LINCOLN, Neb. – Mike Riley spoke with the media ahead of the biggest game of the season to date as his Cornhuskers prepare to travel to Madison to take on the Wisconsin Badgers.
There were no surprises in Riley’s injury update.
“[Tight end] Cethan [Carter] will not play, but I think that we’re pretty good. [Wide receiver] Jordan [Westerkamp] will be back and practiced all three days this week. It appears our tackles [Nick Gates and David Knevel] are feeling better, as is [right guard] Tanner Farmer and so is [running back] Devine Ozigbo – I think he’s felt better through the week. I don’t think we had any setbacks today so I think we’re pretty stable that way.”
Riley also had some non-injury news about junior safety Kieron Williams.
“Kieron Williams has gone home for personal reasons,” Riley said. “He’s missed two practices but will rejoin us tomorrow morning.”
Carter has been out for a few weeks after suffering an elbow injury, but Riley said he is “definitely making progress” in his recovery.
“He is running, doing a little bit of lifting – not with his arms as much as his legs – and then has worked against the bags a little bit blocking,” Riley said. “He’s caught a few balls so he’s coming back. We won’t know for a few days if he’s going to be available for Ohio State or not.”
Without Carter, seniors Sam Cotton and Trey Foster have filled in and done a good job, according to Riley.
“We are fortunate to have some depth there for sure and especially an experienced guy like Sam,” Riley said. “Sam is a good player and then Trey Foster has been a very versatile player and is a good player. So we have a little bit of depth there. Tyler Hoppes has gone more, Connor Ketter. Like I said, it’s pretty good depth but even though we’ve lost a real good player, those guys have done a nice, solid job.”
As the Huskers prepare for their toughest road game so far, Riley shared what made some of his best teams successful away from home.
“I think our best teams on the road are teams that really had tremendous confidence and kind of embraced the idea of being on the road,” Riley said. “They enjoy going into another ballpark and beating the other team and enjoyed all of the parts of it and were no in any way intimidated by the crowd, environment, noise, whatever it might be. Usually that means older [teams], they’ve been around a little bit. I have great faith that this team is like that. I think that this will be a tough crowd, this will be a noise factor. I don’t think we’ll let that be the deciding factor in the game.”
Speaking of noise, the Huskers piped in some artificial crowd noise into practice this week to help prepare for what they are going to face. Does Riley believe their practice noise will stack up to what the players will hear at Camp Randall?
“I doubt it, but you just try to do what you can,” Riley said. “It’s more almost an emphasis than it is reality. But it’s good because it does force our guys to have to deal with it and I’d say it’s pretty good crowd noise as far as hampering communication.”
Riley said the Huskers handled the noise pretty well for the most part.
“We did have some problems all days probably except today; we had some problems with false starts,” Riley said.
Last week, Riley highlighted the punt team as a unit that needed significant improvement. Riley said he hopes the work the team has put in in that area will show up in the game Saturday.
“I hope we’ve made some strides that way,” Riley said. “It will only come out in the ball game. You need a little bit of luck – you need the right kind of punt and with the right timing of giving him some room – and then we’ll see how we do. That is a definite goal and it’s something that hopefully we’ve made some strides in and make it come alive in the game.”
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.