It’s unclear who will start at quarterback for Nebraska on Saturday. Interim head coach Mickey Joseph said during Tuesday’s press conference that Casey Thompson didn’t practice on Tuesday and saw doctors instead. Thompson’s injury was described as a “nerve issue” on his throwing arm after taking a helmet to his elbow. Thompson took that hit midway through the second quarter against Illinois and didn’t return. Essentially, Nebraska’s offense left the field with him.
Nebraska’s offense moved just 34 yards after Thompson left the Illinois game. The Huskers are now reckoning with the possibility that Thompson might miss Saturday morning’s kickoff against Minnesota entirely. They spoke about dealing with the uncertainty under center during Tuesday’s press conference.
Nebraska wide receiver Alante Brown said he’s trying not to think too much about the instability and trust whoever is lined up at quarterback.
“We’re confident in the guys that we have,” Brown said. “If it’s Logan or Chubba we just gotta go with it. We know what they’re capable of and focus on the goal for this weekend.”
Brown had two catches for 47 yards in the loss to Illinois, both coming while Thompson was still in the game. He said the wide receivers, and offense as a whole, can benefit from executing the minor details. That includes making tough catches, elongating plays so the Huskers aren’t caught behind the sticks. Nebraska was 2 for 12 converting third downs against Illinois.
Junior receiver Trey Palmer garnered national attention earlier this year for his record-setting receiving pace. Illinois limited him to one catch for 1 yard. Brown said each receiver trusts their teammates to step up in case one is drawing the defense’s focus.
Brown also said the receivers’ perimeter blocking has to improve. That’s been a recent focus from receivers coach Mike Cassano.
“Recognize the coverages, whether it’s man, if it’s quarters, recognizing the safeties, if we need to stay on the corners, if we need to go on the linebacker,” Brown said. “Just reading coverages so we make sure we have the right leverages and driving our feet. That’s a big emphasis, staying on our man and driving our feet.”
Whoever is quarterback becomes the beneficiary of a more efficient running attack. Joseph called upon Nebraska to get the run game going against Illinois. Thompson’s injury, and subsequent deficit, hampered the Huskers’ ground game. It’ll become all the more important to successfully move the ball on the ground against Minnesota.
“Every week we try to get the run game started but we like to throw the ball,” Joseph said on Tuesday. “I think that this week we’re going to try and rely on the run and throw it when we have to.”
Tight end Chancellor Brewington admitted it was frustrating to look back at the Illinois game. They liked the game plan, practiced among their best during the week except for a hiccup on Thursday. All of the offense’s potential success, he said, comes down to execution. He likes the physicality among the tight end group. That group has largely received the best post-film study report cards against the big, physical defenses.
“But it’s our job, especially as older guys, me and Trav (Vokolek) to bring other groups along with us,” Brewington said.
The defense also lost one of its vocal leaders earlier this year when linebacker and team captain Nick Henrich suffered a season-ending knee injury against Purdue. Junior edge Garrett Nelson and junior defensive tackle Colton Feist spoke on Tuesday and empathized with the offense’s position. They also voiced their trust in whoever is quarterback against Minnesota.
“Those guys being my teammates I know how hard the quarterback room works and how good of guys and players they are,” Nelson said. “I’m not worried about that.”