After watching his team show the worst and best of itself at Oregon last weekend, Nebraska coach Mike Riley told reporters his players “should be sick” about losing an opportunity to pick up a key win. The Cornhuskers attempt to put together a more complete game and pick up some steam heading into Big Ten play Saturday when they host Northern Illinois.
“It really feels like a lost opportunity. … We should be so hungry to practice. … When they look at that video, they should just be sick, and they should want to get out there and work to be better than that. I don’t care if we’re playing the Green Bay Packers or whatever, it should be about us knowing we can be better.” Riley said at his weekly news conference Monday. Nebraska showed little resistance in allowing the Ducks to race out to a 28-point halftime lead last weekend, then held Oregon scoreless thereafter before their fourth and final turnover sealed their fate in a 42-35 loss. The Cornhuskers will get a third look at an up-tempo spread offense in as many weeks against the Huskies, who bounced back from a 23-20 loss at home to Boston College by dominating FCS foe Eastern Illinois 38-10 last weekend. Northern Illinois outgained the Panthers 499-187 one week after kicker Christian Hagan’s potential game-tying 39-yard field-goal attempt hit the crossbar in the waning seconds of the season opener.
TV: Noon ET, Fox Sports 1. LINE: Nebraska -14.
ABOUT NORTHERN ILLINOIS (1-1): Quarterback Daniel Santacaterina learned late last week injured starter Ryan Graham (sprained elbow; out 2-4 weeks) would not play against Eastern Illinois and performed admirably, finishing 23-of-34 for 252 yards and three touchdowns with an interception. The Huskies were far from perfect, however, committing 15 penalties for 194 yards, while Hagan had field-goal attempts from 39 and 30 yards blocked. In addition to being without their starting quarterback this weekend, Northern Illinois lost leading receiver Chad Beebe - son of former NFL player Don Beebe and a fifth-year senior who missed all of last season with multiple leg injuries - for 3-4 weeks with a concussion he suffered on a helmet-to-helmet hit versus Eastern Illinois.
ABOUT NEBRASKA (1-1): Tulane transfer Tanner Lee has shown glimpses of his NFL arm talent in his first two games with the Cornhuskers, but he was intercepted four times against the Ducks and has completed only 52.1 percent of his passes thus far. Riley is hopeful sophomore running back Tre Bryant, who aggravated a knee injury on the first play of the fourth quarter and did not return after rushing for 107 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries against Oregon, will return to practice by Wednesday and be ready to play Saturday. Junior receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. ranks inside the top five among Big Ten players in catches (12), receiving yards (205) and receiving touchdowns (three).
1. Morgan is the first player in school history to begin a season with a pair of 100-yard receiving games, and he could tie another school mark by doing so in three straight contests with another such effort Saturday.
2. Northern Illinois leads the Mid-American Conference in rushing defense (104 yards per game) and total defense (263). Last year, the Huskies ranked 10th (200.8) and ninth (451.5), respectively.
3. Bryant’s 299 rushing yards are the most for a Cornhusker running back since Marlon Lucky ran for 323 yards in the first two games of the 2007 season.
PREDICTION: Nebraska 37, Northern Illinois 24