The fingers are crossed, Scott Frost says. The Huskers hope senior running back Dedrick Mills will be available on Saturday when Nebraska (1-4) travels to Purdue (2-3).
He hasn’t played since the first quarter of a Nov. 14 game against Penn State. At the time, Frost said the issue was minor in its severity, that Mills was just “nicked up.” Frost used the phrase again on Thursday when meeting with the media. He has also said that it’s not a situation where Mills has opted out of the season. He was on the sideline with the team against Illinois. He just hasn’t played.
Behind him, the running back room is young. Marvin Scott III has been the No. 2, though he’s not 100%. Nebraska also has redshirt freshmen Rahmir Johnson and Ronald Thompkins. Johnson was the next man up against Iowa, when he had five carries for 23 yards and a score.
“I’m really pleased with the talent we have in that room, we’ve just got to keep bringing them along,” Frost said.
Other notes from Frost’s brief talk with the media:
>> Nebraska offensive coordinator Matt Lubick said earlier in the week he still felt good about the wideout room despite the loss of Marcus Fleming to transfer. Frost has said before he thinks the overall talent in the group is as good as it’s been since he’s been at Nebraska.
But only one receiver has more than 100 yards receiving on the season, total. Only two guys have receiving touchdowns—Levi Falck and Zavier Betts—and Betts’ score was only a “receiving” score on a technicality. It was just a little pop pass to Betts coming across the formation on a fly sweep. He did the work.
Why the optimism? Frost was asked.
“The talent in that room has really gotten better,” he said, crediting guys like Falck, Kade Warner and Wyatt Liewer. “A lot of it is young. Zavier wasn’t around all summer. We were hoping for really good things with Omar and he hasn’t been healthy. Will Nixon came in, he’s a really talented kid, and he got hurt in the offseason. Alante Brown has a ton of talent. And Chris Hickman’s doing good things. We have a lot of guys that can do things and we feel like have the talent to do what we ask them to do on a football field. Some of them, we just need a little more time with them so they’re a little more consistent.”
>> Frost isn’t concerned about the mindset of his team despite continued adversity.
“They didn’t take it very well Saturday. I hope that put a chip on their shoulder a little bit,” he said. “Their approach to everything they did this week was exactly what I’d want it to be.”
It’s unique that Nebraska is now a few weeks away from Christmas and still playing regular-season football games, but Frost doesn’t get the sense his team is “close to being done,” he said.
“Our guys want to play more games and they’re excited to do that,” he said.
>> Lots of moving pieces in the Big Ten as the league looks to close out its season.
Ohio State might lose its regular-season finale against Michigan. The Wolverines had to cancel their game this week against Maryland because of COVID issues, and there’s a question as to how quickly they’d be able to return to the field.
Minnesota also canceled its game against Northwestern because of its own COVID situation. The Huskers host the Gophers on Dec. 12.
Several speculated on Wednesday the Big Ten might look to replace Ohio State’s scheduled opponent for that same weekend should it lose the Michigan game, and if Nebraska were to lose its Minnesota game, Nebraska might be a potential partner to go round two with the Buckeyes.
Other options might include making up the Ohio State-Maryland game that was canceled on Nov. 14, which would leave Rutgers without a game as it is currently scheduled to play the Terps on Dec. 12. Might the league stitch together a game between Nebraska and Rutgers—two teams originally scheduled to play this season before shutdowns and reinstatements altered the calendar—instead of creating a rematch?
“I know the ADs are talking about it,” Frost said. “I think all the coaches just have their heads down and are working. We just feel lucky and grateful that we’re getting to play. We’re going to play any chance we get, and hope we get some more, but safety’s got to come first. I know there are a lot of games being canceled. Seems like more and more every week. We’ll see how this whole thing plays out, but we’re just grateful we got the opportunity to play some games.”