Rhule announces major injury news, looks into QB position
LINCOLN, Neb - Nebraska is coming off their first win of the season, knocking off Northern Illinois 35-11, as they now prepare for their final non-conference tilt hosting Louisiana Tech this, but they’ll play that one, and the remaining eight games of the year, without some key pieces on offense.
Matt Rhule confirmed that running backs Gabe Ervin Jr and Rahmir Johnson are out for the year. Ervin suffered a dislocated hip and Rahmir Johnson a dislocated shoulder - both required season ending surgery.
Now, Rhule says, it’s up to Anthony Grant.
“It’s his show now,” Rhule said. “It was his show last year, it’s his show now again, hopefully he developed and improved his ball security… That was the issue last year in the Illinois game, it was an issue in the Minnesota game. My job is to show players what they’re struggling with and how to improve that… And when he’s right, he’s right. And he’s really good, so I think he’ll be a dynamic play maker for us on offense.”
On Saturday night, Grant scored his first touchdown of the season, while rushing seven times for 46 yards. All that after not seeing the field at all during Nebraska’s 36-14 loss to Colorado.
Rhule also noted quarterback Jeff Sims did practice on Sunday night, after not playing Saturday due to an ankle injury. It was Kearny native Heinrich Haarberg under center for his first start, going 14/24 through the air for 158 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also led Nebraska in rushing attempts and yards, running the ball 21 times for 98 yards, including a 20-yard score.
While Rhule did not confirm a quarterback battle, he did discuss his thought process for filling the role.
“I think the biggest thing at quarterback is, we’re always going to play the guy we think gives us the best chance to win,” Rhule said. “We don’t want guys feeling like we have a quick trigger on them, you want guys to just settle down and play.”
One of the favorite targets for Haarberg was his tight end, and roommate, Thomas Fidone. Fidone caught four passes for 42 yards, including his second touchdown in as many games. Rhule talked about the quarterback/tight end connection and the rise of Haarberg.
“He definitely has a connection with Fidone… Like I’m sure Patrick Mahomes loves having Kelce out there. You want a big target that you can see, so when you’re not sure, you throw it to them and they go get it,” Rhule said. “And I think Heinrich is respected by his teammates… He battled all year last year as a scout team quarterback.”
Lastly, Rhule left his first game in Memorial Stadium a winner. He reflected back on the experience as a whole.
“It was unbelievable,” Rhule said. “I’ve gone into those enviornments as a coach, but I don’t think there’s another place in the country where there’s that many people in the stands to watch warm ups. It was unbelievable.”
Rhule also announced Dwight Bootle is out of the year, undergoing surgery to repair a shoulder injury.
Nebraska and Louisiana Tech kick off at 2:30 central time, 1:30 mountain time on Saturday.