LINCOLN — Wan’Dale Robinson had a breakout performance for Nebraska on Saturday night.
The freshman from Frankfurt, Kentucky, got his big chance after running back Maurice Washington left the game late in the first half. Fellow running back Dedrick Mills was also banged up.
So Nebraska coach Scott Frost went to Robinson as the feature back for the final two quarters of what turned out to be a 42-38 win over Illinois.
Robinson responded with 89 yards on 19 carries, many of those between the tackles, to go along with eight catches for another 79 yards.
Those 168 total yards earned him Big Ten freshman of the week honors.
“You can tell we had a special one in Wan’Dale right away when he got here in spring,” coach Scott Frost said Monday at his weekly press conference. “He had a couple of injuries in fall camp, so I’m not sure we completely saw everything that he can do. We kind of knew that it was a matter of time before he became a weapon for us. It was good to see that Saturday.”
Robinson’s performance certainly didn’t surprise his teammates.
“I knew that the second he stepped on campus he was going to be a playmaker,” tight end Jack Stoll said. “You could just see how twitchy he was in some of those seven-on-sevens. Running routes on air. Everyone knew he was going to end up being a playmaker and the fact that it happened this soon, all the better.”
Quarterback Adrian Martinez said he knew Robinson would respond when given the chance.
“It was only a matter of time for Wan’Dale,” Martinez said. “His opportunity came against Illinois and he stepped up to the plate and as we say, fell back on his training. He’s been showing it in practice, showed it in fall camp. I think it’s only the beginning for him.”
With Washington out and Mills also hurting a bit — and Frost said both were good to go at practice on Monday morning — the Huskers needed Robinson’s three touchdowns to escape Champaign with a win.
“I had all the faith in him in the world to go out there and make some plays, and I’m happy it happened as soon as Big Ten play started and I look forward to seeing him ball out again on Saturday,” Stoll said.
Oh yes. Saturday. That’s when No. 5 Ohio State comes to town.
“Just like every other Saturday in Lincoln it’s going to be an electric atmosphere,” Stoll said. “ I’m looking forward to it, especially with all the hype around it. Awesome, awesome atmosphere. That obviously comes with a lot of distractions that we’re going to try and block out.
“I know we’re going to do a good job of it and prepare like any other week. Just go out and attack our practices and just stay locked in and focused.”
Frost would certainly like to see the Huskers cut down on turnovers — they lost four fumbles against Illinois — and penalties after his team had 10 for 70 yards against the Illini.
“The penalties are easy to address,” Frost said. “We jumped offsides on a field goal that was important and we ran out of bounds on kickoff coverage. Those things are easy to address.”
The kicking game needs to improve as well. William Przystup handled the kickoffs this past weekend, and those didn’t go so well.
“We need our kickers to hit it better,” Frost said. “I thought Przystup did a good job last week kicking off for us and this week it was out of bounds and we had some line drives that were very returnable.
“You can’t give good teams those opportunities. We will address those things and Coach (Jovan) Dewitt will address those things where he needs to.”
— JoJo Domann finally received his Blackshirt. Domann missed much of fall camp, so Frost and his staff didn’t think it was right to give him a Blackshirt right off the bat.
“But his play on the field has certainly been deserving of a Blackshirt,” Frost said. “It was good to see him gut it out. Saturday he wasn’t 100 percent and he went out and played hard and played well anyway. So he deserved one.”
— The Big Ten announced Monday that the Oct. 5 game between Northwestern and Nebraska will start at 3 p.m. and will be televised on Fox.