amen to that. 

* Where's Bookie? Some Nebraska fans might ask that question this week as they check out Oklahoma's depth chart. 

After all, thousands of NU fans basically lost their minds over the Huskers' recruitment of 5-foot-9 defensive back Brendan "Bookie" Radley-Hiles, a four-star player in the class of 2018 who ultimately chose Oklahoma. 

He spent three seasons at OU, where he played in a total of 37 games, starting 32 of them.

He's now at Washington, where he has five tackles and a pass breakup this season for the 0-2 Huskies.

* A knock on Nebraska backup quarterback Logan Smothers is he struggles with downfield throws. But that spiral looked awfully tight on his 54-yard completion to tight end Chris Hickman in mop-up duty Saturday. Smothers rolled to his right and threw an absolute strike. 

Once again, he looked composed and executed well. 

He was all smiles after his performance against Fordham.

He should be smiling again this week.

* Fordham inside linebacker Ryan Greenhagen followed his Division I-record 31 tackles against Nebraska with 28 more Saturday in the Rams' 26-23 loss to Monmouth.

I'm guessing he'd trade all those tackles for two "W's."

He's a tough hombre.

* A highlight of my season so far was getting to sit down last week for an interview with former Nebraska running back Doug DuBose, one of the best to ever play the position at NU. The 57-year-old was formally inducted Friday into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame. 

Yes, he still follows Husker football intently.

"Hey, listen, I've gone through a lot of TVs watching them, a whole lot of TVs with busted screens," he said with a big laugh. 


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