Nebraska head coach Scott Frost met with the media Thursday one final time before the team (0-2) takes on Penn State (0-3) on Saturday. Nebraska has a number of key players with up-in-the-air statuses ahead of the game, and Frost did little to answer those questions.
Here’s a rundown of what he said.
>> Quarterback is the main topic of concern for Nebraska. Frost pulled starter and captain Adrian Martinez after a late-third-quarter interception against Northwestern, inserted redshirt freshman Luke McCaffrey, and then rolled with McCaffrey through the rest of the game, even on a last-ditch drive to try and tie things at 21-all.
After the game, Frost said he felt the offense needed a spark, and McCaffrey provided that spark.
On Monday, Frost said practice throughout the week would determine who started the game against the Nittany Lions.
Asked Thursday what he was ready to say about that competition, Frost said “not much.”
“We still believe we have two really good players,” he said. “We’ll make a decision here. Both guys have been competing for that and practicing to get there. We’ll make a decision.”
Nebraska has played it coy all throughout fall camp and into the start of the season when there’s a position battle taking place. The Huskers stopped releasing a depth chart this year and stopped providing travel rosters for road games. Against Ohio State, Nebraska used both Martinez and McCaffrey together at times, but then against Northwestern McCaffrey saw the field only a select few times before taking over for Martinez.
On the season, Martinez is 24-for-42 throwing it (57.1%), with 230 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. McCaffrey is 16-for-21 (76.2%) for 148 yards. He also has an interception but no touchdown tosses.
The duo is No. 1 and No. 2 on the team in rushing, as well. Martinez has 26 carries for 187 yards and a score. McCaffrey has 17 carries for 129 yards. Both as a thrower and a runner, McCaffrey is gaining more yardage on a per-play basis.
>> Nebraska didn’t have its starting center a week ago against Northwestern. Sophomore Cameron Jurgens didn’t travel with the team and Frost revealed after the game Nebraska knew during the week he wouldn’t play. Right tackle-turned-right guard Matt Farniok moved one more spot over to handle center snaps for the game.
Asked if Jurgens would be available this week, Frost didn’t say.
“They’re both really good players, a little different,” he said. “Matt’s a little more of a thumper, a bigger guy. Cam’s really quick, really good at getting up on the second level. We’re obviously a better team when we have both those guys on the field. I think both are perfectly capable of running the plays we want to run at center, but we’re better if we have both.”
>> Another guy missing in action: punter Daniel Cerni.
An Australian native and the lone scholarship specialist on the roster, Cerni has apparently been hampered by an unspecified injury.
“I don’t think it’ll be soon, but he’s working hard to get back out there,” Frost said.
Will Przystup, a walk-on sophomore, has handled punting responsibilities in Cerni’s stead. He had five punts against Ohio State, one of which was downed inside the 20. He had five more against Northwestern. In both games, Nebraska has given up a 20-plus-yard return. Cerni’s specialty was to be hangtime, something that would allow Nebraska’s gunners to snuff out returns or force fair catches.
“We gave Northwestern two short fields on a kick return and a punt return and they scored on those two drives,” Frost said. “With the way our defense was playing, would have loved to see them try to go 80 yards to score. The net punting wasn’t very good, in fact it wasn’t good at all. I’ve seen improvement there, but we’re not there yet. Expect to be better this week.”
>> Ronald Thompkins, a redshirt freshman running back, was a feel-good story in Nebraska’s first game, but then he didn’t travel to Evanston for Nebraska’s second game. Marvin Scott III assumed the backup tailback job in his place.
Thompkins missed practices a week ago, leading to the missed game. Frost said he’s back in the mix this week and has “done a good job.”
“I’ve been really impressed with the improvement (at running back),” Frost said. “Rahmir Johnson’s done really good things. Ronald Thompkins was our No. 2 going into the first week. He missed a little bit of time for practice and we got Marvin Scott going. I thought he did really well in his first game. Sevion Morrison’s still there and trying to recover from just a little bit of an injury. Some of those young guys are gonna be special players and kind of the same thing.”
Dedrick Mills, the team’s starter, has 28 carries for 84 yards in two games. Behind him, Thompkins got four carries in the opener (22 yards), and Scott got three carries against Northwestern (14 yards). No one else has run the ball for Nebraska.
>> Frost revealed that Nebraska currently has players staying in the team’s designated quarantine hotel for COVID-19 exposure. He didn’t say who, and he didn’t say how many.
“When we’ve had kids that have been exposed to someone with COVID, we’ve had to put them in hotels and separate them,” he said. “We’ve got some kids in the hotel now, so we’ll have more rooms over there (at the normal night-before hotel) than we usually do. Trying to keep guys isolated a little more.”
Frost was asked if their day-before routine would stay the same with this week’s game being the first home game of the year. Frost said the protocol for Friday meetings, going to the team hotel, and getting up the morning of will be the same.
Nebraska doesn’t release testing results to the public.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.