LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska’s up-and-down offense has found a go-to guy in Terrell Newby.
The senior running back is coming off consecutive 100-yard games for the first time in his career and probably will play a prominent role again Saturday when the No. 8 Cornhuskers go against a Purdue defense that has been awful against the run.
Newby has been especially good while helping the Huskers (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) close out the last two games.
He had 49 of his 102 yards against Indiana on the drive that ended with a field goal in the final minute of a 27-22 win . In the 31-16 win over Illinois , he touched the ball on 18 of the last 21 plays and had 113 of his 140 yards in the fourth quarter.
“He’s been a man in the fourth quarter in the last couple of ball games,” coach Mike Riley said, “and I really appreciate that.”
Newby arrived at Nebraska in 2013 as a four-star recruit from Los Angeles. He topped 2,000 yards in his junior and senior seasons in high school and was listed by one recruiting service as the top running back prospect in California.
But he’s had to wait his turn at Nebraska. He and Imani Cross split time as backups to Ameer Abdullah in 2013 and ’14. And even though Newby was the team’s leading rusher last season, he had to deal with an ankle problem in the second half of the season, Cross was still in the picture and Devine Ozigbo was considered the best back at the end of the year.
Newby has been the starter in five of the six games this season, and his workload has increased as Ozigbo has had an ankle injury the past three weeks. He’s averaging 71.5 yards a game for the season and 103.7 in three Big Ten games.
“I feel like I’m in pretty good shape, I feel like our whole offense is in pretty good shape,” Newby said. “You don’t see guys saying they’re tired at all, or they’re not showing it. That’s what I love about the offensive line, especially. They’ll never show that they’re tired no matter what. We’ll go all the way down the field on an 80-yard drive and they won’t show it.”
One of the most noticeable differences in Newby this season is the consistent toughness he shows when running between the tackles.
“I just think it comes from film study, putting in a lot of time and effort just to study more film and knowing the different schemes,” he said. “So I think it’s just me knowing more about defense and offense and being a smarter player overall.”
There has been some adventure for Newby in recent games.
Against Northwestern, he broke a 49-yard run on the Huskers’ first series but fumbled out the back of the end zone trying to extend the ball over the goal line.
Against Illinois, the replay official took a second look at where the ball was spotted after his run on a fourth-and-1 inside the Illini 5-yard line. The spot, which gave the Huskers a first down, stood as determined on the field, and Newby scored the go-ahead touchdown on the next play.
At Indiana, Newby lost the ball at the end of a 14-yard run on the Huskers’ final possession, but officials ruled that his knee hit the ground before the ball popped out, and the call stood after a review. Drew Brown kicked a field goal four plays later.
“It’s crazy, like the last three weeks kind of have been like that for me, going down for a review,” he said. “I want to cut that down a little. It’s not a feeling I want to be going through a lot. Everybody asked me (at Indiana) if I was down and I was like, ‘Yeah, I was down.’ It’s definitely a feeling I want to avoid.”
Last year the Huskers lost 55-45 at Purdue. If all goes as expected, there won’t be as much drama when the Huskers host the Boilermakers (3-3, 1-2), who are last in the Big Ten in rushing defense and total defense. Newby said he’ll be ready to be at his best again if needed to carry the load in the fourth quarter.
“We just want to keep the train rolling and just keep getting wins,” he said.
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