November 2, 2009

A lot needs to be fixed in Huskers' running game

Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini is well aware of his team's recent problems in the running game, and he knows those problems need to get fixed in a hurry.

Since the start of Big 12 Conference play, the Huskers have averaged 108.5 rushing yards per game on just 3.35 yards per carry. In their four Big 12 games, they have just three rushing touchdowns.

During his interview on the Big 12 coaches' teleconference on Monday, Pelini said the struggles have only been partly due to the play of NU's running backs, which have been dealt some hefty blows on the injury front this season.

Despite losing talented freshman Rex Burkhead to a foot injury and junior Roy Helu dealing with two bad shoulders, Pelini said there were plenty of other factors contributing to Nebraska's decreased production in the running game.

"You can't say that we're hampered at that spot," Pelini said. "We're hampered in the running game. That goes to a lot of different aspects, a lot of different position groups, not just the running back spot. We have to get better in that area, and we're working to get that done."

With Burkhead out and Helu limited, freshman Dontrayevous Robinson has taken over as the primary running back the past two games. Even with some freshman mistakes, Robinson has played well since burning his redshirt.

During Saturday's win over Baylor, though, even he got bitten by the injury bug, as he was forced to miss time in the second half. Redshirt freshman Lester Ward and sophomore Austin Jones took over in Robinson's absence, combining for 20 yards on nine carries.

Robinson's injury wasn't serious, Pelini said, and he is expected to be back at practice as usual this week.

Pelini also said the play of the offensive line has been just as guilty as the running backs the past four games, and that it would have to take improvement across the board on offense to fix the problem.

"It's a situation we're in. We've got to get better production. We need to run the football better. We've got to block better and we've got to run more consistently. We've got to not miss holes and we just need to execute better in that phase of our game."

Quick hits

***Pelini talked about Nebraska's upcoming game against Oklahoma this weekend and the history of the rivalry.

"They've played for long time, and any time you've played for a long time and the games are more meaningful, there's going to a different air to the game," he said. "A lot of people take it real seriously, obviously, and we're looking forward to it."

He went on to talk about how Nebraska's defense compares to the Sooners, as the units ranks second and third in the Big 12 in scoring defense, respectively.

"There's some similarities and there's some differences," Pelini said. "They're probably a little more pressure oriented than us right now. They've obviously been in the system a lot longer than we have. They do a good job on defense."

"I like that we've made progress, but we still have a long way to go. I understand that, and I believe the players understand that."

***Pelini also commented on sophomore defensive tackle Jared Crick, who was named the national and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week for his school-record performance against the Bears.

"He earned it," Pelini said. "He had a great game. Player of the Week in the nation, that just shows the type of football game he played. We're proud of him."

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