Injury bug hits Husker cornerbacks

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BY BRIAN ROSENTHAL / Lincoln Journal Star

Saturday, Sep 02, 2006 - 10:31:02 pm CDT

Nebraska cornerbacks coach Phil Elmassian admitted to feeling a bit of trepidation when he saw  trainers working on Cortney Grixby’s shoulder.

“Ah, crap,” is what Elmassian said he said at the time.

Many Nebraska fans were probably relating. The word choice might not have been the same, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

Why Grixby? Why now?

“Any time you lose a starter,” Elmassian said, “it’s a concern.”

Nebraska had already lost one cornerback, during the first week of the season, when Zack Bowman tore his ACL and was lost for the season.

Then, in the second quarter of Saturday’s season opener against Louisiana Tech, Grixby went out with a shoulder stinger. Making matters worse, his backup, Isaiah Fluellen, injured his knee on the very next play. His injury is thought to be serious.

Two consecutive plays. Two more cornerbacks sidelined.

One of them — Grixby — returned. Not to Elmassian’s surprise.

“If anybody on this team, anybody I’ve been around, can come back and play with an injury, honest to God, he can,” Elmassian said. “He is a tough nut.”

Louisiana Tech’s only touchdown came on a long pass when Grixby — who’s already playing with a cast on his hand because of a thumb injury — was momentarily out. When he returned, he helped restore some order in Nebraska’s 49-10 victory at Memorial Stadium.

“We played better, I think, when Cortney came back,” said junior cornerback Andre Jones, who was making his first Husker start opposite Grixby. “They couldn’t complete too many more deep routes on us, we made some plays on the ball.”

Well, the Bulldogs did complete one other long pass. But after getting beat on a 56-yard pass, Grixby redeemed himself by forcing and recovering a fumble at the end of the play, stripping receiver Josh Wheeler.

With Grixby out, and Fluellen sidelined for good on the next play, the Bulldogs went after Titus Brothers, who’s had experience as a nickel back, but not cornerback. Quarterback Zac Champion hit Johnathan Holland on a fade route, and Holland stretched to make a great, one-handed grab for the 39-yard touchdown reception.

Grixby had just put on his shoulder pads to re-enter the game prior to that snap.

“That was a good catch,” Brothers said. “I thought I had good coverage and good technique. It was a good throw and good catch.”

As for Jones, he said he felt like he had a solid performance for his first career start as a Husker.

Elmassian agreed.

“From what I saw, I thought he was right on schedule,” Elmassian said of Jones. “You don’t want to get too high with the highs and too low with the lows, but I thought he did a hell of a job.

“He was in position. A couple of those balls caught in front, that’s going to happen. He’s got to improve his tackling, the timing with this tackling. He’s a real physical guy. He’s just got to get his timing down.”

Reach Brian Rosenthal at 473-7436 or brosenthal@journalstar.com.


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