When Nebraska takes the field Saturday to face Fresno State, the Cornhuskers will be without senior wideout Brandon Reilly, who has been suspended for a violation of team rules. But Nebraska has another receiver on the Biletnikoff Award watch list in senior Jordan Westerkamp and a deep group that will present a challenge to senior corners Tyquwan Glass and Jamal Ellis and a secondary that is a strength in the Bulldogs’ defense.
There is big-play ability there to defend – quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. completed only 55.2% of his passes a year ago, but he threw 22 touchdown passes and the Cornhuskers ranked second in the Big Ten with 57 explosive pass plays of 20 or more yards.
“We’ve watched a lot of film on them – they’re pretty good,” Glass said. “We watch what type of routes they’re doing, we watch the down and distance and what route combinations they have, so we make sure we have a little feel for what they do so we can anticipate it and make plays.”
The Bulldogs improved on defense toward the middle of last season when Glass joined the starting lineup working opposite Ellis. After allowing 254.0 passing yards per game in the first four games, Fresno State yielded 190.3 in the last eight while playing four teams ranked in the top half of the Mountain West in passing offense.
Another forward step is expected, in a tough spot.
“It’s going to be a heck of a challenge,” coach Tim DeRuyter said. “Anytime you go against guys that are Fred Biletnikoff Award watch list guys, you know it’s going to be a tough challenge. They have a senior quarterback that’s used to throwing to them. They were the second ranked team in the Big Ten in passing last year and they have all those guys coming back.
“The good thing is we’ve got guys who are veterans in Tyquwan and Jamal to step up. I think Tyquwan has an opportunity to maybe play at the next level. Here’s a great opportunity to prove it.”
Ex-’Dogs assistant back at Huskers practice – Nebraska receivers coach Keith Williams, a former assistant at Fresno State, returned to practice Thursday following a two-week suspension without pay following a suspicion of DUI arrest in August.
Williams still is prohibited from gameday activities for the first four games and will not be on the sideline Saturday.
Short and sharp – The Bulldogs zipped through a shorter Thursday practice, after a few rough periods to start the week.
“I think anytime you start to get into game plan stuff and you start to fine tune, it takes a little bit to get into your rhythm,” DeRuyter said. “I like how we practiced today. I thought both sides were really efficient, played fast. Our scout team is doing a better job giving us looks and part of that is the process of them learning how to practice at the right speed so that we can get good looks.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada