The past two weeks haven’t quite gone to plan for the Nebraska offense. First, the Huskers were held to just seven points against a talented Ohio State defense in a tough loss. Then, last week against Northwestern, 13 points were enough to power the team to a victory, but a combined 20 points in two weeks doesn’t quite live up to the standards of Scott Frost’s high-scoring offense.
"It's a little frustrating," offensive coordinator Troy Walters said. "Our job is to score points, but it's also encouraging that if we don't live up to our expectations, defense is good enough to win us games.”
“It's probably going to take more than 13 points this week,” Walters added.
Nebraska will be going up against a Minnesota defense which allows 27.2 points per game on average, but the status of two key Husker starters remains uncertain. Sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez and junior wide receiver JD Spielman both exited the Northwestern game with injuries, and while both emerged from practice with pads on, it’s unclear whether they will be healthy enough to play on Saturday.
If Martinez can’t go, sophomore quarterback Noah Vedral will once again take the reigns of the offense. After being a part of the team since last year, Nebraska’s coaching staff has confidence in Vedral’s ability to jump right in and run the offense.
"He knows this offense, he knows the system, he's athletic,” Walter said. “So we're excited. If it's Noah, we feel like we could go to Minnesota and win.”
With its star quarterback’s health in question, Nebraska could rely on its running game for offensive production. According to running backs coach Ryan Held, he set a goal for sophomore running back Maurice Washington to play four quarters sooner rather than later. Apart from the Colorado matchup, Washington hasn’t collected more than 10 touches all year, something which could change this week.
“I’m challenging him this week to have a great week of practice, and up to this point he’s done a really good job,” Held said. “I’m going to be on him to be a champion on Saturday… I might take a beer bottle and smash it over my head, whatever it takes to get him ready.”
Washington missed the first half of last week’s game due to suspension and head coach Scott Frost challenged the second-year back to respond well to this setback. Held said Washington has been focused in practice all week, and was pleased with his response.
One factor which could impact the running game this week is weather, as temperatures are expected to hover around freezing in Minneapolis on Saturday, with the potential for snow in the forecast.
Held said he doesn’t allow any of his running backs to wear long sleeves, a policy which he dates back to former NU head coach Frank Solich. When wearing long sleeves in cold weather, players can’t feel the football and that could potentially lead to fumbles. Even with the cold, Held expects his group and the rest of the offense to be ready regardless of the weather conditions.
“It’s a mindset. This is football and you can’t play in warm weather every week,” he said. “In this league, you’ve got to be able to play in all kinds of weather.”