A bruised Casey Thompson ran from the medical tent to tell interim head coach Mickey Joseph that he wanted to finish the game. Thompson just tossed the ball away and took a hit on third down in the third quarter with the entire weight of himself and a defender landing on his shoulder.
The defense forced a three-and-out that allowed Chubba Purdy to come on. It was his second appearance in the game after a disastrous three-play drive ended in an Indiana touchdown. Purdy hadn’t ran the play before Thompson got to Joseph.
“I told him that I don’t want to be out of the game,” Thompson said. “If I’m healthy enough to play, I’m pushing through injuries or stuff during the week in practice.”
It wasn’t unexpected. Joseph comes from a tough family. The former Husker quarterback played against Charles Thompson at Oklahoma and the two became friends. He knew Charles raised his football family tough. So when Charles’ middle son got off the turf, took the coach’s arm and told him he was going back in the game, Joseph understood.
“OK,” he said. “That’s what I expect you to do.”
The Huskers punted on that drive but it was the final time. Thompson aired out a 71-yard throw (about 50 coming in the air) for Trey Palmer on the next drive to give Nebraska a permanent lead. The quarterback later capped a long drive with his feet to give the Huskers an insurance score.
“Me personally, I’m just a competitor,” Thompson said. “I don’t ever want to be on the sidelines and always want to be in the game. So, he understands that, and he said, ‘it’s good to be that way.’”
The two share honest conversations because of their past. Joseph is a big reason why Thompson came to Nebraska, the quarterback admitted on Monday. He trusts Joseph even through some of the tough lessons. He’s already hard on himself and accepts Joseph critiques as points for improvement. That’s a toned-down version of the coaching he got from Charles.
Casey said he’s hard on himself but no coach was ever tougher on him than his father. There were times a 5-year-old Casey received blunt, honest advice from his father. Sometimes it was exactly what the future Husker needed to hear.
“I’m a player that wants to be coached, and I want the feedback,” Casey said. “I’d rather the coach be hard on me and give me direct feedback to tell me exactly what’s wrong and what he’s expecting out of me than being passive and quiet and not saying anything at all. I’d rather be coached hard.”
And Joseph is happy to have those conversations. He and Thompson met on Sunday and the head coach explained why Purdy came in for a drive in the second quarter. There’s no replicating game reps other than getting in the game. Coach Tom Osborne did that at Nebraska when Joseph played. Thompson conceded that point.
“I’m not going to be wishy washy with him. I’m going to be consistent with what I’m saying,” Joseph said on Monday. “He’s no different than anybody else.”
Purdy and Logan Smothers have come on to, in some ways, protect Thompson. They offer a more mobile, physical skillset at quarterback. And Thompson’s accumulated a number of bruises this season, including a calf contusion that limited his mobility.
Joseph urged Thompson to be more stern with the offensive line and demand more out of them. He plans on doing just that. On the flip side, when they play a good game, he’ll take them out to eat. First on the list is Momo’s Pizzeria.
Joseph is happy with the toughness the team is showing, led by its quarterback. Toughness can be its own reward. But pizza’s not bad either.