LINCOLN — Nebraska can use every big-play threat possible to upset No. 15 Wisconsin, and one of NU’s key receivers — who became a finalist Thursday for the Paul Hornung Award — remains questionable for Saturday’s 11 a.m. game.
Freshman Wan’Dale Robinson, who did not appear to practice this week, is a “wait-and-see” game-time decision, coach Scott Frost said. Robinson missed the last drive of a 31-27 loss to Purdue with an undisclosed leg injury and has taken his share of big, punishing hits this season.
“He’s got a good chance to play, but we’re going to have to wait and see,” Frost said.
Nebraska has had to use Robinson at running back “more than we’ve wanted to” this season, Frost said, “because of circumstances that have happened.” NU has had one running back, Maurice Washington, removed from the team and another, freshman Ronald Thompkins, out for the season because of surgery. Robinson has had 85 carries this season as a result. That’s only five fewer than Dedrick Mills, who has scored five more touchdowns and has a higher yards-per-carry average than Robinson. Ideally, Frost said, Robinson would carry the ball just “five to 10” times per game.
“As some of the position groups get deeper and closer to what we want, we’ll be able to use him more like we want to,” Frost said.
Robinson would be important to NU’s chances because of his ability to create a big play, especially as a running back. Wisconsin’s defense — which allows just 12.6 points and 231.4 yards per game — doesn’t allow long drives, Frost said. Nebraska has to rip off chunks of yardage at once.
“The way they play defense you’re going to have to hit some shots on them,” Frost said. “They’re not going to give you much easy. It’s hard to grind out drives against these guys, so you’re going to have to try to make a big play here and there. Watching the teams that have done OK against them, popping a long run or a long pass, that keeps you in the game.”
Frost said NU will have to keep junior receiver JD Spielman — who set a school record with 209 receiving yards at Wisconsin last season — involved in the game plan. Efficiency, Frost said, will be important.
“We have to block well, run good routes and complete some (passes),” Frost said.
» Freshman safety Noa Pola-Gates is out for the season after undergoing surgery. He’ll return in the spring.
» Frost said the “vast majority” of players on the team remain excited and engaged for the rest of the season despite NU’s 4-5 record.
“The vast majority of our guys love each other, love being around each other, love football and (are) excited about the improvements they’ve made and where everything’s going,” Frost said. “And I think a little time off lets you stop and realize where you’re at. I’ve really seen a boost of energy this week, so hopefully it carries over.”