LINCOLN — In one week Nebraska went from running back by committee to the Terrell Newby show.
The junior from Los Angeles finally had his much-anticipated breakout game at Nebraska, after much hullabaloo coming out of high school as perhaps the best running back in California.
Any doubt Nebraska coaches were serious about making Terrell Newby the featured back evaporated early against South Alabama in Lincoln Saturday.
Newby got into a groove early against the Jaguars and continued to make plays one week after the Husker running game was stagnant against BYU.
From the get-go, Newby carried the load on offense, churning out 54 yards rushing in the first quarter alone, including one rushing touchdown and a nice one-handed grab for a score from Tommy Armstrong to give NU an early 14-0 lead.
By game’s end Newby, turned in a career day.
He finished with 198 yards rushing on 28 carries and two touchdowns on the ground. He also hauled in a touchdown pass on a nice one-handed grab in the first half.
“I felt like the offensive line had a good push up front,” Newby said. “We started getting things going and kept it going. I didn’t know I had that many carries. I’m feeling the side effects, a little sore. I know we wanted to establish the running game. Things just started going well for me in the first half. It always feels good when you get things going early.”
Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong said he knew Newby would rise to the occasion when the game plan included a heavy dose of running.
“He played amazing,” Armstrong said. “I told him before the game to accept the challenge the coaches give you and run hard. He ran like he was getting chased by everyone. I told him to just have that mindset and fight for every yard you can. He went out and did a great job.”
In game one against BYU, Nebraska played three running backs in Newby, Imani Cross and Mikale Wilbon. Against South Alabama, coaches left Newby in the game until midway through the third quarter. By that time Newby had racked up 175 yards rushing and three total touchdowns. Cross came in behind Newby to score a late touchdown.
Following the loss to BYU Nebraska Head Coach Mike Riley said he was concerned about the lack of a running game. The Huskers finished with just 126 yards rushing against the Cougars.
Against South Alabama, NU racked up 258 yards rushing on 37 carries.
“I thought we needed to give him the ball and let him find a better rhythm,” Riley said. “I thought that was good for everybody.”
At Oregon State, he said his philosophy was to give a back up to 30 carries a game. Even with what Riley says is good depth at running back, he has been set on making Newby the featured back.
“This team has good depth at back,” he said. “After last week, we thought it might be best to just let him play. For right now, it was a good decision for us.”
Riley said as the competition grows as it does this week at Miami, the number of carries a particular back gets could change.
“Now it will be important to maintain,” he said. “Obviously, the competition will grow. BYU had a pretty good front. South Alabama is a well-coached team. They’ll win a lot of games. It’s good what we did but it’s obviously going to get harder.”
South Alabama Head Coach Joey Jones said his defense struggled to defend the run all night.
“They really ran at will all night against us,” he said. “We were really worried about their size. When you look at the size of their line and the inexperience we have, we knew it was going to be a matchup problem.”
In particular, Jones said he was impressed with Newby although the Jaguar defense struggled to defend him.
“I thought their running back, number 34, was excellent,” Jones said. “Either he’s a really good running back or we’re not very good tacklers. We missed a lot of tackles out there. We’ve got to correct that. I think some of that had to do with how good he was.”