Senior captains like Mick Stoltenberg, who’s nearing return from injury, keep Huskers focused

Senior captains like Mick Stoltenberg, who’s nearing return from injury, keep Huskers focused
Nebraska's Mick Stoltenberg started 12 games at nose tackle in his junior season and recorded 33 tackles and four tackles for loss. (BRENDAN SULLIVAN/THE WORLD-HERALD)

LINCOLN — Scott Frost has said it before and he’ll probably say it again. Ever since the Purdue game, the Nebraska coach has felt a culture shift within the program.

A big reason for that, he said following Thursday’s practice, is the senior class — particularly captains Luke Gifford, Mick Stoltenberg, Jerald Foster and Stanley Morgan.

“Those captains have a lot to do with that, making sure they’re holding everybody accountable,” Frost said. “Everybody’s having fun playing football, we’re just disappointed with how it’s gone so far. But everybody’s doing the right things now and enjoying being around each other.”

Stoltenberg, a senior nose tackle, has missed the last three games with chronic knee pain but wore a jersey and helmet at practice Thursday. Though he might not play against Minnesota on Saturday, the team is optimistic his college career isn’t over yet.

“He wants to finish this thing off the right way,” Frost said. “I’m hopeful that in the near future he’ll be back out there with his buddies.”

Frost also said Nebraska wants to involve Morgan more in the passing game. The senior decided not to enter the NFL draft last winter after catching 10 touchdowns and setting a single-season school record with 986 receiving yards. He has 393 yards and one TD in six games this fall.

“We’re a better team when he has touches,” Frost said. “We’re going to do what we can to make sure he has a chance to change the game for us.”

Quick hits

» Asked about Minnesota’s pass attack, Frost said the clear priorities to defend are a pair of 6-foot-2, 200-pound receivers in junior Tyler Johnson and freshman Rashod Bateman. Johnson has a team-best 36 catches for 521 yards and six scores, while Bateman has 29 catches for 280 yards and three TDs.

“I think their scheme is smart,” Frost said. “They mix up their run game with max (protection) and RPOs and you gotta be on your assignment and know where to go. At the end of the day, when the ball’s in the air, we gotta make plays on it.”

» Outside linebacker Tyrin Ferguson has been “really close,” Frost said. “He’d give us another boost as well.” Ferguson returned in a limited role last week at Northwestern and is healthier now.

» Practices continue to regularly improve, Frost said. Players are ready to finally show that progress with a victory after the 0-6 start.

“Day by day we’re getting better,” Frost said. “Guys are excited to play in this one. Gosh, they were so close, and I think they’re anxious to get out there and do a little bit more to make sure we have our best chance to make it happen.”

Minnesota at Nebraska

When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday (Pregame: 9:30 a.m.)

Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln

Radio: 103.1 FM

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