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Gut-check: time for the Huskers to dig in for the future

John Peterson/Icon Sportswire

It’s been four days since Ohio State confidently piled 62 points on Nebraska during the Huskers’ visit to Columbus. At this point, it is my genuine hope that all Big Red fans are relieved of any hangover, be it emotional, alcoholic or otherwise. Now, it is time to look to the future, and I’m not even referring to 2017.

Nebraska still has plenty to play for — a lot to play for, actually.

Realize that as of today, the Huskers can still win 11 games for the first time since 2001. They can equal any win total the previous regime achieved. Head coach Mike Riley can gain a 2-0 bowl record as Nebraska’s head man.

Yes, despite the nightmare that was November 5, 2016, the Huskers can still have a season in which it was a blot — a sizable one, but a blot — on an otherwise respectable rebound from a 6-7 record.

That all starts this weekend when Minnesota visits and the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy is on the line. As it stands, quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. remains day-to-day as he continues standard concussion protocol. Per Riley, we’ll get a better idea of whether or not he’ll actually play come Thursday.

In the meantime, Ryker Fyfe appears to be The Guy and the fan base waits. Maybe Armstrong can go. Maybe Fyfe and Zack Darlington both play for the Huskers on Saturday. Maybe some funky Wildcat formation takes shape. At this point, who knows? Vegas won’t even touch this game right now.

One group I don’t doubt despite last Saturday’s spanking: the Blackshirts. No one on the visitors’ sideline was ready for what the Buckeyes had in store. However, Minnesota is not Ohio State. Yes, the Gophers have quietly achieved a 7-2 record, but they played and lost to Penn State and Iowa, not the Badgers and Buckeyes.

Until this signal-caller situation gets figured out, the Big Red won’t have to change uniforms for a throwback feel. I can say with confidence that Nebraska hasn’t had a defense this stingy since 2010. However, this one will need to do work to what the 2009 Huskers did and give the offense plenty of mulligans.

Taking the battered and bruised offensive line into account, along with the question mark that is the quarterback position, it doesn’t take much to think that offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf will draw up some vanilla game plans. That demands quality execution regardless of which bandaged starter or second-string walk-on is available.

Defensive coordinator Mark Banker, on the other hand, will have to deal with rush offenses that rank 23rd (Maryland), 36th (Minnesota) and 93rd (Iowa). Heaven forbid those teams try to gain yardage through the air with the 105th (Maryland), 106th (Iowa) and 108th (Minnesota) passing offenses.

Laugh at the Nebraska secondary all you want. It’s still one interception away from being tied for first in the country at stealing intended passes.

The remainder of the Huskers’ season can still be both fun and fruitful. If the Big Red can grind its way to the 20s and 30s on the scoreboard while the fourth quarter returns to being Nebraska’s final 15 minutes, there’s a legitimate shot at a very satisfying finish to the year.

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