Huskers finally go on road after 5 in row at home
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP)
It's the second week of October, and Nebraska is finally preparing for its first road game.
The Cornhuskers (4-1, 1-0) visit Purdue (1-4, 0-1) on Saturday after playing their first five in Lincoln. The schedule has been a blessing for a young defense that has had lots of kinks to work out, coach Bo Pelini said Monday.
''Absolutely,'' Pelini said. ''I talked about that in the preseason, where I thought we would be to start and the level of work that was in front of us. I thought the schedule set up well for us as far as being able to get that accomplished.''
Fellow Big Ten member Indiana is the only other FBS team that played five in a row at home to start the season. Baylor of the Big 12 will go on the road for the first time this week after opening with four home games.
Nebraska drew a manageable assignment for its first road game. Last year the Huskers' first Big Ten trip was to Ohio State, where they were beaten 63-38. The year before their conference road opener was at Wisconsin, where they lost 48-17.
Though Purdue is just 9-11 against Big Ten opponents at Ross-Ade Stadium since 2008, the Boilermakers knocked off then-No. 7 Ohio State in 2009 and an unranked Buckeyes team again in 2011.
''Anyone can win on any given Saturday, so I'm not going to be like, `Thank, God, we're playing Purdue and not going to Madison,''' receiver Kenny Bell said. ''We're going to play a pretty good football team that's going to give us their best shot. It's the same as if we were walking into the (Michigan) Big House this Saturday.''
Defensive end Randy Gregory is a native Indianan who grew up 90 minutes from West Lafayette, in Fishers, and he remembered attending six or seven Purdue games when he was in high school.
Asked if the 62,500-seat stadium was intimidating for the visitor, Gregory smiled and said, ''Oh, no. It's a lot different than here. I know our fans travel pretty well. They (Purdue) haven't been able to fill up their stadium in a while, and we may have just as much red as they do black and gold over there.''
The Huskers' road records since Pelini took over in 2008 are 16-8 overall and 14-6 in conference play.
Ten of Nebraska's top 22 players on defense will be playing their first game away from Memorial Stadium. Pelini said he's glad kickoff is at noon EDT kickoff so his charges don't have to sit around all day stewing.
Pelini pointed out that several players went to away games as redshirts last season. ''But,'' he said, ''there is a difference between being on a road trip and walking out there as a starter on the first play.''
Nebraska entered a game week for the third straight time uncertain about whom its starting quarterback would be. Tommy Armstrong Jr. has started two straight in place of Taylor Martinez, who continues to battle a turf-toe injury on his left foot.
Pelini said Martinez still can't push off his foot and accelerate quickly and that he won't play until he can.
Armstrong, a redshirt freshman, said it has helped him to make his first two starts at home. Pelini said he doubts the road environment would faze Armstrong if he's called on again this week.
''He has a great presence about him,'' Pelini said, ''and he has good command and a lot of confidence.''