Kanawai Noa had a nice career at the University of California before transferring to Nebraska after last season.
Noa had 56 catches for 788 yards and four touchdowns in 2017. He battled injuries in 2018 but still finished with 30 catches for 369 yards and two touchdowns.
Noa is starting for the Huskers at one wide receiver spot, but through two games has yet to catch a pass. Nebraska coach Scott Frost thought Noa would get a catch last weekend against Colorado, but it didn’t happen.
“We’re trying,” Nebraska coach Scott Frost said. “I’m really surprised the ball hasn’t found Kanawai yet. He did some really good things in the game, blocked well and ran some good routes. The ball just didn’t find him.”
Frost said Noa wasn’t on the field that much in the opener against South Alabama, but he expects him to catch numerous passes this season starting Saturday against Northern Illinois.
Junior JD Spielman and freshman Wan’Dale Robinson have gotten a majority of the opportunities so far for the wide receivers. Spielman has seven catches for 148 yards, including a 65-yard TD against Colorado.
Robinson has six catches for 68 yards, and Jaevon McQuitty has one catch for six yards. So in two games, wide receivers have caught 14 passes when the other positions have combined for 15 catches.
Frost wants to get the ball to the receivers when they are open.
“We design some things for certain people and the rest of the time we run our offense and throw to the open guy,” Frost said. “If they’re open in this offense, the ball’s going to get to them.”
Quarterback Adrian Martinez hasn’t been particularly happy with his play through two games. He said the Huskers definitely want to get the ball to the receivers when they are open.
“It is my job to spread the ball around and I go through my reads or progressions or whatever it may be and I throw to the open guy,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it is something that is intentional on my part, but it needs to be made a point to get some other guys involved, too.”
Running back Maurice Robinson has seven catches for 148 yards, including a 75-yard TD catch and run against Colorado. Running back Dedrick Mills had three catches for 24 yards and Wyatt Mazour a catch for 13 yards.
Tight end Jack Stoll has five catches for 70 yards and Austin Allen one for 6 yards.
“We are just looking for guys to make plays,” offensive coordinator Troy Walters said. “Whether it is to take the top off, whether it is take a 5-yard hitch and make a couple guys miss and turn it into a 20-or-30-yard gain, we are just looking for more guys to contribute, to make plays because teams are going to start doubling JD and we need other guys to be ready to go.
“Like I said before, we have had a great week of practice with the other receivers and I know if their number is called they will be ready to go.”
A better running game would also help the passing attack. The Huskers had just 98 yards on 44 attempts in the opener against South Alabama, but had 179 yards on 46 carries against Colorado.
It all goes together to create the kind of offense Frost wants to see.
“We’re getting there. It was a lot better.” Frost said of the running game. “We were a lot better on offense this week than we were the week before and that’s because we practiced well. Practice with detail. Practice with intention of making the plays work.”
Frost said the entire offense needs to be more consistent.
“I’d like to see us run it more consistently, like to see us pass it more consistently,” he said. “There were a few that were close to going. I maybe should have committed to the run game a little more in the third quarter, particularly after we got stopped a couple times.
“But we’re going to be who we are, too. I think it’s headed in a good direction, but just like everything else it needs to be a little better.”