Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Nebraska Continues to Seek Clear-Cut Starting Running Back

September 20, 2021

Freshman running back Gabe Ervin Jr. is expected to be out for awhile after going down with a right knee injury against Oklahoma, according to Scott Frost. The head coach confirmed on Monday that Ervin has a patellar tendon injury that could be season ending, but he’s not ready to make that official. Frost still needs to get the final evaluation from doctors.

In the meantime, Nebraska is looking for a clear-cut starter at running back. He said both Markese Stepp and Sevion Morrison are in the mix, as well as Marvin Scott III and Rahmir Johnson. For Johnson specifically, Frost said he’s had more than just one good week for Nebraska.

While Johnson has played in every game so far this season, he made his first career start at Oklahoma. Johnson ended the day with 103 all-purpose yards against the Sooners, rushing 11 times for 42 yards and adding another 49 yards on three catches. He also returned one kickoff for 12 yards against Oklahoma.

“He’s been practicing well for a long time,” Frost said. “We gave him a shot. I thought he took advantage of the opportunity.”

Frost said the coaches are going to continue to let the running backs battle, but he knows they need to find that top guy soon. Michigan State presents another opportunity for the running backs too, especially against a Spartans team that Frost said is well-coached, disciplined and “opportunistic.” Frost is also familiar with Michigan State’s defensive coordinator, saying that he’s “been around and is really good at what he does and I think they’ve taken on a bit of that personality.”

The Huskers are set to face the No. 20 Spartans at 6 p.m. CT on Saturday.

“We know we’re in for a fist fight when we go up Saturday night,” Frost said. “It’s going to be a fun environment.”

More news and notes:

>> Frost said that the offensive line is “getting closer every day” but that the unit still needs to get things cleaned up. Michigan State presents that opportunity. Could Broc Bando make a return?

“Bando is getting healthier, I think he’s getting close,” Frost said, while adding that his return—when he is officially back—will make things more competitive on Nebraska’s offensive line.

>> What about those penalties on the offensive line against Oklahoma?

“I talked to Cam (Jurgens),” Frost said. “We just have to be a little bit smarter. If we’re going to get penalties, I’d rather they be aggressive penalties. I’d rather tell a guy, ‘Whoa,’ than, ‘Giddy up.'”

>> Austin Allen mentioned that the coaches were less tolerant than normal about mistakes leading into the Oklahoma matchup. Frost laughed when he heard that.

“Maybe, we’re not very tolerant of them any time but I’m just going to continue to harp on the guys that if we play with speed and precision,” he said, adding that he thinks his team can play with any team but they can’t make the same mistakes. “Mistakes get you beat.”

And after a quick pause:

“We need to keep being intolerant.”

>> Has Frost ever played four tight ends on the field at one time prior to this season?

“No, I think that was a first for me,” Frost said.

He added that the decision to play four is partially due to being in the Big Ten conference and partially because of Nebraska’s personnel. For Frost, it’s all about getting the best players on the field.

>> Punter Daniel Cerni was nicked up last week, missing some time. Frost said the competition remains open between Cerni and William Przystup. A Michigan State transfer, Przystup punted twice against Oklahoma for 100 total yards.

>> Omar Manning said he battled mental health issues last season, seeking help from Nebraska’s sports psychology department and Frost. While Frost said it was hard to be patient as a coach—Frost obviously would have liked to see him on the field more—it was necessary to be patient for Manning’s longterm health.

>> Will we see Nebraska jawing on the field before a game again, like the Huskers did with Oklahoma on Saturday?

“I don’t know, but we’re going to keep our team on our side of the 50,” he said.

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