LINCOLN -- Mike Riley called the late-week decision to make sophomore Tre Bryant Nebraska’s backfield focal point a difficult one.
Bryant, though, proved the coaching staff correct by rushing 31 times for 192 yards – both easily career bests – and a touchdown.
As Bryant settled into a rhythm and helped Nebraska find a good deal of offensive balance, he also provided Riley some peace of mind.
“That’s a reminder to me of why we make that kind of decision,” Riley told reporters Monday. “Even though it was hard and maybe even those other guys deserve more in the competition that we had.”
Bryant handled all but seven of the Huskers’ rushing attempts – fellow I-Back Mikale Wilbon had two, De’Mornay Pierson-El two, Stanley Morgan one and Tanner lee one – and thought the consistent workload helped him significantly.
“I say rhythm goes as far as getting the feel of how the defense is going to react to this certain play, how they are going to fill this gap,” he said. “Now you can know, if they are going to fill this gap like they did the last play, (bouncing it) may be good, if I cut it back it may be better.”
Added Riley, “With what we’re doing, they get a better feel for it as they go. I know that’s true with inside zone. Actually, that was our third-best play the other night – it wasn’t even as good as it should have been.”
Riley pointed to the unit’s traditional power look, called “Steeler,” as the top-performing play and also mentioned a power scheme without a pulling lineman.
NU’s drive to open the third quarter gave a good look at the diversity.
Bryant started with 4 yards up the middle on a draw, then 4 more on a power look to the left. He made a decisive cut off of tight end Tyler Hoppes to gain 7 on third and 2 on an inside zone, then busted a 35-yarder on a power counter that featured right guard Tanner Farmer pulling to the left and tight end Connor Ketter as a lead blocker. The Huskers also showed a sweep look with freshman Tyjon Lindsey – Riley took a timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty and threw his headset in disgust – and a fullback dive with Luke McNitt near the goal line before Bryant plunged in from a yard out.
“We decided not to overcook it and complicate it with different ways of substitution, which wouldn’t have been bad considering the competition that we had,” Riley said. “But we tried to make a good decision about doing it this way and Tre played...obviously he played well.”