LINCOLN, Neb. — Coming off an emotional win over Oregon, Nebraska’s task this week is to keep its mojo going.
“We won’t talk about Oregon anymore after this day, today,” coach Mike Riley said Monday at the start of his news conference.
Next up for the 20th-ranked Cornhuskers (3-0) is the Big Ten opener at Northwestern (1-2). Four of the last five meetings have been decided by three points or fewer, with the Wildcats beating Nebraska 30-28 in Lincoln last year.
“We know what we’re going to get here,” Riley said. “This team had a rough start and came back with a good win over Duke. Pat (Fitzgerald) does a great job coaching this team. They are always tough-minded and have won a lot of games, so we’re looking for a team that is on the rise, I think, and coming back a little bit after a good win.”
Receiver Jordan Westerkamp said he’s not worried about him and his teammates coming out flat after they beat the Ducks 35-32 in one of the Huskers’ most anticipated home games in years.
“We beat a real good team in Oregon. They were ranked, and it threw us forward into the rankings,” Westerkamp said. “We need to take that momentum and keep moving forward into Big Ten play.”
Nebraska went 3-5 in Big Ten games last season and finished fourth in the West Division. Two of the losses were on the road against conference laggards Purdue and Illinois.
There were lessons learned and mistakes the Huskers don’t want to repeat, Westerkamp said.
“On any given day any Big Ten team can beat another Big Ten team,” he said. “That’s how it’s been for the last couple years since I’ve been here. It’s a real smash-mouth conference and a tough conference. I’m fairly confident if we continue to do what we do and prepare our tails off like we did for Oregon, we should have no issue going forward.”
Nebraska has averaged 43 points in its wins over Fresno State, Wyoming and Oregon and has committed only two turnovers.
“You go into the conference 0-0; you start off fresh,” quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. said. “We won three games. Now the games that matter the most are here. We’re going to treat every game like it’s a big game.”
Northwestern, which won 10 games last season, has gotten off to a tough start, losing to Western Michigan and FCS Illinois State and beating Duke 24-13.
Quarterback Clayton Thorson has been sacked 11 times behind a struggling offensive line and has completed only 49 percent of his passes.
“Their quarterback really hurt us last year,” Riley said.
Thorson broke runs of 68 and 49 yards to set up scores and passed for 177 yards at Memorial Stadium. Memories of that loss should reinforce Riley’s message to his team about leaving the win over Oregon in the past.
“Winning it is a really good thing,” he said. “We can now only use it (to improve). Everything is ahead of us.”
AP college football website: http://www.collegefootball.ap.org