LINCOLN — Coach Bo Pelini said Monday it was way too soon to know whether Jake Cotton could return to the Huskers' offensive line by Saturday.
The starting left guard suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee against Northwestern on Nov. 2. Without both Cotton and right guard Spencer Long (season-ending knee injury on Oct. 12), NU moved tackle Andrew Rodriguez to guard for the Michigan game.
Cotton made the Michigan trip but did not suit up.
“We'll just see how the week progresses,” Pelini said. “It's really early in the week to be talking about that.”
Nebraska also lost right tackle Jeremiah Sirles on Saturday to a knee injury that Pelini said was similar to what Cotton suffered. Pelini said the MRIs were almost identical, but that Sirles experienced less swelling.
Sophomore Zach Sterup replaced Sirles at right tackle late in the first half at Michigan and finished the game.
Pelini said Rodriguez could play both guard and tackle as Nebraska waits for linemen or gets them back.
“You could see a lot of different combinations out there,” he said.
Cooper keeps improving
NU safety Corey Cooper played one of his better games Saturday at Michigan, collecting five solo tackles. He shares the team lead with David Santos at 60 overall.
Pelini said the junior continues to be a steady performer on the back side of the Husker defense.
“I just think he puts the time in and the effort in,” Pelini said. “You see him getting better because of it. He's a physical guy and has really come a long way.”
No whistle worked out for NU
Senior offensive tackle Brent Qvale was surprised that he didn't see a flag on the field after a crucial fourth down play began with slight pre-snap movement up front.
It was the fourth-and-2 conversion on Nebraska's game-winning drive at Michigan Saturday. Qvale thought he saw a couple of Wolverines defenders jump before the snap, assuming they were in the neutral zone as the play began. Film review of the play showed that every NU offensive lineman except for center Cole Pensick reacted to that movement, according to Qvale. Perhaps a touch early.
“If Cole had held on to the ball for another split second, it could have potentially been offsides,” Qvale said. “All four offensive linemen were going because they were all jumping offsides. He snapped it right at that time.”
No penalty was called.
“It was something that you're glad to wait to see on film on Sunday,” Qvale said, smiling.
Huskers liked hearing boos
The frustrated Michigan fans who booed their team's offense Saturday ended up firing up Nebraska's defense, which was searching for anything to build its confidence on the road.
The home crowd could be heard booing as early as the first quarter. The audible consternation was evident during several moments of NU's 17-13 win. And the Huskers loved it.
“It felt good,” senior Ciante Evans said.
The players talked about the boos on the sideline and in the locker room. Linebacker Michael Rose said the defenders fed off that negative energy.
“It felt gratifying for us, especially the defense,” Rose said. “What we've been through throughout the season and kind of the slip-ups we've had. It felt gratifying.”
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Video: Nebraska coach Bo Pelini
Video: Nebraska offensive lineman Brent Qvale
Video: Nebraska defensive back Ciante Evans
Video: Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong
Video: Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah